Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not Good News for Turkey Day

H5N1 confirmed at second U.K. site

By Alicia Karapetian on 11/20/2007 for Meatingplace.com

British officials on Monday announced that testing confirmed an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in turkeys at a second site in the United Kingdom.

The outbreak occurred at a farm deemed a "dangerous contact" premise, which was placed under restriction following the first outbreak last week. (See British AI outbreak highly pathogenic strain: official on Meatingplace.com, Nov. 14, 2007.)

Officials on Saturday completed the culling of birds on the first infected farm and those placed under restriction.

An almost 2-mile protection zone has been established around the second site, and the existing surveillance zone has been extended.

British AI outbreak highly pathogenic strain: official
By Alicia Karapetian on 11/14/2007 for Meatingplace.com

British government officials on Tuesday announced that confirmatory tests showed an avian influenza outbreak on a turkey farm in eastern England was the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain.

In response, the some 5,000 turkeys, 1,000 ducks and 400 geese on the farm will be culled, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Hilary Benn told British Parliament in prepared remarks Tuesday.

"The health and safety of those involved in the operations are the priority, and a strict approach is being taken," she said. "All workers on the premises already potentially exposed to infection have been given Tamiflu."

The government also has restricted poultry movement, instituting an almost 2-mile protection zone and an approximately 6-mile-wide surveillance area.

Benn's department was informed of a large number of turkey deaths at the farm Sunday. Preliminary tests conducted Monday showed the presence of the H5 strain, and further testing, which revealed the strain was H5N1, was completed Tuesday.

The United Kingdom last faced an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in February when 159,000 turkeys were culled at a Bernard Matthews farm.

Check out this Day-After-Thanksgiving Stew Recipe

This sounds like an really tasty recipe for a Mexican style beef stew provided this week to National Cattlemen's Beef Association members. Check out those ingredients and add them to your grocery list, sounds like a winning combination of seasonings. For the less adventurous, a good old-fashioned soup bowl should work just fine. . . .

Easy Day-After-Thanksgiving Stew

Wondering what to serve the day after Thanksgiving to a houseful of hungry family looking for an encore? Whip up hearty Mexican Beef Stew to satisfy those day-after stomach grumblings!

Mexican Beef Soup in Tortilla Bowls

Prep time: 25 minutes
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, cut lengthwise in half and cut crosswise into thin slices
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (10-1/2 ounces each) beef consommé
1 can (15-1/4 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 cup water
6 medium (8 inches) flour tortillas
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Heat Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef and onion; brown 4 to 5 minutes, breaking beef up into 3/4-inch crumbles. Pour off drippings. Season beef with cumin and pepper.
Stir consommé, corn, tomatoes and water into beef. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes.
Meanwhile gently press tortillas into 6 individual microwave-safe (2-cup) soup bowls. Microwave, 3 bowls at a time, on HIGH 5 to 6 minutes or until tortillas are slightly crisp, rotating and rearranging cups halfway.
Stir cilantro into soup; spoon soup into tortilla bowls. Garnish as desired; serve immediately.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 478 calories; 19 g fat (6 g saturated fat; 8 g monounsaturated fat); 76 mg cholesterol; 1102 mg sodium; 40 g carbohydrate; 2.6 g fiber; 34 g protein; 5.6 mg niacin; 0.4 mg vitamin B6; 2.4 mcg vitamin B12; 4.6 mg iron; 20.8 mcg selenium; 5.8 mg zinc

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Traditional Breed Beef (British White) and Pork in Demand in England

Traditional Breed Beef and Pork in Demand

(Excerpt - Please follow the link above for the full text of the article)

“Shaun bought the British White cattle because they were a traditional breed and he felt there would be a market for them. Also, at the time he was running the farm on his own and the cattle are naturally-polled and are easily handled.

“At the time the breed was classified rare but now the Rare Breeds’ Survival Trust has them on the minority list with around 1,500 breeding females in the country.

“The Middle White pigs are an endangered breed and the Saddlebacks which came last year are classified as at Risk by the Rare breeds Survival Trust.”

British White cattle at
Savin Hill

All Cattle born at Savin Hill are finished on the farm at between 24 to 30 months old and such has been the demand for the meat that the Partingtons have developed good relationships with other British White breeders around the country who now supply them with finished animals to the same standards as their own.

“We were unable to cope with the demand for beef with our own cattle and by taking them off other breeders this has encouraged people either to expand their herds or to go into the breed.

“Our over-riding philosophy with the business is about pure traditional native breeds and sustainably farming in this country which is something that a lot of people are struggling to do in the current climate of change.

“By us creating a market for a quality product, consumers can support these breeds and hopefully encourage sufficient numbers of the animals and make it viable to farm them in this country.”

