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Your Letters, Comments and Feedback

We've collected your most recent letters to Hobby Farms -- both those that ran in the magazine and others, too!

If you have a comment about an article you've seen in Hobby Farms, a tip or personal experience that you would like to share online, please email it to us at hobbyfarms@bowtieinc.com

Sharp Solutions

In the Nov/Dec ‘07 Farm Garden column by Susan Brackney, the “Take Time to Sharpen” information is a great idea. I would like to note, however, that files are designed to cut in only one direction and using them any other way will dull the file’s cutting “teeth.”

The machined cutting teeth only cut when the file is moving from tip to handle and from left to right as the file moves away from you. In the picture that accompanies the information, the file appears to be moving right to left, meaning proper sharpening of the tool would not take place and the file would soon be useless.

The first time you use a new file correctly, you’ll be amazed at how fast the job gets done and how much less effort you’ll exert!

Dwight Buck
Buck’s Barnyard
Nampa, ID

Move over Marge

I’m a great fan of your magazine, finding helpful information in every issue. However, I was truly baffled after reading “Low-fat Cows” on page 15 of the Jan/Feb ‘08 issue. After finding the press release that led to the article online, I think I see what Fonterra is aiming for.

While finding cows that produce higher amounts of Omega-3 is an admirable goal, the main thrust of the Hobby Farms article seems to imply that a cow that produces 1 percent milk would be a boon to the industry or consumers. I cannot see how this could be true. Whole milk straight from a cow (presumably where at least a few of your readers would source theirs) usually ranges from 3.5 percent to 5.5 percent.

Many breeds favored by hobby farmers are heritage breeds that tend toward the higher end of this spectrum. The extra fat removed from whole milk is used for a variety of foods, including ice cream, butter and cream. In fact, due to an overall shortage of butterfat in recent years, dairy farmers have been paid handsomely for the amount of fat in their milk and have been busily breeding cows to increase the level of fat produced genetically.

Most dairy farmers would be wise to closely watch a cow that tested 1 percent butterfat as a level of fat this low generally is an accurate forecaster of impending metabolic disaster. Moreover, our friends in New Zealand, the world’s largest exporters of dairy products, place a huge premium on production of milk solids (fat, protein and other solids) since this is what they export. At 1 percent fat, Marge is taking up lots of space and not
producing much exportable product.

Seth Johnson
American Guernsey Association
Tunbridge, VT 

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Not Just for Décor

I would like to comment on the article “The Cinderella Pumpkis, ”in the Sept/Oct 2007 issue. I grow the Rouge Vif d’Etampes (or RVE as I call it) pumpkin and I certainly disagree with the statement that “it’s best used as a decoration.”

In pumpkin pies and other baked goods, it is one of the best pumpkin varieties in existence. It far excels most field pumpkin varieties in baking, both in flavor and in nutritional quality. The RVE pumpkin can also be eaten baked like a yam, since it is not stringy like a field pumpkin. 

Jeffery Goss
Billings, Missouri

Confinement Comment

I enjoy your magazine and look forward to it each month. I was surprised to see what I believe to be an unfair comparison of commercial cattle production to that of the total confinement systems of pork and chicken in the recent “Go For The Green” article by Carol Ekarius (Sept/Oct 2007).

It was a good article about grass-fed production, but the reader gets the idea that commercial cattle spend their lives in a feedlot like housed pigs and chickens. I raise cattle and the truth is that they spend just a few months of their lives in confinement and years in  green pastures. Thanks for a nice magazine, but let’s not have writers beating up on everyone in commercial agriculture.

Philip Glass
Half-Circle Six Ranches
Water Valley, Texas

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Raising Awareness

I would like to comment on a question in your Livestock Q&A column called “Acidosis Aware” in the Sept/Oct 2007 issue. The article hit a nerve with me as I had just had a Tennessee Fainting goat die of unknown causes. 

The symptoms described in the article were pretty close to what my goat was experiencing, so I looked on the Internet for acidosis and lead poisoning. Bingo!

