Pasture Reared Eggs

Back to non GMO food for our laying hens…85% that is.

This is another old blog posting. Since October 2015 our hens have been on a 100% non GMO diet.

Dear Reader

At the end of last year there was a drama when we had to abandon our non GMO feed. I wrote about it at length. Click on this green if you are interested.

What has transpired in the mean time is that we have tried a different mycotoxin inhibitor. (If you want to know why we need to use one then click on the link above.) This zeolite based inhibitor has done the trick of keeping our chickens healthy and not interfering in the gut and so our eggs are back to the bright orange colour and the hens are on a 85% non GMO diet.

The 15%that is GMO is soya and click on the green if you want to know why we need to use soya and why GMO.

Thanks for reading and if you want to find out how to enjoy our produce then click on the sourcing produce tab on the top of the webpage.

Angus.

19 January 2014

Why I am abandoning my non GMO chicken feed…for now.

In the five years that I have been farming this is the most depressing thing that has happened to me.

If you would rather read about the uplifting things we do on the farm like Carbon sequestering beef, or what an Eggmobile is or why we have planted over 4,000 trees into our pastures just this winter or what inspires us in our work in the vineyards then click on the highlighted green writing. If you want to understand why I have had to change my chicken feed then wade on.

First and foremost I am not changing food because the maize is non GMO, but because there is mycotoxin in the maize and the mycotoxin inhibitor is interfering in the gut of our chickens resulting in deficient nutrient uptake which means the eggs are the normal pale junk that masquerades as eggs and not our usual blaze of orange.

The photo above was taken today. The pale egg on the left is a week old, the one on the right was laid today. A week ago we changed one variable only, namely the feed ration for the Eggmobile that those eggs come from.

Before we get into the chronological record lets dwell briefly on GMO’s.

1. The entire premise on which Big Ag and biotech is based is false. “How are we going to feed the 9 billion in 2050?” They ask. “Only with technology” they answer. If these idiots stopped believing the propaganda and looked beyond the soundbites published in the magazines (which are funded by massive advertising by the biotech companies) they would see that we produce enough food in the world to feed 12 billion people. There are also equal amounts of people dying of obesity and starvation and yet their answer is to produce more of this food that makes humans and the planet sick. I guess if the only tool in your toolbox is a hammer then every problem you see is a nail, despite your posturing about being a scientist.

2. GMO’s give power to the corporation and not to the farmer. A corporation has never been more trustworthy than a human being and it never will. Here is a short worthwhile watch about the need for industrial agriculture to feed the world…or not as the case is.

3. There is also an autism epidemic. This started around the same time GMO grains were introduced into the food chain. This amazing research looks into the role that Glyphosate (the active ingredient in the herbicide which is the foundation of the GMO story) plays in autism. Please click here and read this. 

Anyway for all these reasons and more I wanted to have my hens on a non GMO ration. Our feed company (Profile Feeds) very kindly agreed to accomodate me on condition that I sourced the two primary ingredients, namely maize and soya. I bought these in May and in June and this, in hindsight, is where my problems started. I could not use normal storage facilities as they are contaminated with GMO grains. Hence my grains needed to be stored in bags.

The first non GMO grain to be abandoned was the soya. Here is how and why.

With soya there are basically two routes you can follow to get the grain into a edible form. Route 1 is to extrude the soya which becomes full fat soya. Route 2 the soya grain goes through a process where it gets broken down into soya oil and soya oil cake. We had to go for Route 1 because no soya mill would do the second process for us because they could not prevent contamination with the GMO soya. We were very kindly accomodated by Afresh Vention.

For the first month on the 100% non GMO mix the hens did really well. Egg production was good. However after the second time, on the 9th of August, they got the feed the egg production collapsed. We discovered that the full fat soya was going rancid. We only used 3 tons at a time but had to extrude 10 tons at a time as the machines cannot handle less. Full fat soya lasts at best 4 weeks before going rancid and we had 12 weeks of stock. We then stopped non GMO full fat soya and went back to GMO soya oil cake. Within a week of this new ration egg production was back up and for the next two months our hens did fabulously on a 85% non GMO diet.