With the cattle taking at least three years to produce (from conception to the final cuts of quality meat), the small acreage at Savin Hill has not been able to cope with the demand, but the faster turn-around time for the pigs has enabled them to develop this side of the meat business. “We have won several awards for our Middle White home-produced pork which is all born, bred and reared on our farm”. Michelle and Shaun Partington
with Middle White piglets

Pigs are eight to 10 months old at finishing with the Middle Whites weighing 65-80kg and the Saddlebacks will be 85kg-plus.

Meat has always been sold direct to get the best price through farmers’ markets and fine food fairs in Lancashire and the Manchester area and now there is an increasing demand for wholesale meat direct to restaurants which Michelle plans to develop.

On average, one head of Savin Hill's cattle is put through the system each month but this can rise to up to 10 during November and December when other breeders help meet the demand.

A further six pigs on average are used each week.

Michelle’s partner Paul Etherington, who has 20 years’ experience as a butcher, cuts the meat in the on-farm premises to include shin, skirt, loins, legs and belly.

Quality ready-prepared meats are also sold such as loin of pork stuffed with basil and fresh sage, pork fillets wrapped in pancetta, stuffed belly pork with apricot and ginger.

The Saddlebacks are used for bacon and their trim is used in the sausages which have around a 90 per cent meat content. They are made without preservatives or artificial flavourings and colourings.

Meat from the Middle Whites, a traditional pork pig, will continue to be used for the fresh pork cuts and the trim will go into speciality pies including Pork and Lyth Valley Damson.

“We all love to eat good food – it’s an important thing for us. My mum’s side of the family were in farming. Her grand-parents used to sell eggs and milk on Blackburn market.

“We have been brought up to think that quality food is important. These days there are too many flavour enhancers, artificial preservatives and colourings being used in foods,” says Michelle, who enjoys being able to talk to her customers about what is in their products and how the meats are naturally-reared.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

A British White Bull Gets Himself in a Bit of Jam

Unfortunately, google blogger is having problems with photos posting, so this pic of JWest's Mazarati in quite a pickle is just an X on your screen most likely.
This picture was Sunday a week ago today, and it was, as is often the case, a weekend just as busy as a week day. Mazarati, better known by the nickname Mo, had made his way along a puzzling course in the hay barn, until he'd reached a dead end -- much like a maze meant for humans that takes many attempts to find the right course out. Unlike a person, Mo couldn't figure out that if he just took those same steps backwards he would be able to find his way back to the beginning. It could have been a disaster, fortunately, he was not injured.

Amazingly, he was quite calm about the whole ordeal; though his new owner, Carol Diodene, would agree with me that he wasn't exactly happy -- his eyes were quite a bit rolled back as tried to look up at us. The first question a cattle rancher would be sure to be asking themself right now is how did he gain access to the hay barn. Well, that would be my fault; and, yes, I am generally a stickler about those gates always being secured even if you are quite sure you'll go right back through that gate within minutes. But, the day before I obviously failed to do just that.

Another herd bull, King Cole, was headed to his new home in the Canton area on Saturday morning, and I opened the hay barn to get a hefty handful of alfalfa droppings from the floor of the barn to use to coax him on into the pens -- and I didn't go back and close the gate, it was merely pushed together, and thus a perfect trap for an unsuspecting cow or bull with access to the corral that adjoins the hay barn. And of course Mo and the two bred heifers leaving for Ocala, Florida had access.

I can't tell you how happy I was to see Mo stroll out of that hay barn with no obvious injury from his ordeal. Two 16' high stacks of 4x4x8 alfalfa bales had to be removed to give him a way out. With all but the bottom row removed, Gentle Mo didn't lunge at the open space as I feared he might -- I could see how easy it would be for him to now try to climb over that remaining 4 foot high bale, but he didn't. Perhaps it was because Carol and I were patting him on the head and telling him to just wait a bit longer, or perhaps it's because he is a British White and his calm disposition saved his life from serious injury while trapped and during his release.

Most amazing perhaps is that Mo didn't bolt out into the corral following his release. He merely strolled and inexplicably stopped to munch on one of the alfalfa bales that had been removed to give him passage out. Carol was great through the whole ordeal, and convinced that this was surely a sign that Mo was meant to join her farm in Ocala, and I think he was as well. He arrived safely at his new home the following day, along with a pot load of great females that Carol found at the British White and Lowline auction in Henderson that weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Calf Birth Weight - Actual versus Tape Measure

A Truly 'laboring' Labor Day weekend!

