Tag: USDA

On cruelty to our beloved animals.

One just cannot ignore such cruelty as this!

I am really sorry folks but both today and tomorrow I am adding my tiny shoulder to a very large and heavy wheel. Endeavouring to make a very small difference before I leave this land of the living.

But before going on to share something that was sent to me by Scott Beckstead, the Senior Oregon and Rural Outreach Director of The Humane Society, I want to repeat something that I wrote in response to a comment left to yesterday’s Picture Parade. Because it may be seen as utterly irrelevant to today’s complex world but, nonetheless, it does explain where my love of this planet comes from.

In yesterday’s post, Yvonne of the blog Pets, People and Life left the following comment:

Those beautiful dog’s spirit lives on in the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird, the house where they lived and where ever they ran and played. I hope you and Jean feel their presence when things are rough and in the quiet of the night.

I was so moved by those words that almost without any further thought I replied, thus:

Wow! Wow! And Wow!

There is something wondrous about the nature of the human consciousness that still escapes science. Neither me nor Jean are believers in a ‘God’ or subscribe to religious ‘factions’ for so much pain, war and suffering may be laid at the feet of religions (excuse my rant!), but ….

But there is something magical in “the air you breathe, the green of the trees, the beating wings of a hummingbird,” that defies definition. I like to think of it as a deep, connection with the planet that is our womb and sustains us.

This really smacked into me in back in the early 90’s; something that forever changed me. That something I experienced roughly about 4 days out in a solo sailing passage from the Azores to Plymouth. I came up on deck, clipped on, and looked around me. Primarily on the lookout for steaming lights that might indicate a ship in the same patch of ocean. It was after midnight. Having checked there wasn’t a ship in sight, I looked up at what was a totally cloud-free night sky.

What I saw were stars in that night sky that were visible 360 degrees around me. Not only visible in every single direction but visible right down to the edge of that black, ocean horizon. A huge celestial dome centered over this tiny me on my tiny boat. (A Tradewind 33: Songbird of Kent.)

It put into perspective, emotionally, visibly, intellectually and spiritually, how irrelevant one human being is and yet, how each of us is, or should be, the custodian of something immeasurably precious and beautiful: Planet Earth.

(Whoops! Sorry about that! Rather wandered off topic!)

OK, here’s what Scott sent me:

In the past two weeks, USDA Wildlife Services has:

1. Killed an Idaho family’s beloved pet dog;

2. Sent the family’s 14 year-old to the hospital with suspected cyanide poisoning;

3. Killed a Wyoming family’s two beloved pet dogs; and

4. Killed a protected Oregon wolf.

All of these incidents were caused by the M-44, a device used by Wildlife Services that fires a cyanide pellet into an animal’s mouth, causing a slow and agonizing death.

Wildlife Services’ greatest regret in all of these incidents is that they brought the agency more negative press – and given their history, they will probably use all of the incidents as “teaching moments” to instruct their agents to “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”

PLEASE CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND U.S. REP AND URGE THEM TO ELIMINATE FUNDING FOR USDA WILDLIFE SERVICES.

Scott then included a link to an article that was recently published in The Oregonian. I am taking the liberty of republishing it in full.

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Labrador killed by cyanide device in Idaho, boy knocked to the ground.

A federal M-44 cyanide device exploded Thursday, March 16, 2017, killing a dog in Pocatello Idaho. (Bannock County Sheriff’s Office)

By Andrew Theen | The Oregonian/OregonLive
March 18, 2017 at 7:30 AM, updated March 18, 2017 at 2:20 PM

A three-year-old Labrador retriever died and a 14-year boy was knocked to the ground when a cyanide device deployed by the federal government exploded in Pocatello, Idaho.

The Idaho State Journal reported the boy, who had been on a walk with his dog Thursday on a ridge near their home, watched his dog die. According to the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office, the boy was also “covered in an unknown substance” when the device known as an M-44 detonated. He was evaluated at a hospital and released.

“That little boy is lucky,” Sheriff Lorin Nielsen told the Pocatello newspaper. “His guardian angel was protecting him.”

The Idaho incident comes a few weeks after a gray wolf was accidentally killed by an M-44 on private land in Oregon’s Wallowa County. The controversial type of trap is used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services crews around the country primarily to kill coyotes and other predators.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., introduced legislation as recently as 2012 to ban the trap.

DeFazio has said he would reintroduce a similar bill in Congress.

The wolf death was the first documented “incidental take” of its kind in Oregon involving the protected animal and the M-44, fish and wildlife officials said.

Federal Wildlife Services officials said there were 96 M-44 devices dispersed across Oregon as of last week and the agency was looking to remove devices that were near known wolf habitat. Oregon fish and wildlife officials have said the devices were not allowed in areas of known wolf activity.

