Learn to care for birds

Maya, a cattle guard dog, is spending time with Muscovy ducks this summer. (Courtesy of Blue Heron Farms)

Only when watching a Muscovy duck hunt a mouse zigzag and eat you realize how little you know about the world.

A little over two months ago, I added birds for the first time to our farm: musk ducklings, guinea fowl and chicks, a mixture affectionately known as “arboreal chickens,” raised to be. robust and brooding, or maternal, as all come out. My entire life has been defined by raising sheep in one way or another. I like working with sheep. I know sheep. It didn’t take long for me to confirm that I didn’t know much, if anything, about birds.

Insect patrol

I need as many weapons as I can against the bugs, pests and parasites, which seem to be on the rise. I especially wanted the Guineas and the Muscovies. Chickens are also useful and make excellent guinea trainers. Keeping little birds alive in a brooder is a bit too “helicopter mom” for my taste. Put in the chicken coop and run is slightly better, but the first time I’ve tried to teach young chickens and guineas to enter the henhouse at night, it was a chaotic mess. The second day it was a little better, but still chaotic. On the third day they all walked in – I suspect it was a form of self-preservation. “Quick! Go inside, before this clumsy human tries to ‘help’.

Deep breath

Time and time again over the past two months I have taken a deep breath and tried something new. Sometimes it works. Sometimes this is not the case. Welcome to agriculture, right? Certainly, the breeding. Welcome also to the past year and a half. Doubt has been a constant unwanted companion in just about every aspect of life for all of us.

I have already written about doubt. I think about it a lot. I doubt I am the only farmer to do this. And I wonder: why are we so uncomfortable with the concept? From the officials all the way down, we don’t like to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m not sure’. Our culture does not really promote uncertainty. We believe in the American dream. Think about it, work towards it, and it will be. Even though this is included in the equation, we don’t often dwell on the part where we might question our goals or our methods. It’s a natural inclination, I guess. We prefer to celebrate the highs, not wallow in the lows.

I’m sure

I often hide on social media. It is useful for the gathering of certain information. It can also be an overwhelming flow of not useful information. One of the things that fascinates me is the endless supply of people who seem to have the answers. Whether in finance, business, politics, you name it, there is probably someone who has become an “influencer” real thing nowadays.

Even farming has its share – conventional farmers who thrive on memes telling others how little they know about farming. (“Young people don’t know how to sling hay bales these days. What’s this world going to be?”) To the people who know how to save agriculture with their foolproof cure. (This may or may not involve eating more bugs and using scythes daily, but don’t quote me on that.)

Big questions

In an article on 8 July, the Wall Street Journal interviewed Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat Inc. – yes, that one. The negative reviews cover the walls of his office. It is an incentive, he told the newspaper. When asked how he balanced the profits with his mission, he said he would if he could – that’s how much he believes in the mission of the meat without meat.

Later, when asked if everyone who works beyond meat has to be a vegan, he said this: “We are building a business, not a cult … People who are in it. agriculture, family farms, are some of the hardest working, most honest people. To be contradictory to them is really a bad approach ”. Huh, that’s not what I expected.

A report dated 12 August from the University of Illinois, entitled “Industry response meatless meat farming,” details some of the same issues raised by Brown in his interview. That crops are more and more efficient and could be used for something other than feeding livestock. But while there are opportunities for agriculture, no matter how the livestock sectors are affected, a big question remains:

“Currently, the target market for meatless meat is wealthy economies, which are still experiencing annual growth in meat consumption, but the real need for protein nutrition in the coming decades will come from the Deep South,” the author writes Maggie Cornelius. “Traditionally, the growth of domestic livestock industries has been a key step in the economic development and food security of a country, but if meatless meat reduces the demand for livestock in the United States, American farmers are will look at overseas markets for their corn and soybeans. This could have an adverse effect on the economic development of poor countries – increased dependence on food imports could dampen economic growth and a fall in major commodity prices could also reduce food security in agrarian-based economies.


Is this the time to mention another article published in Wired magazine, about the future of robots in agriculture posed by Thomas Daum, an agricultural economist at the University of Hohenheim? In the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Daum presents scenarios in which robots could perform various agricultural operations of large industrial farms to small farms. Do not laugh. It might not just be a sci-fi storyline:

“But why do we need machines to produce food? Katrina Miller asks in the Wired article. “It’s a question of economy. To meet the ever increasing demands of a growing population, agriculture requires more and more labor. Food is also much cheaper than it was in the past, forcing farmers to produce higher yields for less profit. Therefore, if the agricultural workers earn less money and leaving the industry for better paid options, farmers may turn increasingly to mechanization to fill the void.

Needless to say. More dairy farmers are turning to milking robots. Planting and harvesting has become an accurate dance, using data and GPS. It seems sure to me that there are a lot of unknowns. Balance between what is best for the environment with food security. I guess even on the big issues that concern agriculture, people are still grappling with the “ifs”.


My number of chickens has decreased, because of my missteps. So I brought a rooster named Rambo, a hen and two pullets, or young females, home recently.

Just days after bringing the new birds home, Rambo is gone – thanks to a mysterious kerfuffle. I found three of my cattle guard dogs strategically positioned guarding the hoop barn where the new birds were housed, an enclosure that appeared to be overgrown and no Rambo. No blood, feathers, or any other sign that there had never been a rooster. Some barn cats had been prowling. I wonder.


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