My fall calving got started this past few days, and because one of the calves born was so very small I decided to try out a set of old bathroom scales that have a big platform and an elevated dial with big numbers for viewing weight results. This little heifer calf was a surprise finding on August 30th when the Animal Compassion Foundation was having another visit with my herd. Anne was thinking on her feet and volunteered her belt to use to measure the newborn and a pen to mark the spot. She was obviously a very little girl, and I ventured the guess that she couldn't weight more than 45 pounds.

We got back to the house and measured Anne's belt and found that she had measured 24 1/2 inches around, and it was a good snug belt measure around her heart girth, the little heifer was totally interested and cooperative. I figured the belt measure probably, because it was a thick leather belt, added some length to the measurement, and later on that evening I went out and measured her again with my tape, and I measured her at 24 inches. While 24 inches got her closer to the mark when you use the tape conversion chart in the Breeder's Guide, I still wasn't convinced that her actual weight was 51 pounds, which is what you get when you use the 4.5 pound increments to back into an off the chart 24 inch heart girth.

The following day I decided to try out my old scales on this little heifer. I found a light weight section of that stick on the floor tile type stuff in the barn, and decided that would work fine. It was nice and sturdy, yet was very manageable. I put the section of floor tile down on the ground, put the scales on my new weighing platform, and weighed her and myself twice for good measure. She was an exact 40 pound little heifer. The difference of 11 pounds is very significant, that is over a 25% error in birth weight estimation.

I decided to go through this same process with each of my newborns. Besides this little heifer, I had four other calves born August 30th through Sept. 2nd. Of those three of them were cooperative, the 27 1/2 inch bull calf born on August 30 to Hill's Dana already found it too much grand fun to scamper about for me pick him and get an actual weight.

August 31st a heifer calf was born to MsRae. She measured 26 inches, and per the tape conversion chart should have weighed 60 pounds, but in fact she weighed more! She had an actual weight of 65 pounds. I also had Mike confirm these same results himself, and it was an accurate weight of 65 pounds -- and she is pictured here.

September 1st a bull calf was born to Madonna (and I actually happened to be out at pasture hanging around in the Ranger and she calved about 40 feet away from me!). This bull calf measured 26 1/4 inches, and had an actual weight of 60 pounds. So in this instance the tape conversion to weight was quite acceptably accurate, and again I had Mike duplicate the weighing process for confirmation.

Then on the afternoon of September 2nd, Polly (pictured here to the right)decided it was time to calve. This calving went on for a bit too long for my comfort, I even called to try to reach a vet just in case I had a problem on my hands. But in between rushing to the house and calling the vet and leaving a message of impending problems, she had delivered a healthy bull calf. (So of course I rushed back to the house and left another message for the vet that all was well!) I tape measured this newborn at a whopping 27 1/2 inches, and had Mike confirm the tape measurement as well this time. We both weighed the little guy and he weighed all of 60 pounds. But, per the tape conversion he should have weighed about 67 pounds -- a greater than 10% error, which in this business is a highly material error.

So what does all this mean to the breeder who relies on tape measure conversion to estimate weight? It means you probably ought to be getting some actual weights as well until, or if, you feel comfortable visually estimating weight and understanding how the tape should perhaps be adjusted for what your eyes tell you.

As well, it could be that I don't handle the tape measure properly. With that in mind, if I haven't been pulling the tape snugly enough around the heart girth then I have a whole lot of historical birth weights that are over-estimated. However, the results from the little study shown here indicate the tape can create error both on the high and low side. I am going to continue to both use a tape measure for weight and get an actual weight with the remainder of my fall calves to get a sense of the average error rate as well as try to understand why.

Earlier I mentioned that Polly (who is also a first calf heifer) was having a more lengthy birth than I like to see. She actually was effectively yelling with her efforts, so I was even more alarmed. It's very unusual for any of my cattle to get vocal over calving. Polly's bull calf measured 27 1/2 inches, yet it only weighed 60 pounds. So, what was structurally different in Polly's bull versus Madonna's (also a first calf heifer) bull that would create an error using a tape measure? To my eye he has wider shoulders and is thicker through the heart girth, a deeper little guy -- yet at a glance looks about the same size/stature as Madonna's 26 1/4 inch bull. So obviously the confirmation of the newborn has a great impact on using a tape measure for an accurate birth weight.

MsRae's heifer is an example of the error to the light side using a tape measure. She weighed a full five pounds more than the tape measured estimate. Why? Perhaps because she has good balance all over, her dam certainly does. How does the tape measure consider a deep evenly made newborn that extends on through to the hind quarters? I don't think it can.

Regardless, I'll continue this small study of tape versus actual weight and see what the final results tell me about my own errors in tape measuring as well as errors due to the actual structure of the calf, and periodically update those results here on my blog.