Oregon has long paid Wildlife Services to kill invasive species and specific predators. But Gov. Kate Brown’s’ recommended budget doesn’t include $460,000 typically set aside to pay the federal agency to kill animals in Oregon.

Bannock County officials described the device as “extremely dangerous to animals and humans.”

The department circulated photos of the trap. “If a device such as this is ever located please do not touch or go near the device and contact your local law enforcement agency,” officials said.

Government officials have said the number of deaths of domestic animals and non-target animals each year is low, and officials say they are conducting an “internal review” of the wolf death.

Wildlife Services killed 121 coyotes in Oregon in 2016 with M-44 devices, along with three red foxes, according to the government’s figures. No gray wolf was killed in the U.S. last year with the cyanide capsules, according to the government.

A Eugene nonprofit says the government isn’t being truthful about the number of pets and non-target animals – such as wolves – killed each year.

“Yesterday’s Idaho poisoning of a dog and the near poisoning of a child is yet another example of what we’ve been saying for decades:  M-44s are really nothing more than land mines waiting to go off, no matter if it’s a child, a dog, or a wolf,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense, said in a statement.

“It’s time to ban these notoriously dangerous devices on all lands across the United States.”

— Andrew Theen
atheen@oregonian.com
503-294-4026
@andrewtheen

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I will be writing about another terrible example of cruelty to animals tomorrow. One where you have the opportunity to add your name to a petition trying to have this cruel ‘tradition’ stopped.

Because as Anna Sewell (1820-1878), the English author who was the author of many books including Black Beauty is recorded as saying:

My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt.

We cannot do nothing!

Evanger’s Dog Food Recall Alert

This came in late yesterday afternoon, Pacific Time.

This was the email that was sent out.

Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company of Wheeling, Illinois, has announced it is voluntarily recalling specific lots of its pet food due to its potential to be contaminated with pentobarbital.

To learn which products are affected, please visit the following link:

Evanger’s Dog Food Recall of February 2016

Please be sure to share the news of this alert with other pet owners.

Mike Sagman, Editor
The Dog Food Advisor

P.S. Not already on our dog food recall notification list yet? Sign up to get critical dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. There’s no cost for this service.

If one goes to that Evanger’s Recall Link then this is what you will read. It is republished in full.

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Evanger’s Dog Food Recall of February 2017

February 3, 2017 — Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, Inc. of Wheeling, Illinois, is voluntarily recalling specific lots of its Hunk of Beef product due to potential contamination with the deadly drug, pentobarbital.

Pentobarbital can affect animals that ingest it, and possibly cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, excitement, loss of balance or nausea — or in extreme cases, death.

evangers-hunk-of-beef-recall-canWhat’s Being Recalled?

Although pentobarbital was detected in a single lot, the company is recalling all related Hunk of Beef products manufactured the week of June 6 through June 13, 2016.

The affected lots numbers that start with 1816E03HB, 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB, and have an expiration date of June 2020.

The second half of the barcode reads 20109, which can be found on the back of the product label.

Where Was the Product Sold?

The affected products were sold both online and also distributed to retail locations only in the following states:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

About the Recall

The recall affects 5 lots of food that were produced from its supplier’s lot of beef, which is specifically used for the Hunk of Beef product and no other products.

To date, five dogs reportedly became ill. And one of the five dogs died after consuming the product with lot number 1816E06HB13. [Ed: My emphasis]

Evanger’s is proactively issuing a recall so as not to risk potential exposure to pentobarbital in the product.

According to Evanger’s, all suppliers of meat products are USDA approved.

The insists the beef supplier provides the company with beef chunks from cows that are slaughtered in a USDA facility.

Evanger’s continues to investigate how the contaminant entered its raw material supply.

Because it sources its meat products from suppliers that are USDA approved and since no other products have reported any problems, the company is not extending the recall to other supplier lots.

According to Evanger’s, this is the first recall event for the company in its 82 years of manufacturing.

What to Do?

Although it has been verified that little or no product remains on store shelves, consumers are asked to return recalled product to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 847-537-0102 between 10 AM and 5 PM Central Time, Monday through Friday.

U.S. citizens can report complaints about FDA-regulated pet food products by calling the consumer complaint coordinator in your area.

Or go to http://www.fda.gov/petfoodcomplaints.

Canadians can report any health or safety incidents related to the use of this product by filling out the Consumer Product Incident Report Form.

Get Dog Food Recall Alerts by Email

Get free dog food recall alerts sent to you by email. Subscribe to The Dog Food Advisor’s emergency recall notification system.

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I will, of course, continue to publish every dog food alert that comes into my in-box. But don’t let that stop you from signing up for recall alerts on your own account.

Finally, if any of you are users of Evanger’s Hunk of Beef dog food and want to share your experiences then I shall be very happy to publish them here for the wider benefit of every single person who loves dogs!

