Thursday, December 6, 2007

What a Mug!


I had a close encounter with Sevin Dust.


My friend, who will always remain nameless, may possibly been using the stuff off-label which I know is a huge OSHA no-no. "If it works, use it" is a small farm mantra. No, I'm not turning over a chemical leaf. My friend is not particularly chemical oriented either. She prefers the natural approach. So here's what happened.


She received, in barter, three pygmie goats with livestock lice. The lice were included free of charge. I'm not totally sure if there's a difference between livestock lice and human lice. Not sure I want to find out through unplanned experimentation, either.
The Sevin Dust treatment is meant to eradicate the lice problem. My job was to catch and contain the small goats. While my friend dusted them. Needless to say, I knew I was going to get Sevin dust on me and on my clothes. Not only was it windy, but I was holding goats.
The appropriate pesticide management practices if I remember correctly from my Master Gardener classes is to remove those clothes and wash them by themselves and to take a shower as soon as the job was finished. Which is what I did ASAP because that Sevin dust smell was in my nostrils and the taste was in my mouth. Friendship . . .


Anyway, the Sevin dust treatment sparked a conversation about animal management practices. When my friend's children, asked about how the goats came to have livestock lice, the discussion began. These goats had been raised on a larger farm where livestock was kept close together. Lice will flourish in unclean environments and multiply in close quarters. Worms came up, also. I mentioned that my goats and chickens don't have those problems and my friend observed that hers really didn't either. We decided it came down to animal management practices.


Here's where pasture rotation and pasture size to animal population ratios are important. By rotating grazing animals through your pastures - larger to smaller and ending up with poultry, like chickens, ducks or geese, you control your insect populations. Chickens love to eat ticks, lice, grubs, whatever: grass, fly larvae and other things left in the manure of the larger animals. By rotating pastures between grazing animals, you also strengthen the roots of the grass and make it healthier. Take care to avoid overgrazing and overuse.


Overgrazing occurs when too many animals stay in too small a pasture area for too long. There are three factors at play: number of animals, size of pasture, length of stay. These factors are tied to each other. A larger number of animals means a larger size pasture for the same length of stay. A longer stay can be managed by less animals with more space for each animal. Lower animal density means several things: lower rates of disease and less feed costs. If you do not have enough space for your grazing animals to get enough forage by themselves, then you are supplementing their feed. Period. Buying feed costs money and brings in nutrients from elsewhere. It also uses more energy in the form of transportation gasoline, production and manufacture.


Animal/pasture management can apply to pets, like dogs, too. Dogs generally need quite a bit more space then we allow them. While we probably always buy dog food, we can pay attentiont ot their outdoor spaces. If your dog pen or fenced in dog run becomes muddy quickly, then you know that the space is not big enough for your dog. Enlarge and move the space to allow your lawn to regenerate. This is why invisible fence is important. An invisible fence will give your dog fairly free roaming capabilities without the stagnant views of a fence. Dogs also tend to pace less when they are not fenced in with a visible barrier. That mean less wear and tear on the lawn.

3 comments:

Caroline at www.earthfriendlygardening.org said...

I really enjoyed reading your blog--glad I discovered it. I read every post I could until the ole battery started to fade. I'm especially interested in your series on the economics of farming. Keep it coming, I'll be back.

Mule Shoe Farm said...

Thank you for your kind words of support. We'll keep writing.

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