Press-Republican

Columns

December 9, 2012

Winter a time for reflection

Like every other morning, I got up this morning and before breakfast I took a ride out to feed the cows. Unlike during summer, when I usually walk, it was cold and there

was a dusting of snow on the farm road and the reality of the long winter still ahead is sinking in.

It was only a few months ago that summer was in full swing and the view was very different. Today there was no sun shining warmly, no lush pastures and no feeling of the vitality of summer.

One thing we can count on in the North Country is our contrasting seasons. While there is a world of difference between this morning and the glorious mornings of last summer, I still appreciate the beauty and variety of seasons we enjoy. The mountains cradle the horizon, the wind whistles through the trees and the cows beller in anticipation as I approach. For them, nothing seems to change.

One of the lessons I learned as a youth raising goats and chickens for 4-H was that the animals under our care had to be fed, watered and comfortable before I could eat, play or sleep. While the science of animal husbandry has evolved over thousands of years, the basics remain the same. From a herdsman or farm manager tending a herd of hundreds to the backyard goat herder who has only a few animals, the livestock that we raise will grow faster and produce more when we care for them and treat them well.

There are many types of animal husbandry. Most modern farmers employ breeders, herd-health specialists, feeders and milkers to help care for the animals using the latest scientifically researched methods and techniques. Others may use a more down-to-earth, holistic approach, raising their livestock with natural or organic methods that worked for small farmers in the past. While more modern methods of farming are efficient and scientifically sound, it doesn't mean that these farmers have lost sight of the basics of animal husbandry.

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