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Predators can present major problems for livestock producers. Although I have no statistics to prove it, predation must be the number one reason for summer cattle losses in the neighbourhood.
Coyotes, bears, wolves and wild dogs (not in that order) are often the ones that get the blame.
On First Nature Farms, we not only have cows that can wander through miles of wilderness but we also raise bison, pigs (bears love pork), turkeys (coyote dinner) and chickens (raven treats).
Our next door neighbour lost 9 calves a couple summers back. Losses of sheep and lambs in the area are common. Even people who live close to town have had coyotes come and steal their dogs.
One can start to wonder how it is even possible for someone so far away from settlement, living right next to the vast wilderness of BC, to raise livestock on in the forests and open pasture.
I have often wondered the same thing. I’ve raised livestock on pasture since the 1980’s but the number of predator kills and injuries have been minimal. We’ve had the occasional turkey taken by coyotes but none for years. For at least 2 years, all the calves that went out to pasture in the spring returned in the fall.
The ravens have it figured how to nab a chicken but lately, they don’t really seem to bother them. I had a friend who had to get out of the pig business because of coyote predation. I can see tracks that coyotes have made, right by the pigs and turkeys. Neighbours used to call “I saw a coyote in your pasture!”.
For some reason, the predators seem to leave us alone. In all the years I’ve been out there, I have never allowed the use of poison bait (Gov’t of Alberta), hunters or traps to kill any predators. I myself have never had to kill a coyote or any other predator.
Why? I don’t know. Maybe the coyotes remember Joe the donkey who has since retired to the yard. Maybe “Jack” the dog who mostly patrols the front of the deck. Maybe the “electric turkey” I hooked to the fence years ago. Maybe there is a balance that still exists between predator and their natural prey.
If anyone is reading this who is having problems with predators, contact me. Maybe I can help.
Born in January of 2011 our little pup has reached 185 pounds and hopefully has finished growing. I always liked the mellow temperament of the Irish Wolfhound. Jack is as mellow as they get. His days are spent on the porch and since Jack arrived we have never had a coyote on the porch. They do however wander right in front of the house. Jack’s OK with that. Jack and Jesse are buds.
Jesse is the hunter. Not a mouse can escape his watchful eye and over the past 12 years he’s done pretty well. Not a mouse in the house.
The oldest cat in the family, Purr only ventures outside in the summer. Everyone loves Purr and Purr loves everyone in return.
A few years back my daughter and I made a deal. She would sign up for piano lessons if she could get a rescue cat from the SPCA. Six years later, the cat has lasted longer than the lessons.
I couldn’t resist. It was the first time ever I had walked into a pet store to look at the goldfish and started laughing. These crazy looking fish were first bred in China in the 1870′s. For obvious reasons, they prefer floating fish food.
Not sure anymore but Julio is around 23 or 24 years old. He started out around the the size of a silver dollar and just kept growing. He eats only every few days and prefers frozen minnows to commercial turtle food. Red Eared Sliders have a life span of 20-25 years.
The perfect cow. Buttercup is a Jersey who supplies all of our milk needs. She gives about a gallon a day every morning. The quiet cow will let anyone milk her and really appreciates getting rubbed and scratched. It take around 1100 squeezes to get a gallon of milk.
Joe the donkey has served an important role on the farm. For years he worked as the protector of the poultry. His job was to keep the coyotes away from the chickens and turkeys while they were out on pasture. Recently Joe got two girlfriends (Julia and Jessica) and became the father of a young daughter (Jasmine).
Hestur the blonde Icelandic horse likes to keep her bangs long.
Edith the goat was a birthday present. She has personality plus and wins hands down in the farm animal popularity contest. That’s not to say she isn’t also a mischievous prankster. Anything in sight is fair game for Edith’s diet, which has varied from motor oil to screws to rose thorns.
The “free-est” range chickens anywhere. These birds could walk to Saskatchewan if they wanted to but fortunately choose to stay close to home. We have 13 hens which supply up to 10 eggs on a good day.
It was around 1978 and I was living in a tiny log house in a forest near Goodfare. My cousin asked if I could look after a couple of pigs while he took a month off traveling. “Sure!” was my inexperienced response. It would be my first encounter with live pigs. There was an old log barn and if I nailed some planks over the open door, they could stay in there! My cousin brought the two pigs over and they settled in quite nicely into their new home.
