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