Our veterinarian gave me Banamine and antibiotics, which worked for a while, yet the goat finally succumbed and died of dehydration and starvation. Now I know what to look for and to follow up with sodium bicarbonate if the problem arises again. My feeding program is also going to change to avoid this problem all together.
 
Thank you for the great articles that help me be a better goat keeper.

David Clark
Internet

Packgoat Pleasure

I really enjoyed the article on packgoats (“Camping Companions,” July/August 2007). In 1998, I visited my aunt in Tucson, Ariz., and while on a side trip to Madeira Canyon, we ran into some folks who were goat packing and their goats were outfitted much like the one on the cover. As an avid outdoorswoman, I have been intrigued by the concept ever since, and reading your article has renewed my interest and has me seriously considering this hobby.

Annette Boose
Lilac Haven French Angora Rabbitry
Westerville, OH


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Alpaca Applause

I want to commend you on your article “All About the Snap” (Notes From the Porch, July/August). It was extremely well written and captured all the issues my wife and I have experienced as new alpaca owners. You obviously did your homework. You hit the nail on the head in so many areas. Once again, I appreciate the well-written article. I will copy it and pass it out to potential customers.

John Lane
Alpaca Full Moon Farm
Marshall, VA

I just finished reading my July/August 2007 issue of Hobby Farms. As always, another great issue. I especially enjoyed the article on “The Alpaca Advantage.” As an alpaca owner, I found the article informative and complete. I give Mr. Stewart an A+. Keep up the good work.

David T. Smith
Huntsville, AL 

Timely Advice

I found your vet column discussing meningeal worms in the last issue to be really interesting (Livestock Q&A, July/August 2007). Our llama started staggering occasionally just a couple of weeks ago—front legs only. I watched him for a couple of days, trying to be sure I was seeing what I was really seeing, and when the staggering persisted, I went online.

I Googled “llama staggering” and got access to the website www.shagbarkridge.com. Possible reasons for staggering were listed and I called our vet, told them the specific symptoms he had and the possible definitions of what was going on. Even though we have not observed any deer on or immediately near our property for the last three years, they are in the broader area and possibly move through at night (though we’ve seen no evidence).

The vet decided we were dealing with meningeal worms, came over to be sure and prescribed meds. Since the first day on the medication, our llama has had no recurrence of the symptoms. Our vet did recommend that we deworm our llama via syringe every month when we are not experiencing a hard freeze. He said we should not use oral deworming medication, perhaps to ensure that the llama fully receives the proper dosage. Anyway, thanks for a most informative column and thank you, too, for the neat story about Oregon Shepherd!

B.L. Wiedenbeck
Oregon, WI

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Invaluable Advice

Since subscribing recently, I have found your magazine invaluable for handy tips and advice for our horses, cows, goats and rabbits. I especially enjoy any columns on holistic remedies, particularly since many large/farm animal vets in our area are retiring. Any more similar articles you can publish would be very welcome.

Christa J. Conley
Dyke, VA

Beetle Buzz

In the May/June 2007 issue, there is a “Pest Pointer” on page 34 regarding Japanese beetles that I would like to comment on. It mentions that people on the West Coast and near the Rocky Mountains will probably never see this beetle. It has been found in the Provo, Utah (Rocky Mountains), area recently. The state is now planning on treating lawns in a several-block radius hoping to completely eradicate the beetle—a lofty goal not likely to be achieved.

My second point is that one is better off controlling Japanese beetles when they’re still at the grub stage because they’re far easier to control then. Several pesticides will treat them, but one can also use beneficial nematodes bred specifically for this pest. As with most organic treatments, timing is crucial for it to be fully effective.

Finally, to some extent I disagree with the suggestion of not using beetle traps. True, the pheromone used will attract more beetles to the trap and if you just have a few beetles in your area, then other control methods can be used (i.e., handpicking). But if you have so many beetles that you’re considering pesticides, then the traps may be a good alternative. The pheromone is a sexual attractant, so it works well.