Every morning I would bring their food and water and was quite enjoying their company. One day, returning from a town trip, I grabbed my guitar before I went to check the pigs. I started wandering down the path, strumming a “G chord” but as I got closer I could here there was something wrong. The pigs were very distressed, racing in circles. I stopped my strumming but it was too late. They bolted through the planks I’d nailed across the door, busting them and headed straight through the forest. It was days before they returned. I gave up playing guitar for a while.
Years later when I became a little more serious about raising pigs I started out with pink pigs. They were a cross of several modern breeds and although they had a good life on the farm, I was often disappointed with their mothering skills. They had been bred for pork production and not for instincts. All of our pigs give birth outside so the ability to prepare for birthing and then take care of the piglets is an important skill to have. Then I discovered Berkshires.
Unlike the modern breeds, Berkshires have been around for a long time. Discovered 300 years ago near Reading, England, their excellent carcass quality made them an early favorite with the upper class of English farmers. For years the Royal Family kept a large Berkshire herd at Windsor Castle.
When I purchased my first few Berkshire sows and their time came for farrowing (birthing), I was really impressed with the preparations they would make, packing mouthfuls of straw into their farrowing huts and then arranging it to make their perfect nest. Some would choose to farrow outside and tear apart the straw bale to create just the nest they wanted. Somehow they knew if the weather would be cold and fluff up the straw for the babies to burrow into.
Sometimes sows would farrow in a shelter which was also used by other sows. The other pigs would respect the birthing sow and leave to give her privacy. I admired that.
Although our pigs are on pasture and have access to either fresh grass or dried hay, they do require grain in order to grow. Wheat, peas, barley and oats are the grains we use to raise our pigs. All feed we purchase or raise is certified organic and I always try and buy as local as possible. Preference is given to the smaller organic farms.
In addition to grain, the pigs are supplemented with organic flax along with the vitamins and minerals needed to have a balanced diet. We’ve even made pancakes from the pig food although I found the added calcium to be a little gritty.
With the hot temperatures of summer comes the need for pigs to cool down. Commercially they would have mists of water or no choice at all. What they naturally like to do is have mud bathes. Not only is the mud cooling it is also good for their skin. Hot summer days would find us filling up their wallows with water since they enjoy it so much.
It was 1980 when I shot my TV. No need for television when a farm filled with animals provides so much entertainment. Pigs are the best.
With family, friends and space, the pigs are constantly finding ways to entertain themselves. Even in winter. Here’s a clip from “Farm News – November 2013”.
They like to follow their same trails through the snow and especially enjoy following the new tracks made by the tractor which packs the snow down in even rows with nice edges, much like humans walking on shoveled sidewalks. Those parallel tractor tracks can get boring after awhile so in random spots they make a new trail through the snow to cross from one tractor track to the other. The result? A new game much like “fox and hound” where they chase each other along the track then make a sharp 90 degree to the next track or try and head them off at the next crossing.
Another favourite pastime is gathering mouthfuls of straw. Expectant mothers do this in preparation for birthing. Others like to add to their bedding. Some just see how much they can fit in their mouths. Sledding? The plastic toboggans the pigs drink from will often get pulled around the pasture. They’ll even try to bring them into their houses. Yesterday I saw a pig carrying a snowball, much to the envy of the others. Another one stole an empty pail from my daughter. “Catch me if you can!” it might have said. It took about three minutes. Quite awhile considering the pig had the disadvantage of not being able to see with the pail in its mouth.
Interested in more “Farm News”?
Of the one billion pigs raised in the world (half in China) I can’t help but wonder how many enjoy their quality of life. Starting locally, I like to support organizations which work to increase their standard of living.
Following is a list of websites and video documentaries related to food and the environment it comes from:
There is a plethora of documentary evidence of the tampering, corrupting, defiling and profiteering of and from our food supply.
Many of the following videos are available on YouTube or elsewhere on the web. You must find the others, perhaps by borrowing or purchasing the original content.
For perhaps obvious reasons, many of these video documentaries are released under an Open Source or Creative Commons copyright licence.
The Corporation is a 2003 Canadian documentary film written by University of British Columbia law professor Joel Bakan, and directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott. The documentary examines the modern-day corporation. This is explored through specific examples. Bakan wrote the book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power, during the filming of the documentary.
