Monday, October 1, 2012


Some articles I have written for different ag publications and the Friday AM

Ivomec Resistant Worms Revisited A few issues back I told the sorry tale of our experiences with Ivomec resistant Barber Pole worms during the summer of 2010. After working with our local vets we used Cydectin pour on for cattle and drenched the flock orally, this did the trick and although the lambs were a month later than usual they sold well. So when spring 2011 rolled round it was with some trepidation we turned the sheep out on pasture and watched them closely. A cool slow spring dragged into a wet summer and by mid July with still no sign of worms I began to think we had beat the little bloodsuckers. The Salmon River divides our land and it was the time of year to move the flock to the west bank, this coupled with my absence for an upcoming trip to the National sheep show I felt it wise to worm them whether they needed it or not. I knew I would feel better for it even if they didn’t. It reminds me of “Ewe Draft” a tonic for ewes that had suffered a rough lambing and was sold in my English childhood. It was black and sweet with a fair alcohol content, one for the ewe and one for the Shepherd! Thankfully I did not have to have a dose of Cydectin to make me at ease with my decisions to worm the girls. We never saw any signs of worms at all, the lambs weaned and sold well and the ewes were all in great condition for going to the Tup. The girls are now sorted and in their breeding flocks and the rams have been in for over a week. I admit I wasted time and money worming when I did not need to, as there were no signs of problems. But after last years wreck I felt I should be doing something. It’s a bit like your old car after you have fixed her, it takes a few miles on the clock before you feel you can trust her on a trip too far from home. Well next year we shall see if we can avoid worming altogether, plenty of vigilant observation and when spotted, some lab work at the vets before pulling out the drench gun. Just like your favorite old car, “don’t fix it if it isn’t broke”. But listen for strange noises just the same. Rob Fensom farms in Salmon Arm BC and can be reached at
Geep Flerds and Weed Control Success. I am writing this in August and after a very wet, cold slow start to the year, then summer arrived around the 20th July and has been hot and humid since; great weather for weeds. We kept our Flerd mix at 30% goats and 70% sheep and found the weeds were being kept in check quite nicely. There is a wise old saying where I come from. “Kill a thistle in May, and you’ll rue the day, kill a thistle in June and you killed him too soon, but kill a thistle in July and he will surly die.” Really it points to timing, in July the plants energy reserves are low as the plant is in flower and trying to seed. Once cut at the base it will weaken trying to re-grow. If this is done over several years the plant dies and of course there are less thistles as no seed has been produced. I have gone out in July every year with scrub cutter and scythe to cut the offending weeds down. This year I did not have to as the goats did it for me. So long as the Flerd was kept in the paddock one extra day, the sheep cleaned up the grass clumps and the goats ate the thistles and burdocks. As the photos show they only ate the flower heads and the more tender upper parts of the thistle leaving it 6-10 inches tall. This meant it did not go to seed. The thistle then grows back with tender young shoots and the goats come back and eat them off on the next pass. Over time the thistle becomes part of the salad bar mix in the pasture, never going to seed and increasing in numbers it becomes part of the feed and no longer a weed. The other bonus is I am no longer trudging around the field on a hot day swinging a scythe. Rob Fensom grazes his flerd in Salmon Arm BC and can be reached at
The Real Cost of Cheap Food My family and I watched a DVD recently from the library about a small French town that changed the meals to all Organic (grown locally when possible) in the Schools, Hospitals and Care Homes under the Mayors jurisdiction. It was quite controversial to begin with as it upset many of the local farmers who still used chemicals and also those involved with supplying them the means of so called modern agribusiness. The area known as ‘The Guard’ was in southern France with many orchards, vineyards and vegetable farms, all very specialized with monoculture crops (only one or two things grown on large acreages). Cancer rates were 3 and 4 times the national average and sometimes higher in children, all seemed to have lost or had family members with cancer, many families with several victims. The frustrated Mayor stuck his neck out, put his political life on the line and said we will do this for six months, and see if we have an improvement, if not, I will be wrong and resign, pity we don’t have more politicians like that in this country. The chef in the school kitchen got on board and did a great job, after several weeks kids were eating veggies they had never tasted before, and enjoying them, telling their parents they liked organic food and wanted it at home. They also grew organic food in the school garden and then ate it for snacks or in their school dinner. Teachers noticed the children were more attentive and interested in lessons, marks improved. The nurses and doctors in the hospital noted clean dinner plates and quicker recovery times, so freeing up beds. Less depression and easier going patients in the care home as well as less sleep less nights were recorded. These are all social costs that are not covered by cheap food and yet that same cheap, stale, long travelled, chemically grown food appeared to be causing these costs according to this small towns experiment. The full social costs are huge, additional medical care, topsoil loss, polluted water tables, rivers and streams, lower grades at school, larger carbon footprints due to more mileage on the food and all that money leaving the community instead of staying there and circulating to improve the economy for all. The parents came on board as they noticed a difference in their children; many started buying organic food for the home, some even switching to organic cleaners. Yes they admitted it cost 10- 15% more for groceries but there was less waste and it tasted so much better. They also felt they ate less as it was more satisfying. The same was said by the chefs at the school and hospital, they felt that less waste balanced out the extra cost. After a town hall meeting they decided to extend the program for a year as they could all see benefits. Although the cancer rates had not dropped in such a short time they felt with the example they had set more farmers were considering going organic. After talking with organic farmers and seeing the benefits on soil fertility other farmers were looking in to changing their farming practices. The community realizes it will be a slow process but the results to date were worth changing their diets for and they are looking forward to a cleaner environment with healthier, happier, smarter children and with less visits to the doctor and hospital. This story is heading for a happy ending and when I get time this winter I want to follow up on the web and see how they are doing. So what are you going to do to improve you and your family’s health in this era of cheap chemically grown food? How about making a point of buying from a local producer at a Farmers Market and asking questions about how they grow your food. Better yet visit a farm where the vegetables, fruits and meats are grown. Admittedly this time of year most of us farmers are running with our hair strait back (if we are lucky to have any left) so are some what busy and not to keen to stop and chat. But I know one fellow at Harmonious Homestead and ewe just 5 minutes from town who is open Fridays 3-6pm and Saturday’s 9- noon. He is in his farm shop selling Certified Organic vegetables and Grass-fed/Pasture raised meats and is willing to talk to you and answer all your questions about local and organic food. He even has tea and coffee on Saturdays with Fresh baked goodies to help the conversation along. That was a terrible plug, but its true we are there to help you and inform you and are willing to show you how we grow the food for you. Take the challenge and learn more about organic locally produced food, make positive choices for your family and taste the difference. See you Saturday for coffee! Rob Fensom produces local organic food at Harmonious Homestead and ewe and can be reached at

