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An animal husbandry hypothetical, breeding stock

 
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Hello all and thanks in advance.

I am not about to utilize the information I am seeking, but I am curious nonetheless.

If a small landholder were keeping a small herd of say dexter/jersey cattle, a couple sheep, couple goats, etc. and had enough land for 1-2 of each breed but did not want/have land to keep any males, but planned on bringing in a male each season for mating/reproduction/getting baby animals, how important would it be for that male to be raised/cared for organically?

Say the male was only being kept on site for maybe 1 week (is that about right?  I just don’t know), would it even matter in the slightest if that animal were raised on grain, chemically treated fields (with all the toxic Gick associated), loads of vaccines, etc.  Does all this all do anything to the DNA/sperm?  Could one simply pay any old owner of the breeding stock for the use of their animals?  I just don’t know.

Obviously, this is just a hypothetical, and again, I am just curious—I am not getting into animals, I am just wondering if a thoroughly non-organic raised male (of the desired breed) has any affect whatsoever on offspring?

Thanks for entertaining my my thoughts,

Eric
 
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My personal thoughts are that anything the bull/buck had previously eaten would then be deposited on your land, and any damage done to his dna, from his normal lifestyle would have to potential to show up, in your herd's dna. Frankly, I'd either make space for my own bull/buck, in order to keep a closed herd, or use a.i. from another herd owner, I trusted to raise their livestock similarly to how I raise mine.
 
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It could be done according to the rules of Organic Farming. Remember, an organic farm does not have to be 100% organic under the rules.

Genetically, unless the animal was exposed to some really nasty stuff (for instance, Agent Orange, which is a nasty thing that gets transferred through sperm to the next generation [and up to 5 generations with Agent orange]), it should not be a problem. As is, genetics may mean the animal of breeding may have some recessive gene within it anyway that would be undesirable to a farmer, but such is the luck of the draw in animal husbandry.

One thing to keep in mind, a small homesteader need not have a real live breeding animal on-farm to do the work, with the exception of sheep, most types of livestock can be artificially inseminated by a vet or neighbor. A homesteader just has to buy the sperm and do the artificial inseminating themselves, or have it done for them. Sheep are the exception because they are very difficult to artificially inseminate due to the shape of their...well...ewe parts shall we say.
 
Eric Hanson
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Guys,

Thanks for the quick feedback!!  Though I have no plans to do this, I often drift into fantasy land where I am magically able to use land around my house to go completely food independent, and even make a buck or two in the process.

Carla,  I do see your point about the toxic Gick.  I think in this case, the main concern would be the animal's manure?  This seems like the main source or any toxic gick that might get onto one's land.  Certainly I would not want said Gick, I just wonder how serious a 1-week stay would be.  How much Gick can that that one animal be carrying and how much damage would it possible do?  For the sake of the argument, lets say that we have a 20 acre pasture.  Would that one bull/buck/etc. really be able to do that much damage?  I just honestly don't know.  Again, it is not desirable, these are just hypotheticals.

Travis,  I had not thought about artificial insemination (I should have though--shows how inexperienced I am).  I think you are right on about the "toxic" DNA and hopefully any breeding stock would have nothing whatsoever to do with Agent Orange!  Maybe you can answer this.  I have heard that there is a sort of minimal Ram to ewe ratio for sheep production.  The number that rattles around in my head is 1 ram to 6 ewes.  The logic is that less than this number, then it is more costly to keep a ram than to bring one in for breeding.  Is there anything to this assumption that I have heard?  Also, I have also heard that given any single parcel of good pasture land, it will support just as many sheep as cattle.  Put another way, if you have enough land to comfortably feed 10 cattle, it will also support 10 sheep without putting undue stress on the land.  The logic is that the cattle and sheep are eating different parts of the grass.  Sounds convenient, perhaps too convenient.  I was just wondering what type of grass acreage a small holder would need to keep a self-sufficient herd of a diverse group of animals for not only personal needs, but surplus for sale, assuming all animal feed (mostly grass) is produced on site.  Again, just to use an example, would 20 acres of good Midwestern land be enough?

Thanks for your insight and feel free to offer suggestions/corrections/steer me away from crazy ideas.

Eric
 
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Travis Johnson wrote: Sheep are the exception because they are very difficult to artificially inseminate due to the shape of their...well...ewe parts shall we say.




I have so many theories for how to improve that, but no way to test any of them. Anyone here doing research in that area?
 
Travis Johnson
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You are kind of off on a few things, but I say the following in deep respect...

The real threat to a farm is not actually with toxic gick in their manure, but rather from their hooves, Foot Rot being the greatest threat. They call it Biosecurity and often farms will have a person wash their boots with disinfectant, and the cattle trailers that come in to kill this nasty stuff off. With foot rot, the bacteria gets brought onto a farm, and then can last 30 years or more in the soil. It is a tough thing to combat. Maine found this out when the local fairs stopped having the State Vet check animals before they were put on display for fair-goers. It got so bad that for many years sheep were almost absent from these fairs because we did not want foot rot in our flocks.

There is a ratio of Ram to Ewes, but it is about 30-50, and not 6.

The number of sheep or cattle on a given area is not based upon the animal, but upon "Animal Units." Where I live we have a stocking rate...or land carrying capacity for pastures of 2 animal units per acre. That means it can handle 2000 pounds of live weight animals. It does not matter the animal type. Since a sheep weighs 200 pounds on average, it means I can have 10 sheep per acre. If I have 100 pound lambs, then it can hold 20 lambs per acre. Or 5 adult sheep, and 10 lambs...do you see how the math works out? It means I could have (1) 2000 pound beef cow, or 400 five pound chickens per acre.