The documentary shows the development of the contemporary business corporation, from a legal entity that originated as a government-chartered institution meant to affect specific public functions, to the rise of the modern commercial institution entitled to most of the legal rights of a person. The documentary concentrates mostly upon North American corporations, especially those of the United States. One theme is its assessment as a “personality”, as a result of an 1886 case in the United States Supreme Court in which a statement by Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite[nb 1] led to corporations as “persons” having the same rights as human beings, based on the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Topics addressed include the Business Plot, where in 1933, General Smedley Butler exposed an alleged corporate plot against then U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt; the tragedy of the commons; Dwight D. Eisenhower’s warning people to beware of the rising military-industrial complex; economic externalities; suppression of an investigative news story about Bovine Growth Hormone on a Fox News Channel affiliate television station at the behest of Monsanto; the invention of the soft drink Fanta by the Coca-Cola Company due to the trade embargo on Nazi Germany; the alleged role of IBM in the Nazi holocaust (see IBM and the Holocaust); the Cochabamba protests of 2000 brought on by the privatization of a municipal water supply in Bolivia; and in general themes of corporate social responsibility, the notion of limited liability, the corporation as a psychopath, and the corporation as a person.
Through vignettes and interviews, The Corporation examines and criticizes corporate business practices. The film’s assessment is effected via the diagnostic criteria in the DSM-IV; Robert D. Hare, a University of British Columbia psychology professor and a consultant to the FBI, compares the profile of the contemporary profitable business corporation to that of a clinically diagnosed psychopath (however, Hare has objected to the manner in which his views are portrayed in the film; see “critical reception” below). The Corporation attempts to compare the way corporations are systematically compelled to behave with what it claims are the DSM-IV’s symptoms of psychopathy, e.g. callous disregard for the feelings of other people, the incapacity to maintain human relationships, reckless disregard for the safety of others, deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit), the incapacity to experience guilt, and the failure to conform to social norms and respect the law. However, the DSM has never included a psychopathy diagnosis, rather proposing antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) with the DSM-IV. ASPD and psychopathy, while sharing some diagnostic criteria, are not synonymous.
Food has fueled and propelled humans throughout our evolution. The story of food is our story. But, where we once enjoyed an intimate, tactile, nourishing and soulful relationship with food, we are now largely disconnected from it and oblivious to its source.
Through its documentary series created by Jon Steinman and Declan O’Driscoll, its informative webisodes, and an interactive web site, Deconstructing Dinner invites us to rediscover food – in our kitchens, our communities, and through one of our most precious assets… our sense of taste.
In each of the six episodes, Jon teams up with local farmers, scientists, backyard gardeners and award-winning chefs like Michael Anthony (Gramercy Tavern), John Sundstrom (Lark), Blaine Wetzel (Willows Inn), Michael Stadtlander (Eigensinn Farm), Heather Carlucci (formerly of PRINT) and Mark Picone (Niagara College). With the help of these chefs, Jon Steinman explores, demystifies and deconstructs six popular foods– Wheat, Tomatoes. Pork, Garlic, Honey and Eggs.
This is where your food comes from – get the bigger picture. The groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on earth.
Farmageddon is the story of a mom whose son healed from all allergies and asthma after consuming raw milk, and real food from farms. It depicts people all over the country who formed food co-ops and private clubs to get these foods, and how they were raided by state and local governments.
Americans’ right to access fresh, healthy foods of their choice is under attack. Farmageddon tells the story of small, family farms that were providing safe, healthy foods to their communities and were forced to stop, sometimes through violent ac-tion, by agents of misguided government bureaucracies, and seeks to figure out why.
Is it possible that the Rooster truly has come home to Roost, that the Chicken that laid the golden egg” really gave us fool’s gold? Is “cheap food” really cheap? Is health a luxury that you can’t afford? Is it possible that our Health Care Crisis is, in reality a Food Crisis? Is our desire for “cheap food” taken advantage of by Big Businesses that are interested only in the “bottom line?” Is “Big Business” protected by “Big Government Bureaucrats?” What can you and I do about it?
[Three Part BBC Documentary 2013, Episode 2]
This major new series tells the untold story of how big business feeds us by transforming simple commodities into everyday necessities and highly profitable brands.
This episode tells the incredible story of how business has turned grain into one of the biggest success stories of the modern food industry.