The influence of climate

Changing climate is changing us and the world in significant and fundamental ways.

I wrote this around noon on the 7th September.  That day we awoke to the sky, normally clear blue, covered totally in grey stratus cloud.  Shortly after 9am it started to rain and some three hours later that rain was still steadily falling from the sky.  Don’t get me wrong, the steady rain was vital to the area.

The precipitation statistics for Payson, AZ up to yesterday (6th at the time of writing) are:

Precipitation year to date (ergo to the 6th September) = 8.02 inch (20.37 cms)

Precipitation 30-year average to the end of September = 16.25 inch (41.28 cms)

Year to date as a percentage of 30-year average = 49.4%

The annual 30-year average precipitation for the year for Payson is 21.5 inch. (54.6 cms)

So despite a moderately effective monsoon, there is no way that Payson, Arizona will be even close to the 30-year average for precipitation.

That’s why a recent essay by Chris Martenson, he of Peak Prosperity fame, is so critically worth reading.  I’m very grateful to Adam Taggart, Chris’s business partner, for giving me permission to republish the essay.  (Note that the essay was published before Hurricane Isaac arrived.)

Also note that this is Part One of Chris’s very detailed report and that to read the concluding Part Two you will need to enrol over at Peak Prosperity.  However, Part One is very detailed and covers much. Thus even without Part Two there is much here to ‘exercise the mind’.

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The U.S. Drought Is Hitting Harder Than Most Realize

Repercussions are everywhere.  By Chris Martenson, Wednesday, August 29, 2012, 8:02 PM

This is an important update on the U.S. drought of 2012, the combined record-setting July land temperatures, and their impact on food prices, water availability, energy, and even U.S. GDP.

Even though the mainstream media seems to have lost some interest in the drought, we should keep it front and center in our minds, as it has already led to sharply higher grain prices, increased gasoline costs (via the pass-through of higher ethanol costs), impeded oil and gas drilling activity in some areas (due to a lack of water), caused the shutdown of a few operating electricity plants, temporarily reduced red meat prices (but will also make them climb sharply later) as cattle are dumped in response to feed- and pasture-management concerns, and blocked and/or reduced shipping on the Mississippi River. All this and there’s also a strong chance that today’s drought will negatively impact next year’s Winter wheat harvest, unless a lot of rain starts falling soon.

The good news from Hurricane Isaac is that he’s traveling on a perfect path to deliver relief to one of the most heavily drought-impacted areas:

There are steps that everyone can and should take to become more food- and fuel-resilient in case the drought persists – as some experts think is quite possible – into next year and perhaps a few more. We’ll get to those steps shortly.

Further, there will be a definite impact to U.S. GDP, which could add to pressures (excuses?) that the Fed may use to justify additional quantitative easing (QE) measures (otherwise known as ‘printing more money’).

U.S. Drought Intensifies

The drought in the U.S. has intensified in the recent weeks, even though it has somewhat dropped from the front pages of mainstream media, possibly because the story is stale or possibly because it’s just too serious to dwell on for long:

Extreme drought in the U.S. intensifies
Aug 17, 2012

The drought in the United States is continuing to intensify, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The latest Drought Monitor says 61 percent of the contiguous United States faces moderate or worse drought conditions this week.

Nearly 30 percent is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought, exceptional being the most severe category.

Officials say the amount of land that’s currently affected across the U.S. is larger than the entire state of California.

In this next image, it is notable that the areas of the highest drought classification — ‘exceptional’ — have dramatically expanded from the prior week (the August 7, 2012 report).

(Source)

Much of the drought is centered squarely over the U.S. ‘breadbasket’ region and has really dented this year’s harvests in a big way.

Crop Losses

Certainly the number one story around the U.S. drought centers on its impact on grain production, specifically corn and soybeans. In a minute we’ll discuss the other impacts, but we’ll start with the one that has the greatest potential to cause both suffering and strife over the coming months (and possibly years), especially for those on limited budgets.

In 2011, the U.S. reaped a corn harvest of some 314 million tons. In 2012, the USDA has estimated a harvest of 274 million tons – a shortfall of 40 million tons – despite record acreage being planted.

While the USDA has been steadily reducing their crop estimates, practically with every passing week, it seems likely that the USDA remains behind the curve today, as it has been every step of the way. A different source for information comes from the Pro Farmer Midwest Crops Tour, which is coming in slightly under the current USDA estimates:

Crop Tour Points to Sharper Drought Impact on Soy, Corn
Aug 21, 2012

Initial reports from the closely watched Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour suggested more crop damage than expected from the drought, raising the potential for diminished soybean production this fall and sending futures sharply higher.