The adult Japanese beetle is very resistant to general-use pesticides and to many restricted-use pesticides, meaning that many will survive and become resistant to the chemical. These are tough beetles, which is why it’s better to go after them when they’re grubs.

Henry Nahalewski
Sandy, Utah

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Cloning Conversations

I believe strongly that the consumer has a right to know if their food came from cloned animals or plants. Not only does this allow people to make their own informed choice, but some people will have strong objections, both religious and moral, against participating in the cloning industry.

I have moral objections and would not knowingly eat cloned food. In fact, if I learned that cloned food was in the food supply, I would be motivated to become more self-sufficient in food production. Decisions like mine would hurt not only the cloners, but also sellers of non-cloned food, since without labeling, all food would be suspect.

D. J. Mitchell
Paragonah, Utah

I believe the FDA is shortsighted in its analysis that cloning poses no risk. Although it is not a surprise that a cloned animal produces non-harmful products, we must look at the bigger picture.

One thing we know about nature is the importance of genetic diversity. In the past, we have seen large portions of species wiped out by a new microbe. The genetic diversity of species allows for a few to be resistant. If species are all of the same stock, the microbe could wipe out an entire species in short order.

We have seen time and again the ability of microbes to mutate into new, unforeseen killers. This is another law of nature. Protection of diversity is a long-term necessity for the protection of our livestock herds and food supply.

We must realize that governmental agencies are driven by short-term outlooks. They are pressured by agribusiness and politicians to make judgments based on the now. Corporations work on an annual cycle of profit production. Politicians are elected every two to six years—that is their horizon of focus. But we must be concerned for our future generations and cloning naturally strikes most people as odd. Cloning is seen as a taboo across cultures.

The FDA should at least ensure that meat is labeled as cloned. Then people can speak for themselves and not buy these products. It seems agribusiness has something to hide if they have a problem with labeling the fact.

Matthew Nottingham
Blacksburg, Virginia

Yogurt Courage

Thank you for giving me the confidence to try yogurt again! (“Create Your Own Culture,” Spring 2007) Being originally from the city, I bought one of those plug-in yogurt makers (more than 10 years ago) that makes only one quart at a time. The few times I used it, I was always disappointed: runny, tasteless and never enough for a yogurt-eating family of five. I gave up on it.

Then I read the article. I gathered a cooler, some quart-sized canning jars and a made a whole gallon of yogurt! A great project while I was house-bound by 18 inches of snow!

It was wonderful! Tart and tangy, thick and creamy once stirred, and enough to break it down into 8-ounce containers all prepared with vanilla and fruit so anyone could go and grab one from the fridge. My kids love it and my husband has yet another “oh, my wife made that” to take to work and share.

We just bought our 7+ acres last June and we will be building outbuildings for chickens, ducks, goats and whatever else may make its way here. I am very excited about making more yogurt, kefir and cheeses from raw goat milk.

Selene Bloedorn-Saeed
Wisconsin

Poultry Show Info

Hobby Farms is to be congratulated for the very nice coverage of exhibition poultry and the big show in Indianapolis (“A Passion for Poultry” March/April 2007). Well done! 

Carol Ekarius did an excellent job interviewing knowledgeable poultry people and developing an article that gives a wonderful picture of the exhibition poultry hobby.

However, I noticed that two things are incorrect. 

The first is that while true there were over 1,000 birds at the Indianapolis show, the actual number was 11,640. Reporting that there were over 1,000 misses the mark by a bit.

The second is regarding the boxed item (bottom of page 54) attributed to the American Egg Board on the connection of egg color and earlobe color.
 
It is true that chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and that birds with red earlobes lay brown eggs. 

The possible exceptions to this rule are: the Penedesenca, a Spanish breed with white earlobes that actually lays white eggs with a super-dark coating; the Holland and the Lamona, two American breeds developed to lay white eggs, but that have red earlobes; and the Araucana and the Americana breeds, which lay blue and green eggs, but which have red earlobes.