With unprecedented access to the world’s largest food companies, including Kellogg’s, this is the inside story of how breakfast cereals have transformed the way we eat and the way we live.
This is the original processed, convenience food. It has ushered in a modern age of plenty in terms of choice and abundance.
Cereals are cheap and abundant but their real value lies in the processing, advertising and marketing that goes into creating well known brands.
It’s a controversial business that both responds to and drives our changing relationship with food and our obsession with health.
The Money Programme team tells the story of a business that has helped shape the modern world of business and advertising we know today.
King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation.
The above 20 minute clip from PBS gives you an overview of the full length film.
In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and h
ow we farm.
Scientist, feminist, ecologist and author, Vandana Shiva, presenting the keynote address at the 2009 Organicology Conference in Portland, Oregon, on February 28, 2009.
The last ten years has seen a phenomenal explosion in the organic food movement as it has moved from niche market to main stream. Today, it is the fastest growing segment of the food industry attracting all of the major food corporations. The New Green Giants looks at a number of these new and old organic corporations and shows how they are managing or in some cases failing to live up to the idealistic dreams first espoused by the back-to-the land folk of the late sixties and early seventies.
In preparation of the global March Against Monsanto, you are invited to watch our award-winning documentary Seeds of Death free.
The leaders of Big Agriculture–Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta–are determined that world’s populations remain ignorant about the serious health and environmental risks of genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture. Deep layers of deception and corruption underlie both the science favoring GMOs and the corporations and governments supporting them.
This award-winning documentary, Seeds of Death, exposes the lies about GMOs and pulls back the curtains to witness our planet’s future if Big Agriculture’s new green revolution becomes our dominant food supply.
Hello my friends, be prepared for some challenging truths and be warned, our governments are being exposed for the puppet pretend democracies they are…. big BUSINESS calls the shots. People …. just in the way of their progress. We can change our fate, if we unify and use the only weapon feasible to beat the global elite ( major share holders in Monsanto) People Power. uploaded by Uploaded by eboyuk on May 18, 2011
There’s nothing they are leaving untouched: the mustard, the okra, the bringe oil, the rice, the cauliflower. Once they have established the norm: that seed can be owned as their property, royalties can be collected. We will depend on them for every seed we grow of every crop we grow. If they control seed, they control food, they know it — it’s strategic. It’s more powerful than bombs. It’s more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world. The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market. Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.
That a former Monsanto scientist should find himself in charge of a specially-created post at the very journal that published two landmark studies questioning the safety of that company’s products should surprise no one who is aware of the Monsanto revolving door. This door is responsible for literally dozens of Monsanto officials, lobbyists and consultants finding themselves in positions of authority in the government bodies that are supposedly there to regulate the company and its actions.
Find out more about Monsanto’s ability to suppress scientific dissent in this edition of the BoilingFrogsPost.com Eyeopener report.
Here is a great explanation on GMO and Bt pesticide.
A must watch documentary by David Suzuki.
When three continents witnessed food riots in 2007 and 2008, we saw the international food system is not as stable as it looks. There’s unprecedented competition for food due to population growth and changing diets. Experts predict that by 2050, if things don’t change, we will see mass starvation across the world.
In this documentary, George Alagiah travelled the world to unravel the complicated web of links that binds the world’s food together, bringing it from farm to table. It reveals a growing global food crisis that could affect the planet in the years ahead. What can we do to avert this?
“Desertification is a fancy word for land that is turning to desert,” begins Allan Savory in this quietly powerful talk. And terrifyingly, it’s happening to about two-thirds of the world’s grasslands, accelerating climate change and causing traditional grazing societies to descend into social chaos. Savory has devoted his life to stopping it. He now believes — and his work so far shows — that a surprising factor can protect grasslands and even reclaim degraded land that was once desert.
There are generally four ways of visiting First Nature Farms:
- the Sunday visit
- visitors through the WWOOF program
- Apprenticeship Training
- Annual Ranch Barbecue
Due to all the activities that take place on First Nature Farms, we require that visitors please contact us in advance.
The Sunday Visit
Sundays start at 9 AM. This is usually a good time to come out to visit and take part in feeding the animals. Sundays is also the day off for the people who stay on our farm so I get to do all the chores myself and enjoy spending time showing visitors what’s involved in the day to day operation. Lots of fun for families (me too!). Prior arrangements must be made. Be sure to dress appropriately. The inside of your car may smell different on your way home
WWOOFing is a good way to experience the farm and see what life on an organic animal farm is really like. WWOOFers tend to stay anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months.