The disappointing crop reports from scouts touring fields on the Pro Farmer crop tour in states such as Ohio and South Dakota make it hard to believe soybean yields will reach current U.S. government crop projections, said Don Roose, president of advisory and brokerage firm U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The market is in the “watch and worry” mode on all fronts as shrinking crop forecasts will further tighten supplies already projected to dwindle to precariously tight levels in 2013, Mr. Roose said.

On the annual Pro Farmer tour, analysts and investors walk corn and soybean fields in seven Midwestern states over four days to assess prospects prior to the fall harvest. Pro Farmer is an agricultural advisory firm. The Pro Farmer tour, which wraps up Thursday, reported diminished potential for the soybean crop in both Ohio and South Dakota.

The crop tour doesn’t estimate soybean yields, but it reported an average 584.9 pods per 3-foot-by-3-foot square area in South Dakota, down 47% from a year ago. In Ohio, scouts reported soybean counts at an average of 1,033.72 pods per 3-foot-by-3-foot square area, down from 1,253.2 pods a year ago.

Soybeans entered their critical growing phases in recent weeks, and the crop has benefited in some regions from recent rains across the eastern Farm Belt.

Meanwhile, scouts with the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour on Monday reported an average estimated corn yield in Ohio of 110.5 bushels per acre, down from the tour’s estimate of 156.3 bushels a year ago. In South Dakota, tour scouts reported an average yield estimate of just 74.3 bushels per acre, down from 141.1 bushels a year ago.

While commodities traders and agronomists have braced for weeks for the prospect of a crop decimated by drought, the estimates were lower than many had expected.

The summary here is that the Pro Farmer Tour is reporting crop yields to be 2% – 3% lower than current USDA forecasts, which is a big deal when it comes to food. We’re talking a few tens-of-millions-of-bushels’ difference.

The somewhat sour note in this unfolding drama is the fact that 40% of the nation’s corn crop goes to ethanol producers, which means that food will be burned in the nation’s auto fleet instead of helping to keep prices down for consumers and animal feed. Another 40% goes to animal feed (chicken, cattle, hogs, etc.), and the remaining balance goes to direct human consumption.

However, the ethanol mandate is a congressional requirement for our fuel blenders, so they do not have a choice in the matter. It would literally take an act of Congress to even temporarily suspend the ethanol requirement – and in an election year, that’s just not going to happen, given the powerful constituencies invested in preserving that mandate.

Of course, higher input costs will ripple through the entire chain, so perhaps Bernanke will get the inflation he seeks, although it won’t be the one he wants. The inflation he wants is simple monetary-driven inflation. The inflation he will get is nothing more than a supply/demand mismatch.

Still, the USDA has a handy calculation for estimating the future impacts:

U.S.’s inferior corn crop has supply-chain ramifications
Aug 13. 2012

The USDA has provided considerable information about how the drought’s effects were likely to percolate through the economy. Because of a smaller-than-expected corn crop, the USDA said it can make the general prediction that “we will see impacts within two months for beef, pork, poultry and dairy (especially fluid milk). The full effects of the increase in corn prices for packaged and processed foods (cereal, corn flour, etc.) will likely take 10-12 months to move through to retail food prices.

The USDA has a formula for predicting changes in the rate of inflation caused by gains in prices at the commodity level: if the farm price of corn rises 50%, retail food prices rise by 0.5% to 1% as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The price of September corn futures from mid-June until early August advanced 55%, meeting the USDA’s criterion for a measurable increase in the CPI Lapp presented a more extreme scenario than the USDA. He predicted that the damage to the 2012 corn crop will translate into a food inflation rate of 4% to 5% in 2013. In his view, the dollar cost of the drought already was $30 billion, which accrued rapidly over the summer.

“This is a cost that somebody has to bear,” Lapp said. “Some price hikes are fairly quick and others take a while.”

He said high feed costs will have to be absorbed by producers, who will likely liquidate part of their cattle and swine herds and poultry populations. At the retail level, the drought’s effects will translate into narrower margins — and expected higher prices — for processed food and soft drink manufacturers among others.

Lapp offered his opinion that legislation that has effectively required 40% of the corn crop be used in making biofuels has made everything worse.

“The situation has been aided and abetted in a negative way by the biofuels mandates,” he said. “Shame on us for having mandated so much to corn ethanol” without creating contingencies for a bad crop year.

Because corn is the base unit for so many things (especially in the form of high-fructose corn sweetener), and because it’s a primary feed component for finishing cattle and raising chickens and hogs, it tends to have a pretty decent impact on food prices.

However, it takes time for those price hikes to work through the system. So it will not be until 2013 sometime that we really begin to feel it in the U.S. And for the rest of the world that lives more directly on grains? They’re not as lucky. The price hikes hit them almost immediately.

It looks like the harvest in Russia will be below expectations as well:

Russia harvest forecasts cut as drought hits crop in east
Aug 20, 2012

(Reuters) – Two leading Russian agricultural analysts cut their forecasts for Russia’s grain harvest on Monday after harvest data from two drought-stricken eastern growing regions reduced the outlook for the overall crop.