Feather color has nothing to do with egg color. The Egg Board incorrectly states that white-feathered birds lay white eggs and red-feathered birds lay brown eggs—this is probably because the person who made this statement is used to seeing only commercial White Leghorns and commercial brown sex-linked layers. 

Breed determines egg color and there is a link between the expression of earlobe color and egg color; but there is no connection between feather color and egg color.

Also, thank you for mentioning the poultry tour (Notes From the Porch, page 8). It was a pleasure to have you and Hobby Farms as a part of that weekend.

Don Schrider
Communication Director
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
www.albc-usa.org

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Research Needed

I read with great interest your recent “Buying the Farm” column in which a couple, about to retire, wanted rural property, but had certain concerns. You gave them some great advice, but I think I can add to it.

I am a member of the Planning Commission for China Township in eastern Michigan. Our community has some of the characteristics your readers were looking for: rural character yet not too far from town, easy drive to shopping and medical facilities, and so on.

However, many communities that have such desirable features have one striking drawback: They won’t be rural for very long.

If you want to hobby farm, yet locate not too far out in the woods, I recommend you go to the town hall of the community you’re looking at. Ask to see the most recent master plan (most communities will have one).

Here’s what you’re looking for: Does the property you’re interested in have a zoning classification that allows you to pursue the hobbies you wish? In my township, most of the community is zoned for agricultural use, so hobby farms are permitted. They aren’t permitted everywhere!

Does your community plan to expand in a suburban fashion?
 
Many of today’s rural communities, if they are just beyond the suburban fringe of development, are eyeing that suburban development with dollar signs in their eyes.

If the master plan has language in the preamble talking about “preserving the rural character of the community” (as ours does), then your community leaders see the rural nature of the town as an asset to be preserved.

If there are plans to extend water and sewer systems throughout a town, look out. It is very rare that a community with those two pieces of infrastructure—sewers in particular—remain rural for very long. I’ve been taking care of a well and a septic system for six years and trust me, it’s not that difficult (and I don’t mind not ever getting a water bill).

People tell me I was lucky to find my place. It isn’t luck, it’s research. A quick stop at the town hall, and asking a few questions and looking at some documentation, can save you from a lot of grief later on. I know I won’t wake up next Monday and see bulldozers across the street starting on the next suburban subdivision (into which people will move who will immediately start to try to get my hobby farm shut down). That kind of development isn’t allowed here. I also know a lot of people who went through unnecessary heartache because they didn’t bother to check on these things before they bought property.

Finally, does your community have sufficient farming to support farm-related businesses? It’s a pain to have to drive an hour and a half to get sheep feed. Here in China Township, we have two Tractor Supply outlets within a 20-minute drive. I have several local sources of hay and straw, and I can get my annual supply of new chicks from a place two miles down the road. (One thing we produce here is eggs.) And I’ve got my eye on a new John Deere tractor, available at a dealership near the county fairgrounds, 25 minutes away.

If your readers want any personal advice, I am happy to answer any questions since I know you can answer only a fraction of the inquiries you get. Anyone seeking advice of this type can contact me at this e-mail address, anderssc@udmercy.edu.

Scott C. Anderson
Planning Commissioner,
Charter Township of China, St. Clair County, Michigan

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Guinea Goofs

Your recent article about guinea fowl (“Guinea Fowl” March/April 2007) is in need of a few corrections.

Our organization, the Guinea Fowl Breeders Association (GFBA), was listed as a resource and our President’s book, Gardening With Guineas, was as well. 

The article mentions guinea fowl warding off predators. It makes it seem as though guineas will commonly fight off predators, when in fact more guinea fowl die of predation than they do of old age.
 
A single predator can kill a flock overnight. We also do not condone allowing the birds to sleep outdoors in the trees; this is how most birds are lost. Gardening With Guineas states this and goes into detail on housing guinea fowl.

Also, the photo labeled “Powder Blue” is actually a Slate. The photo labeled “White” is a Buff Dundotte. Buffs are in fact semi-spotted birds. The same correction stands for opaline, which is a semi-spotted bird.

