December 7, 2009
Of animals and stock at Lambing flats;
Farmers are always hard done by, especially in Australia. Has anyone ever tried growing anything in this unforgiving soil and climate? Recently the issue of animal cruelty has come up whereby the mulesing of sheep has drawn worldwide condemnation. Australian wool was boycotted and the video footage shown, of sheep getting plate size skin torn off around their anal and genital area, was hard to defend. Sheep were bred for large wool bearing surface areas. This resulted in sheep getting all those folds whereby the opportunistic Lucy fly would lay its eggs underneath the tail and when hatched, those larvae would eat some sheep alive. It is a cruel life.
Of course, the mulesing was not all that sheep have to endure. The cutting of tails has been done for decades as well and not only with sheep. The docking of tails has now been outlawed in dogs. Checking dog show websites the ‘Jack Russell’s’ are still shown without tails. Who is still doing the cutting, and why?
Some of the farmers are now breeding sheep without loose skin and all sheep breeders are on notice to stop mulesing by 2010. In The Netherlands, after testing sheep with and without tails, the conclusion was that health problems between them was negligible and those without tails did not have any less problems. All tail cutting has now been banned there.
We have now enjoyed farm life for 13 years here and have resisted by hook and by crook all those things that one is expected to follow in animal husbandry. In fact we are probably the most negligent farmers around, albeit ‘hobby farmer’.
Livestock are increasingly being targeted by the large pharmaceutical corporations. Vaccinations now are carried out at least twice a year, if not three to four times. Drenching against high worm burdens. Selenium, copper, zinc applications are also often favoured treatments in keeping animals. Then, molasses, vinegar, high protein pellets. All at high cost to the farmers and suggested as minimum supplements to keep all stock healthy. In fact, I suspect that at the back of farm sheds one could easily encounter complete chemical laboratories.
We decided against all advice and perhaps generally doing things opposite the accepted norms to keep all chemical to animals to a minimum. We have never vaccinated nor drenched nor given molasses nor vinegar nor selenium nor copper or anything else to our animals and allowed them to eat what they find. We decided to do this because at earlier farm lives back in The Netherlands vetenarery care was mainly practised by governmental professionals. Animal health came before corporate profit then. It was rare to interfere with animals that were healthy.
So far we have covered animals. Let us have a closer look at the land. We bought our property that had the advantage of having been ‘unimproved’ meaning that it had no history of super phosphate being spread over the paddocks. This is what we wanted, and apart from spreading natural manure around, have never applied super phosphate. We are lucky in having a limey soil structure with acidity low. Now, the local shire inspects all this and gives out notices to spray weeds, the weeds need to be sprayed with increasing strengths and with a lethal combination in combating ‘herbicide resistance.’
It is not easy being a farmer.