SovEcon narrowed their grain forecast to 71-72.5 million metric tonnes (…)

The government’s official grain harvest forecast is 75-80 million tonnes, of which 45 million tonnes could be wheat. The government has put this season’s exportable surplus at 10-12 million tonnes, a level seen by traders as an informal cap on exports.

The government has tried to reassure markets there will be no repeat of August 2010, when Russia’s government shocked markets with a snap decision to ban grain exports when the scale of losses from major drought became clear.

The government has indicated that protective tariffs could be an option, though only after the end of the calendar year.

But traders widely expect limits to be imposed in some form, perhaps as early as November, after heavy exports in the early months of the season showed Russia could hit the 10-12 million tonne mark sooner than January.

Russia is still officially projecting 75-80 million tonnes but may only get 71 tonnes. If the projected exportable surplus is 10-12 million tonnes, but Russia actually harvests 9 million tonnes less than their hoped-for projection, then its exports will have to decrease to plug that gap.

Here’s the kicker: Russia has already exported a good deal of that amount. That is, the prospect of another Russian export ban this year is quite realistic. If we get one, then we can expect a repeat of the turmoil in the grain markets that we saw in 2010.

But there’s another much more fundamental reason why we can expect higher prices going forward.

Need for Even Higher Prices

The good news is that there’s still plenty of supply to carry us through to the next harvest. However, demand is going to have to go down some, and the way we accomplish that is through the price mechanism.

Right now, physical grain traders are saying that prices are too low and that unless they rise, we’re going to run out of grain before the next harvest. Obviously, that’s not truly going to happen – increasing scarcity will cause prices to rise until current demand levels are reduced.

Fall in corn price disguises real picture (Financial Times)
Aug 20, 2012

Corn prices surged this month to an all-time high of $8.4375 a bushel on the back of the worst drought in the US in nearly half a century. But prices have since fallen roughly 5 per cent. The impression is the rally has run out of steam.

This is far from the real picture. Prices need to rise again – probably setting all-time highs – to dampen consumption that is running ahead of supply.

If demand does not slow down, silos will be all but empty before the next harvest arrives in late 2013.

On paper, the balance sheet for corn supply and demand published by the US Department of Agriculture seems good enough. But in practice, the numbers look a bit shaky. The agency, whose figures are closely watched by the market, first estimates supply and, after that, adjusts the demand data to maintain a minimum level of inventories.

This time the USDA is asking for monumental rationing on the demand side. For example, US corn feed and export demand will need to drop to their lowest levels in nearly 20 years.

The USDA is also forecasting lower ethanol production – and thus corn demand. Ethanol output has fallen, but not nearly enough. Worse, the rise in wholesale petrol prices back above $3 a gallon means that ethanol producers are profitable again, even when paying record corn prices.

Corn is now trading just above $8 a bushel – but traders in the physical market say that prices need to rise to $9-$10 to force demand down enough to meet the consumption levels anticipated by the USDA.

The retreat in corn prices over the past couple of weeks has given inflation watchers a false sense of security. The market should not relax, however. More food inflation is just waiting around the corner.

The idea here is that the cash market will have to lead the futures market higher, an odd situation because it is usually the other way around. With so many hedge funds now playing in the commodity space, one explanation is that they are simply playing paper games with each other – those playing the short side will get a lesson in the importance of keeping one eye on reality.

A truly shocking event would be if the U.S. ever gets to the position of limiting exports of corn or even soybeans. That is a very unlikely proposition to consider, but if the silos get drained because we have dysfunctional markets that saw fit to keep prices bizarrely low while our free trade agreements allow the too-low grains to be exported, threatening domestic supplies, then that possibility notches up a little bit.

Dairy, Meat, and Even Higher Gasoline Costs

While it is clear that basic grain prices are heading higher, the knock-on effects into other soft commodities are a little less clear, but are definitely still important to consider.

The most obvious of these are higher grain feed costs that will hit both livestock and dairy producers especially hard:

The withering crops are translating into higher feed costs for livestock producers. “This is different than anything I’ve ever experienced,” said Kent Pruismann, who raises cattle and hogs on a farm in Sioux County, Iowa, and saw his costs for feed jump by 20% in July.

The higher corn, soybean and wheat prices will reach food makers, exporters and eventually consumers. Drivers already have seen fuel costs climb because of higher prices for ethanol, a corn-based fuel that is blended into gas. The drought also has reignited the debate over whether ethanol production is a drain on global food supplies.

(Source)

Some are already turning to, shall we say, other means to keep their herds fed:

Kentucky cows eat candy instead of corn

Aug 14, 2012

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – When you think of cattle feed, you probably don’t think of candy, but due to the drought that’s exactly what one farmer chose to do.