Looking forward to many more great magazines.

Dana Manchester
Member, Guinea Fowl Breeders Association; www.GFBA.org

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Woodlot Wisdom

I read with interest the article on managing your woodlot in the Jan/Feb 2007 issue (Happenings, “Three Tips on Managing Your Woodlot,” by Steve Edwards).
   
As loggers for over 30 years, having your timber evaluated by a reputable person is very, very important, but don't rush into hiring someone to cruise it or hire a private forester. In all of our years of logging, we know of only one private forester that we would have cruise our own timber. Many loggers can cruise timber, they work directly with the landowner, and can explain what should be done, without overcutting or high grading.

Most important with hiring anyone to work in your woods, be it, private forester, cruiser or logger, is to check references and look at past jobs.

In most jobs we do, the timber is painted at breast height and at the stump so everyone knows what is to be cut and if the wrong tree is cut.

Absolutely get more than one bid, but bear in mind that the difficulty of getting the wood out, the prices at the mills and the quality of your timber will influence the bid prices; you may not get the bids that your neighbor did because of past high grading or steep hills on your land that they didn't have on their land.

Jackie Ecklund
Internet

Poultry Pondering

First let me say I love your magazine! It’s full of great articles and information. I save each issue for future reference.

I loved the article on poultry shows, but I do have one complaint: I would liked to have seen the pictures labeled as to what breed of poultry was depicted.

One in particular caught my attention: the white chicken on the bottom left of page 52. My neighbor gave me one like that a few days ago, but it didn’t survive.

I would love to have more of this breed because it was the neatest/coolest/prettiest chicken I have ever seen.

My current hens free-range and come in to roost at night. Most of them were given to me and look like some variety of game hens with a few black Australorps, one Dominique and one Silver Laced Wyandotte.
    
I would like to purchase some ducks for my pond, do you know if they can be housed with chickens?

Also, are geese aggressive?

We had a gander when I was a kid that would chase us. I would love to get a few, but don't want them to chase my 3-year-old son. Any advice?

Thank you so much for a wonderful magazine!

Katie Buckley, Hobby Farmer
Internet

Editor’s Note: The white chicken on page 52 is a Silkie. For some good information on raising geese, read Celebrating the Goose here.

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Emergency Horse Advice

I just received my first issue of your magazine and have thoroughly enjoyed it. 

But in reading your emergency evacuation (“Get Out Now!” by Kathleen Ewing) article, I am amazed that seasoned horse people would advise keeping halters on horses at large. I can tell you horror stories of horses getting their halters caught up in things and breaking their necks and or legs trying to get loose. If you must keep a halter on a horse make sure it is one of the breakaway types. I am also amazed that you would tell people to keep halters and lead ropes on gates and stall fronts. This is an open invitation to have your horse stolen in the night. 

We keep our halters and leads locked in the tack room and then have several in the house by the front door and two or three in our trucks and cars, never hanging on a gate or a stall front. 

In addition, any horse that will not come when called and stand to have a halter put on is NOT well trained and the owners need to get back to basic ground work to get them trained before an emergency arises.

Even horses that have been hauled all over in your own trailer might balk at getting into a different type of trailer, so you should have the neighbor bring over his stock-type trailer if yours is a straight in load or slant-type. You can return the favor by taking your trailer to their place to let those horses get familiar with loading into different types of trailer. 

You are very right in telling folks to get the horse trained before the emergency comes.  Thanks for the article even though I did take exception to a couple of things. 

Kathleen Trahan
Bar T Gila Ranch, La Center, WA

Editor's Note:  Thank you for your wonderful suggestions for horse owners-- I'm sure they will benefit readers. Horses are kept in many different ways across the country and the methods you suggest (such as never keeping halters and lead ropes outside stall fronts) certainly don't apply to all horse owners and are not "one size fits all." Good, solid training is always first and foremost when it comes to horses, but Ms. Ewing's article was intended to address all erergency situations, regardless of a horse's stage of training.

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