This winter, I approached Johann Zietsman about publishing an audiobook for his masterpiece, Man, Cattle and Veld. To my great delight, he, and publisher Paul Butler, have embraced the idea and given the reins over to me to complete the entire project. I am pleased to share that the audiobook should be available on Amazon/Audible shortly, with a tentative release date of April 9, 2022. It should also be available on more than 30 other audiobook platforms within the coming month. I will update this post and make another when more information is available.
What is Man, Cattle and Veld?
I mentioned Johann in my recent post discussing sheep and forage management. He is a pioneer among several pioneers (especially in southern Africa) re-igniting harmony between cattle and grasslands through breeding, selection, and grazing management which treats man, cattle, and veld (pronounced felt) as a whole ecosystem. The primary aspect of Man, in this relationship, is the goal of maximum sustainable profit per acre (or hectare), wherein sustainable refers to lands and ecosystems being maintained or improved while stocking rates trend upward.
Non-selective grazing, joined with proper supplementation, is the day-to-day method by which the goal is achieved, and progress is witnessed from season to season, year to year, by the ability to carry MORE CATTLE, NOT LESS (as Zietsman’s many articles urge) and a herd’s condition and fertility improves.
Not only is there much more to be said about how to ranch in nature’s image, many of us have ideas in mind which need challenging and washing out. Man, Cattle and Veld and confronts such mistaken ideas, and offers replacements based on Zietsman’s own experience as real rancher with cow dung on his boots–dung from the grasslands of Africa, not a stud breeding mansion-feedlot.
Livestock guardian breeds make excellent companions and property guards.
is a three year old Maremma/Karakachan from Crane Creek in Iowa. Max excels at alerting to disturbances, learning quickly, guarding chickens, and overall sweetness. He is gentle with children, playful and energetic. He is not trained other than to come, but I suspect he is smart enough to learn still.
Partly because Karakachans are more given to building and roaming territory, and partly because Max’s older brother is very dominant, Max wants to venture from the farm whenever he gets the opportunity. This is the only reason Max is being rehomed. He would be best suited in a single dog home, with chickens to guard, and either ability to roam freely or enclosed in a large pasture.
$0 to a good home.
Angie or Pinky
Maremma yearlings as of 3/11/22. One of these two will be joining my cousin’s new sheep flock in the coming months. Until then, prospective buyers have choice between them.
Both grew up under their mother’s tutelage (see more below) in the sheep paddock, where they have learned to be gentle with lambs and ewes, and usually move at moderate speeds when responding to disturbances. As a pair, and for some time with Uncle Max, they guarded my weaned replacement lambs this fall. When I let the two of them out of the paddock, they have generally travelled 200-300 yards to examine the area, and return on calls/whistles. I don’t think they recognize their names. I will write below about their parents to give character estimations.
Both like to be near to me, and are playful, but don’t wish to be touched or held. They are compliant with being gently caught and handled for care. They are not trained other than to come, and I think would resist leashing.
About their litter mates: Talia was randomly selected from the litter at 5 months of age as a sheep and goat guardian. She is performing well on her own in Minnesota, at Heart and Soil Ridge Farm. They have one brother who is a house pet, weighing in at over 100 lbs, and is loved. Their sister Sammy is also waiting to join my cousin’s flock, showing slightly more consistency than Angie and Pink.
February 20 litter – 2 males, 1 female available
Maremma. Three of the litter of six are sold/reserved. They are approaching 15 lbs and spend their days wrestling and learning to bark. They are very relaxed–on their journey to the veterinary clinic, they laid on Kristin as if she were one of them. Their mother is guarding the barn and staying very close.
Available April 16 with initial vaccinations.
$333-$1500, depending on arrangement. Non-refundable $100 deposit to reserve.
Garth is mostly friendly and very accepting of people. He does not look for pets from strangers, but accepts the many visitors that come around. He slightly on the hyper side of mild. He barks aggressively when things seem very out of order. Garth is very good about understanding where he has been placed. He occasionally ventures to neighboring properties (where he is respectful) and usually returns without my knowing he was gone, balancing his curiosities with his duties. He is sometimes stubborn about remaining at the barn when I insist he be in the pasture.
I wish I had trained all my dogs to jump into my truck and walk on a leash. At over 100 lbs, Garth is a load when making a trip to the vet clinic or some such thing. He is happy to hop onto livestock trailers and follow a load of sheep.
Wendy was purchased out of a friend’s goat herd reduction. By my friend’s estimation, she was more or less feral. He had never worked with her as a puppy. It’s important to note: these dogs do not want to hurt people. Though Wendy strongly prefers distance from people, she peacefully complies with being picked up when the need arises.
Wendy is my best dog. She jumps my 42″ electric fences and goes where she pleases to hunt rodents, but spends the vast majority of her time right amongst the sheep. She mostly leads her pups by example, being a calm presence and slow-moving responder. I have not seen her scold her pups for their occasional roughhousing with lambs and ewes. (Her previous litter have much softer mouths than Garth and Max did in their first year.)
This fall my cousins, the Karr family, and I partnered in our first attempt at raising meat chickens on the land.
Recognizing that chickens’ presence on our grazing lands would be ecologically beneficial as well as filling an economic niche, we decided that adding chickens would be a sooner or later project, so we chose sooner.
In fact, instead of waiting until spring, we started a hatch in early September, so that we could accelerate our learning curve (and experiment). We ordered 50 red ranger broiler chicks; 48 of them were moved to pasture with a partially enclosed hut made of cattle panels and tarp. Their slide-able hut was moved as often as possible, or they were allowed to walk around within an electric chicken fence.
We threw a number of experimental factors into the mix:
Early, September frost and unexpected cold right after we put the chicks on the ground.
Could they grow muscle on farm-grown ground corn alone? Not so well.
Would they eat flax or flax seed meal, thus enhancing their omega-6 profile? Flax didn’t excite them.
What about weevil-eaten gamebird feed? They loved it.
All along the way, the chickens preferred to peck the ground versus empty the feeder. Red rangers are bred to be more like their jungle-fowl predecessors than their confinement barn contemporaries. Our rangers ate every kind of leaf, insect, and seed before turning to the feed provided.
Cold weather and dietary mismatch kept our birds from filling out on the usual schedule. We postponed harvesting the chickens by about two months.
When it came for butchering, we gathered the chickens in the dark (much less stressful) and I took them to a USDA-inspected poultry facility for processing, so that the chickens can be sold anywhere (as far as I’m aware).
There, the carcasses were air-chilled, as opposed to the typical ice water bath. This has two big advantages: one, it’s assumed that any organisms on one chicken body are not as likely to be passed to the rest, as compared to one big bath; two, the packaged chicken is not full of added water, so the customer is only paying for the natural weight of meat and bone.
Our packaged and frozen chickens weigh between 4.5 and 6.5 lbs. They are available for purchase in Monroe City for about $14 apiece.
How’s the eating?
Good. And different. That’s what we planned.
The extra age on these birds means they have dark leg meat, which has it’s own profile of flavors. Different is what we were counting on, though we didn’t plan for over-mature. Going in, we expected that our chickens would stand apart in flavor and richness.
Most of us have no idea today what a chicken tastes like without being raised on processed feed. This winter, we are getting an idea of that, but I think we have plenty of potential for making better tasting birds. The ground will be much greener when our future broilers hit the ground.
Part of me wonders if we should keep over-maturing these birds–flavor takes time to establish in meat–but we shall see.
We learned that we won’t be trying to raise any more chicks in October. We’ll be re-aiming at feed sources.
I plan to trail chickens behind the sheep paddocks by about three days difference as they cross the pastures.