An animal unit is always 1000 pounds, but your area will state how many animal units a region has per acre. We got really good pastures here so it is pretty high, they deserts will have a stocking rate of 10 acres per animal unit.

Just keep in mind, this number is based on set-stocking, and no intensive grazing practices. So with intensive grazing, rotational grazing, or mob grazing, you can bump up the stocking rate some.

All this gets cross referenced to your topic on whether society should be using wood to make paper. In that I said due to taxes and growth rates of wood, I was making $30 per year, per acre. I also said I was clearing forest to make more farmland. Using the stocking rate mentioned here, you can see why. Since I can have 2000 pounds of any animal type per acre, I can make far more money raising 10 sheep with a profit of $100 per sheep ($1000 per acre) then I ever could as forest. Farming is way more intensive then just letting trees grow, BUT the payoff per acre is a lot better too.

I am just trying to explain all this, and how it has to be calculated to make intelligent choices for a farm, I am in no way trying to talk down to you here. I am just trying to explain how stocking rates all work for farm decision making.
 
Eric Hanson
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Travis,

Lots of extremely good information, and thanks for setting me about a straighter course with this hypothetical.  Most especially, thanks for the bit on the stocking rates.  While I did know of the concept of the stocking rate from childhood, I did not understand the unit as you described it.

Actually I was not trying to tie this back into the wood pulp thread, but Travis, I understand that the economics just to stay alive is what is driving you and I understand that you are not so much as clear cutting as you are converting the land to more productive, yet sustainable husbandry practices.

Thanks again,

Eric
 
Travis Johnson
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One thing to keep in mind about the stocking rate: while it is important for us all to know, "just how much can my land support", it most often is not the limiting factor, at least not from an environmental point of view. The most common limitation is actually what an animal poos back out.  This is because a ruminant poos 85% of what it eats, back out in the form of manure.

It depends on the potency of the manure, rainfall, topography, and the type of soil, but it is very, very easy to have too many animals. If a farm or homestead has to import hay in order to feed the animals, there is a very high likelihood that there are too many animals in a given area. It is essentially a CFL...Concentrated Feed Lot. Homesteaders do not like to hear that, but really that is what it is. Too many animals, on too small of an area, with a major rain event means that excess manure is going into the local waterbody.

My neighbor is like that. She has 40 sheep, on one acre, and constantly feeds them hay 365 days a year. She has yet to haul off her excess manure, so it just piles up, and she lives right next to a major stream...

Now it does not mean having too many animals is bad,  it is just that a homesteader, small farm, or even mega-farm has to get rid of their excess manure in a timely, and consistent way before it becomes a problem. If my neighbor would scrape up her excess manure, then cart it off between March and November, it would not be an issues, but she doesn't...
 
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Hi 👋 to the OP, you might be interested in epigenetics.
Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off

https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/radiolab/segments/251885-you-are-what-your-grandpa-eats
 
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Carla Burke wrote: My personal thoughts are that anything the bull/buck had previously eaten would then be deposited on your land, and any damage done to his dna, from his normal lifestyle would have to potential to show up, in your herd's dna.



Travis Johnson wrote: Genetically, unless the animal was exposed to some really nasty stuff (for instance, Agent Orange, which is a nasty thing that gets transferred through sperm to the next generation [and up to 5 generations with Agent orange]), it should not be a problem.  



I have a reply to these, but it was necessary for me to start a new thread. I by all means to not mean to distract from this thread, but my reply is about toxic gick and had to go in the cider press.

My reply can be found here: https://permies.com/t/130119/Herbicide-affects-livestock-breeding-progeny#1020699

Come join me! And let's continue this great discussion too!


 
Carla Burke
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Honestly, I think the a.i. (artificial insemination, I mentioned, above) would be the easiest way to go, though not so much the most sustainable, simply because it keeps you depending on others. As far as the manure they'd leave, remember, they're ruminants, with 4stomachs, lol. That a lot of space to fill, and it goes back up as cud, to be re-chewed, and processed, again. I have no clue how long that process is. Travis has a good point, about their hooves, too.

In the past, I've only thought about this, in terms of my own needs. Something I hadn't thought about until looking into the specific goats we chose, is in breed specificity. If, with cows you get, for example, a mini Dexter, Jersey, or Highland, and you want to be able to keep her in milk, and maybe sell the calf, you'll need to breed with not only a compatible sized bull, but for the sake of keeping the calf's sale value high, you'll need to stick with the same breed. So, if you want to have that mini Highland, and there are no other mini Highlands in your area, your options are to get the bull; pay exorbitant prices for the a.i. and hope your shipping is reliable; take your cow to the bull, and pay through the teeth, for the stud fees, while subjecting her to whatever feed and possible toxic gick is on the stud's farm; or bring the bull to you. None of the options are going to be inexpensive, especially for those mini Highlands, and having had a cow and bulls, they really aren't any more work than just having the cows.

In our case, I had been planning to only have a pair of goat does, definitely did NOT want a buck. They're smelly. When they're in rut, they're VERY smelly. They (like bulls) can be super unpredictable, especially in rut. But then, in my research into breeds and finding the one that I wanted, I discovered that the small dairy/fiber cross that I wanted was nowhere to be found, in my state. I'm in central Missouri, and had to go to the middle of Nebraska, to find these goats. We bought the buck. Finding anyone willing to ship seen was impossible. Hubs and I aren't up for making that trip 4 times per year (picking up & returning twice a year), nor are we up for the expense of paying someone else to do it. On the upside, for us, that means one more goat's worth of beautiful wool, one more goat clearing brush, so we don't have to, stud service, on demand, and in the case of this little guy, companionship, and a ton of entertainment value.
 
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