At Mayfield’s United Livestock in Western Kentucky, owner Joseph Watson feeds his herd second-hand candy.

Watson started feeding his cattle the candy because corn prices were so high.

He mixes the candy with an ethanol by-product and a mineral nutrient. He monitors the daily intake and said the cows have had no real health issues.

Yes, the higher grain costs are going to hit everything from big cattle feedlot operations to my own two-bags-a-month chicken-feed usage.

However, it will be the cost of and even lack of hay that will really create some big problems later this year. The drought not only harmed the range and pasture lands, forcing greater use of stored hay to offset the decline in forage, but it put a huge crimp in this year’s hay production:

Drought Cripples Hay Feed Industry

Aug 19, 2012

Widespread drought has scorched much of the pastureland and hay fields needed to sustain cattle herds in the U.S., forcing many ranchers to find feed alternatives or sell their animals early into what has become a soft beef market.

The shortage has led to higher hay prices, with some farmers saying they have to pay two to three times last year’s rates.

Despite farmers setting aside more land to grow hay this year, they are still producing a lot less because of the drought, according to a recent Department of Agriculture estimate.

The harvest of alfalfa, generally considered to make the best hay because of its high nutrient levels, is forecast to be the worst since 1953, according to the USDA.

Pasture grass and hay are what most cattle are fed for the roughly two years they live before being slaughtered, but the drought is threatening to starve the animals.

Illinois rancher Steve Foglesong said that most years he could graze his cattle from spring through November on verdant fields that are now brown, buying them hay bales only in the winter. This year, he and his animals have their eyes on withered corn plants.

“It may not have any ears on it, but it makes pretty good cow feed,” he said.

John Erwin, who owns 20 acres of land in Shelbyville, Ill., said he is having trouble growing alfalfa hay, but demand is strong for what he can produce.

I’m getting calls from ranchers as far away as Wyoming,” Mr. Erwin said. “They’re desperate.”

He said he has been offered $250 a ton for his hay, nearly double the $130 a ton in a non-drought year. His fields didn’t produce any hay in July.

A doubling of hay prices is obviously going to create quite a bit of economic hardship for many farming operations, which tend to be marginal profit businesses even when everything is going well.

Here’s another view on the hay situation:

I spoke with Caldwell [of Indiana horse rescue] and a number of other horse-rescue organizations around the country by telephone this week. The relentlessly hot dry weather, amplified in many areas by wildfire, has been devastating to farmers, ranchers and other horse owners.

Everybody is using their winter hay now. The pastures are destroyed and they probably won’t recover before winter,” said Caldwell. “The price of hay has doubled, and the availability is down by 75 percent.”

Caldwell is somewhat sanguine about his own lot, but not optimistic about what lies ahead.

Today the problem is not nearly as bad as it’s going to be,” he told me. “It’s terribly bad today, but it is going to get a lot worse.”

(Source)

The drought has done some very serious harm to the nation’s hay supply that goes beyond the economics of higher hay costs. First there’s the supply of the hay, and then there’s the relatively poor quality of hay that was taken from non-irrigated, drought-stricken fields. All in all, it’s not a good situation.

To add a bit more difficulty into the situation, it turns out that drought-stricken silage and even the corn itself can be harmful to animals:

Drought makes corn dangerous for livestock

Aug 16, 2012

COLUMBIA, MISSOURI, U.S. — Tim Evans, an associate professor of veterinary pathobiology and toxicology section head at the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, Columbia, Missouri, U.S., warns U.S. farmers and livestock producers that drought-damaged corn plants can pose a risk to animal health.

During severe drought conditions, corn plants, especially those heavily fertilized with nitrogen, can accumulate a chemical called ‘nitrate’,” Evans said.

This chemical can be very harmful to animals, especially cattle, if they eat corn plants or other vegetation containing too much nitrate. Eating plants with too much nitrate can cause damage to red blood cells, resulting in lethargy, miscarriage, and even sudden death.”

Evans says that in normal conditions, corn crops typically absorb nitrate into only the lower 12-18 inches of the stalk, which does not have to be fed to animals. However, during severe drought conditions, high concentrations of nitrate can accumulate in the upper portions of the stalk, which cattle and other livestock often eat.

Evans also says that many naturally growing plants and weeds in grazing pastures can accumulate nitrate during drought conditions, as well. These plants include many types of grasses and some weeds, which animals might be forced to eat because of limited pasture or hay available as forage for livestock.

The key here is that nitrates are safe below 2,000 ppm but toxic above 15,000 ppm, and the levels found in the stalks and how high it travels are a function of whether enough rain fell to allow the plant to take it up. Much of the corn crop was so desiccated that the plants could not even manage to draw up this nutrient, and therefore it is safe as a feed product.