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Latest Friday AM article

        More Rules = Less Farmers = Less Food Choices

               Most farmers and ranchers will have done something on their land with management practices over the last few years to protect the environment and wildlife. Some of them will have completed and acted on an official Farm Environmental Plan, and possibly completed a Biodiversity plan to manage for wildlife. Others will have worked towards and obtained Organic Certification, and a small few will have been Certified Salmon Safe. I have completed all of the above over the last 4 years and was feeling rather smug.
              Then over the email a few short days ago I received a copy of the Ministry of Environments proposed new revised Waste Control Regulation. This Draconian sledge hammer will put Livestock Agriculture firmly in the hands of large well heeled agribusiness ensuring all critters will spend their entire lives on concrete in covered sheds in extremely large numbers and concentrations due to the economies of scale. Now don’t you veggie, fruit and berry farmers think you are off the hook, any composting of vegetable materials falls under the same rules.
           My own farm has a Salmon bearing river running through the middle and two public roads on the sides, this leaves me about 10 acres in the middle to store and make compost. But first of all in has to be sealed so no run off escapes, then a roof to keep out the rain, oh and also fenced to keep out birds! $100,000 later I will be able to do what I was safely doing before, making compost from 50 ewes and a hand full of goats! I do not have enough manure each year to properly fertilize my land as it is, so I am hardly a threat to the environment, especially after all the Certification requirements I have met so far. The practice of winter feeding on hay fields and pasture to build fertility, (encouraged by Ag departments across the country when done properly) will be stopped after two weeks as it is then classed as Manure Storage according to the small print. Even on open range with no fences it will be viewed as the same. The true catch all in this is that a high-risk area includes any area with an unconfirmed aquifer. Well golly gee, that could be any where in the province, and as few aquifers have been mapped in the BC it’s a case of guilty until you prove your innocence with your money. This appears to be another form of legislation to get rid of the small and medium farms. This is a great way to get rid of your competition in the local food market when you have the financial means to meet the rules and they don’t. Better yet when the government does it at taxpayers expense and you are left squeaky clean and blameless.
             Who gains from all this you ask? Well no doubt a few salmon, though if we quit over fishing them for a while (and ate lamb)we would see far better improvements in their numbers. The big gainers here are the MOE employees, guaranteed job security more funding and work till the pension kicks in. The loser’s beside the farmers who cannot meet the new requirements’ will be you, the consumers. With less people in production, higher prices and less choice will be the result in the food aisle. Finally, soil fertility will take a hit with lower livestock numbers across the province. See the following link for more info www.
          I thought I would give you all a break for the last couple of months plus it gave me time to plan and organize the Homestead’s busy spring lineup. April sees two workshops, one on sheep and goat production and the other on small flock chicken care. The chicken one is ideal even for you folks in town as it covers back yard production, eggs, chicken and that valuable soon to be outlawed manure for your veggies. The other big thing is our Knee Deep in Spring event, on 21st April with special guests appearing for the day. I hope you are as excited about warmer weather and spring as we are. I know it was a mild winter, but hey, they are always too long, especially as you get older!!
Rob Fensom farms at Harmonious Homestead and ewe in Salmon Arm BC. and can be reached at
 Correct use of compost the old fashioned way, soon to be outlawed as it should be stored in bird proof covered yard, and the bounties of its proper use.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Holiday over!!

We have just finished kidding our Toggenburg goats and are now starting on the sheep, so far 3 lambed in last 24 hrs. Will post some photos soon. Had to put up a photo of Mr Big and Mrs Little. Old English bantam hen and a Speckled Sussex cockerel. Both in the isolation pen as they were being bullied. They are well suited and get along just fine.