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  • Writer's pictureWayne

What about skinny zebras?

Updated: Sep 29, 2020

One of our philosophies on Caluka Farms is revealed by our analogy regarding skinny zebras in the wild. Why don't you see skinny zebras in the wild?

What happens if a zebra is giving birth and the foal is stuck?

What if a zebra has a foot infection?

What if a zebra has a tummy ache from intestinal worms?

The answer to all three questions is he/she dies. He/she won't last the night. Lion fodder, or hyena's etc.

Tough times are very revealing and are eagerly embraced on Caluka Farms because it will reveal who has bad genes. I see a problem with the modern research regarding livestock. It finds ways to spend money to keep bad genes alive. Here is an example.

Some pregnant ewes start dying just before lambing due to hypocalcaemia. The normal course of action is to not let this happen by feeding calcium supplements 4-6 weeks prior to lambing. It works, but I see it from a different angle. The majority of the flock had no problems.

Another example is losing weight in Autumn when feed is very scarce. This is one I was very surprised how big a difference there is between animals. As a consultant, my advice was to begin hand feeding hay/grain/pellets to the flocks "before" the feed gets too low. If you are measuring FOO (feed on offer), you will usually start hand feeding when the FOO level reaches a certain minimum amount so that no animals start losing weight.

However, when running a small beef farm to see how far production could be pushed, when there was no feed, I kept rotationally grazing the cattle. To my great surprise, many weeks went by where the cows were still wobbly fat, and then very quickly a few cows began to lose weight. But, the majority of the cows did not lose weight rapidly. Some of the cows that lost weight were ones I said were some of my best cows. I was wrong, and I wouldn't have known who had the worst genes until I had allowed tough times to come (lack of feed). If I had fed hay before they lost weight, I would not have known who had the bad genes.

When the majority of the flock do not suffer from a problem, research still urges us to spend money on the bad genes of the few to keep them alive and keep them in the flock for years to come. Please note, we will not allow animals to suffer. We just want to know who loses weight first. Once we know that, we can draft those animals off and feed them up as needed, or give them a drench etc., but they will be sold as soon as they are ready for the market.

One final example, and it is a big one for us. Mob sizes at lambing. The research says to have small mobs, spread them out over more hectares while lambing and do not disturb them, otherwise you will cause major mis-mothering and suffer huge lamb losses.

Or so the research thinks they are showing. But, I see it from a different angle. The majority of the sheep didn't have a problem lambing in a large mob and being disturbed. Only those with poor genes will neglect their lamb. There is a massive downside to our profits if we run sheep in small mobs. We produce less pasture, a lot less pasture, and therefore less sheep. Our sheep need to be in a 10ha paddock with 3,000 others, and successfully lamb. If they can't do that, they will be culled. Yes, we will lose lambs, but as years go by, we will have more and more of the mob having good genes that can successfully raise a lamb in a large mob in a small paddock.

We do not want to spend money keeping bad genes alive for generations. As soon as we know who have the bad genes, they will be culled as soon as they are ready for the market.

So next time you have a problem in your flock, take note of what percentage are having the problem, and the percentage of those that are fine and dandy. For us, we will remove those bad genes of the few.

We want animals that don't need attention from us, hence our slogan - meat the way nature intended.

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