While it’s hard to get a read on at this early stage, there are enough warning signs here pointing to much, much higher grain, food, and meat prices in the future. The worry is whether there will even be enough feed to sustain the animal populations through the Winter and Spring. Given the damage to the harvestable corn, a lot of it is going to be turned into silage

Many ranchers and farmers are faced with a horrible choice here. Saving their herds may be economically unsound or even impossible where hay and safe silage are not available, and so they are selling their herds, one of the most heart-wrenching decisions anyone could have to make.

So many are doing this that recently the price for cattle has dropped, as everyone is selling into an increasingly soft market. My advice is to enjoy these low meat prices while they last, because the next stage of this story involves much higher meat prices.

The problem with understanding just how bad the hay situation might (or might not) be is that there are no national statistics collected that could tell us whether or not there’s even enough hay available to sustain the current commercial and recreational livestock populations.

The Importance of Positioning Yourself

So, with all of these repercussions building during the current drought – to which there’s yet no end in sight – what can you do today to minimize their impact on your budget and lifestyle?

Part II: Positioning for the Drought’s Aftermath looks at the likeliest outcomes in food prices, food availability, energy prices, and macroeconomic consequences (of which there will no doubt be many from this drought). We have a national food distribution system that runs significantly on a just-in-time basis, which leaves it vulnerable to price and inventory shocks when there are supply disruptions. The reduced water levels caused by the drought are handicapping electrical power generation in growing regions in the country; electrical thermal plants are the number one biggest user of water in the U.S.  The global financial markets are similarly tenuous these days, as resources are already taxed in trying to stimulate the moribund U.S. economy and dig Europe out of its massive credit woes.

This is one of those moments where taking simple, prudent steps now can have an outsized effect on preserving your quality of life.

Click here to read Part II of this report (free executive summary; paid enrollment required for full access)

oooOOOooo

It’s not pleasant reading, is it!  But unless we all fully understand the implications of what we are doing to the planet by continuing to pollute the atmosphere, how can we embrace change!

Changing the person: Me!

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. – Chinese Proverb

Yesterday, in a post that picked up on the deep implications of Bill McKibben’s chilling essay on where the world is heading if we don’t change, I set out my understanding of what holds us back from that change.  I wrote, “ … the process of change cannot start until we  truly want to change; a total emotional commitment.  And the formation of those emotions, that realisation, requires a new understanding of the world around us, who we are and who we want to be.”

Previously on Learning from Dogs I have quoted Jon Lavin, “The best way to save the world is to work on our selves.”  I remember decades ago when working as a humble office-products salesman for IBM UK the well-worn saying, “Selling is 90% me and 10% the customer.”  Sort of reminds me of Woody Allen’s: “Eighty percent of success in life is showing up.”

OK, enough of these mental perambulations.  Let’s get on with the task of looking at change.  Because make no bones about it, if we rely on ‘them’, on others, to turn mankind back from where we are heading then it’s all over!  It comes down to each and every one of us deciding to change.

Think this is all melodramatic nonsense?  Go and read the first paragraph of Bill McKibben’s article where he states, “June broke or tied 3,215 high-temperature records across the United States. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average..

Want more reason to change?  Try this from a recent article on The Daily Impact:

From American Drought to “Global Catastrophe”

Some poet  invented the name “Arab Spring” as a label for the tsunami of public desperation that last year took down the governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Poets and Pollyannas saw the events as an upwelling of love for democracy. Realists related them to the spike in world food prices that threatened the survival of whole populations and made them desperate for change — any change.  Now, thanks in large part to events unfolding in the American heartland, get ready for another, worse, spike.

We are running out of superlatives with which to describe the Mid- and Southwestern drought and its effect on this year’s corn and soybean crops. According to this week’s USDA crop update the situation during the previous seven days went from “critical” to, um, worse than that. The drought is the worst in half a century. Of the largest US acreage ever planted in corn (industrial agriculture was crowing about that just a couple of months ago), only one-quarter is still in good condition. (Modest rainfall in drought-stricken areas early this week provided mostly emotional relief; the drought is forecast to continue unabated through October.)

Change really does seem like a ‘no-brainer’!

Here’s a lovely cartoon that summarises the steps of change, the process of transition, for you and me.

That diagram is from John Fisher’s model of personal change, full details of which are here.  It includes a link to the process of transition diagram, show above, here.

The most important thing to note, and this is why so many ‘change’ ambitions fail, is that change is deeply unsettling at first.  When change happens for the majority of us, often ‘forced’ on us as a result of unplanned life events, we are left deeply unsettled; a strong feeling of being lost, of being in unfamiliar surroundings.  Think divorce or, worse, the death of a partner or child, reflect on how many sign up for bereavement counselling in such circumstances.  Big-time change is big-time tough (apologies for the grammar!).

Stay with me for a short while while I reinforce this from my own experiences.