Help is appreciated throughout the year with most jobs centered around caring for the animals (no shit shoveling as all animals are free range on pasture). Accomodation is either in our log house or in the two buildings separate from the family home. Volunteers should be kind, independent, innovative and ready for adventure. People wanting to learn skills about raising livestock organically will learn lots. Some have even gone on to start their own farms!
Meals include a lot of organics with all meat coming from the farm. Lots of opportunities for cooking or learning how to cook. All living costs are covered with the exception of personal products, clothes and junk food. Aside from good times on the farm, we also try to provide our guests with a “cultural experience” unique to our area. This can be anything from hiking, canoeing, XC skiing, fishing, visiting waterfalls, concerts, auction sales, star gazing, workshops, protests, rodeos, etc. Lots of campfires and neighbourhood parties. Even the northern lights (aurora borealis) like to visit. Other visitors include moose, deer, coyotes, swans and the occasional bear. Musicians are most appreciated! We have a piano in the house along with other instruments. Internet is high speed.
Spring and summer are the times of major activity on First Nature Farms although we welcome guests all year round. There are always times when visits turn into adventures so it helps to be prepared for unexpected. Never a dull moment around here!
We have been a part of the WWOOF program (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) since 1995. We’ve had folks visit from Japan, Korea, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Holland, France, South Africa, the US and even Canada! (All visitors must be responsible for their own actions and carry their own medical insurance).
We request that anyone wishing to share in our farm experience sign up with WWOOF at the web site.
Certified organic for the past 24 years, First Nature Farms is considered an ecological reserve of over 3000 acres of mostly aspen forest, three creeks and several beaver ponds. Organic since 1990, our diverse ranch includes grass finished Belted Galloway cattle, Plains bison, free range chickens and turkeys but our specialty are the Berkshire pigs. We raise heritage breeds in a gentle environment from farrow to finish, outside, year round. “Buttercup” the Jersey cow is a close member of our family, supplying all our dairy needs.
For people who are serious about learning to raise livestock organically, I am prepared to dedicate my time to teach you. Successful applicants will have the opportunity to learn skills necessary for the pasture raising of pigs, cattle, buffalo, chickens and turkeys. Other opportunities include honey bees, shelter and feeder construction, fencing, equipment operation/safety, animal nutrition, marketing of products, Farmers Markets, and the costs & returns of organic production.
During your stay, housing is provided in either a private dwelling or shared accommodation in our log house. Both are heated with wood. The private dwelling has no plumbing but an outhouse with a good view. Water is carried from the well.
Breakfast is on your own. We supply all food except for junk food and personal habits. Lunch and supper are shared. We try to eat as much organic and local as possible. Most vegetables are from the garden or neighbourhood. All meat is from the farm.
I would like to see young farmers returning to the land to create mixed farms, which are rich in biodiversity. I would like those farms to be profitable and have a symbiotic relationship with their community. My goal is to assist people to make their dream a reality by sharing my knowledge, experiences, animals and farm.
Annual Ranch Barbecue
Since 1916 the annual ranch BBQ has been a good reason to get together with neighbours and friends. For many years it was a rodeo which became so popular that eventually it moved to its own site and became the Rio Grande Rodeo.
Times have changed but the tradition continues. Every 3rd weekend of August we gather for a weekend of music and good times. Farm tours, nature walks, canoeing, campfires, pig roast, organic beer (Crannough Ales), live music, fireworks, Heavy Metal Friday, open mike Saturday spilling over into Sunday with an organic pancake brunch.
Accommodation is on your own with lots of camping spots available. For those who have any distance to drive, especially coming from the city, plan a 3 day weekend. It takes a couple of days just to get “countryfied”. Guests are asked to confirm their plans in advance.
Many of the photos (especially the really good ones) were contributed by Sam Kitt of Goodfare, Alberta. Other photos were taken by myself, Jerry Kitt, with several contributions from the many WWOOFers who visited the farm.
This website was put together by my good friend Richard Welykochy whose friendship dates back to junior high, during a working holiday we had in Mexico. The cost of this site was one jar of organic lard rendered from our Berkshire pigs.
You can revisit our animated splash page if you wish.