My previous ex-wife announced in December, 2006 that she was leaving me for a younger model!  It came as a complete surprise.  Subsequently, I was invited to spend Christmas 2007 out in San Carlos, Mexico with Suzann and her husband, Don.  Suzann is the sister of my dear, close friend of many years, Dan Gomez, hence the connection.  There I met Jean, a long-term friend of Suzann living in San Carlos and, coincidentally as I am, another Londoner by birth.  Jean and I fell deeply in love with each other and a year later I moved out from SW England with Pharaoh to Mexico.

Throughout 2008 I suffered from what was eventually diagnosed as vestibular migraine.  It involved partial loss of vision, vertigo, headaches and significant short-term memory disturbances; let me tell you it was pretty frightening!

Eventually, in 2012 well after we moved from San Carlos up to Payson, Arizona, I got so worried that I went to see a neurologist, convinced that I was heading down the road of dementia.  Dr. Goodell examined me thoroughly and said that there were no signs of dementia or early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.  His conclusion: I was showing the normal signs of forgetfulness that any person of my age (now 67) would show having been through similar life changes.  Dr. Goodell went on to explain that back in England 98% of my life was constant and familiar and therefore adjusting to a 2% change was unremarkable.  However, on moving my life out to Mexico and then on to Arizona, it was all reversed: 2% of my life was constant and 98% was change and that was a huge psychological hill to climb with all the associated mental stresses that I had been experiencing.

Interestingly, that diagnosis rapidly set me on the path of feeling so much better!

So, apologies for that personal diversion but I hope it underlined that life-change is a big deal!

In my trawl across the Web looking for change references, I came across a software engineer by the name of Dave Cheong.  Dave writes a blog.  In Dave’s blog was a piece about change.  Change as a result of a merger of his employer.  This is what Dave wrote:

As a result of the merger, lots of change is happening. Some folks are questioning where things are headed, what management have planned, how their lives will change, etc. Most certainly, there will be job losses as the two companies consolidate things, in particular administrative positions.

With the chaos that’s been unfolding, I’ve thought a bit about “change” in general. What is it? Why do people resist it? Is it always a good thing? What should I do?

And later he writes after referring to the Satir Change Process model, named after Virginia Satir, an American author and psychotherapist:

The diagram depicts several stages of accepting change. The first stage is known as Status Quo (Gray Zone), a state where everyone is generally comfortable with the way things are. The second stage is a point in time a Foreign Element, trigger or change agent is introduced. What follows is a period of Resistance and Chaos (Red Zone), personified as a result of people being scared of the uncertainties the change has brought about and how their lives will be impacted.

The level of performance generally drops off and fluctuates more greatly between the Gray and Red Zones. There are various reasons for this – people may reject the change to protect the status quo; are confused with the change and are unsure of what to do; or simply become less competent with the new tools and processes introduced.

This describes why people by nature resist change. They don’t want to become less useful than they already are.

Just reflect on that.  Dave calls it being ‘less useful’ but that downplays the emotional significance of partially losing one’s self-image, one’s self-identity, the undermining of who we think we are.  As I wrote earlier, life-change is a big deal!

Here’s my final example of how dealing with change is all about the self.  It’s from the Best Self Help website, and opens,

Self help, personal development and self-improvement are topics of considerable interest to pretty much everyone on the planet.

In 1975 my life was a total mess. I was depressed, unemployed and my 5 year marriage was ending.

I’m not going to quote it all but it really is worth a read.  However, I do want to quote the conclusion,

Finally, I Got It!!!

In the Western world, we are educated to look outside ourselves for validation. We want more money to acquire “things” with the mistaken belief this is the source of happiness.

The true source of love, health, happiness and financial success cannot be found outside of ourselves – each of these is already within us. The key is learning how to access and activate that which we already possess.

 “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.” ~Socrates~

So that’s enough for today. If you haven’t got the message about change coming from within, then not sure what else I can offer!  However, if you do want to explore changing the way you impact this beautiful planet (and it applies equally to me) then drop in tomorrow.

Organic milk in the USA

The unacceptable face of the big agricultural businesses

Another wonderful link from Naked Capitalism.  This one refers to the way that the definition of ‘organic’ as in organic milk is being twisted and distorted to favour the huge indoor milking herds, up to 10,000 cattle, that in any sensible mind could never be regarded as the organic production of milk.

This to me is a picture of organic production of milk:

An English meadow

This to me is NOT! Yet the milk from these cows is defined as organic!

Organic milk?

This last picture is courtesy of The Cornucopia Institute, another web site worth a visit whether or not you take an interest in farming – after all, one presumes that you do eat!

The article is on the Politics of the Plate website, worth your visit whether or not you are an American, and is, to me, so important that I am taking the liberty of publishing the article in full.
Here it is:
Read this very important article