In early October our hens started dying. After much veterinary investigation it was determined that there was a mycotoxin in the feed and we immediately added the mycotoxin inhibitor as it was our non GMO maize (which was/is stored in 1 ton bags on the floor of the feed company) in which the mycotoxins had developed. Our hens stopped dying and egg production started climbing again. However the eggs started getting paler. At first I ascribed it to the fact that the cattle had been grazing ahead of the chickens.

In the photo below, the cattle are between our youngest and some of the Eggmobiles. They lead the Eggmobiles up the hill.

However this was not the case as the grass grew and still the yolks got paler. We did blood tests that revealed no underlying illness in the hens. Their egg production kept climbing. Eventually clients started commenting that there was a problem with the eggs. Our client list is at the top of this page, click on SOURCING PRODUCE. None of the poultry professionals that we consulted could help and even our chicken team (photo below) of Thobelani, Menzi, Douglas and Victor was stumped.

One of my mentors, Tommy Dyzel a.k.a Mr Quantum Agriculture did some investigative work which indicated gut interference from the mycotoxin inhibitor. Last week we started feeding the one group of hens a normal free range ration. I.e. the same as our hens were getting but with normal GMO maize and obviously without the mycotoxin inhibitor. The result is the first photo in this blog.

What now? I have to go back to the world of Monsatano until I can rob a bank to build two silos in which I can store my non GMO (eventually biodynamic) grains and build a plant to process the soya into soya oil cake and soya oil. This is the price for living in the only country in Africa that has approved GMO grains.

I promise not to end the year on this depressing post.

Angus

26 December 2013

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Shelterbelts. Part of our pasture management system.

Hello dear Reader

If you look closely at the above photo, taken in October 2013, you can see a bumble bee in the middle of the picture enjoying the nectar of the keurboom (virgilia oroboidies). This tree was planted in our first shelterbelt alongside our first pastures two and a half years ago.

A shelterbelt is strip surrounding our pastures (started off 5m wide and is now 15m wide). It is where we plant indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs and is one area where the cattle will never graze. The methodology and results of our grazing is explained here. There are many reasons why we have given up precious pasture for these shelterbelts.

1. The trees and shrubs form a windbreak. Our desiccating summer wind needs to be broken.

2. The shelterbelt area becomes a seed bank as the grasses and legumes that grow there are not mown by the cattle and chickens every 6 weeks and can accordingly complete their life cycle.

3. it becomes a home for the birds and the bees (as per above photo). These animals do an important role in cleaning up the pasture of bugs as well as fertilising and pollinating.

4. Most importantly, for me at least, the shelterbelts bring microbial balance onto the farm. I am referring to soil microbes here. Don’t forget that in a handful of healthy soil there are more microbes than there are humans on earth. A tree dominant area is fungally dominant whereas a grassland area is bacterially dominant.

5. The shelterbelts add tremendously to the beauty of our already beautiful farm. As you will see from the photos below there are always plants in flower as we have planted a great variety of indigenous and endemic trees and shrubs.

6. We have a few, long beefwood (casuarina) windbreaks and we need to replace these with indigenous trees and shrubs.

7. The trees and shrubs in the shelterbelts sequester Carbon. Our beef operation generates Carbon credits. Click on the green to read about it. Although our shelterbelts are not calculated in our Carbon project, through the growth process of these trees, Carbon is being stored in the soil.

 

Below is a selection of photos from the shelterbelts that criss cross our farm.

We really like the succulents as they dont need much water or attention and when they flower the colours are superb.

In case the purple was not bright enough here is the succulent in all it’s glory.

Before I continue you need to meet the team who grow the plants, plant them into the shelterbelts and then look after them.

Spier have the most amazing indigenous nursery where over 2 million plants have been propagated over the last 5 years. Most of these plants have been reintroduced into the veld on Spier and another Stellenbosch farm. The green fingered wizard who manages this operation is Wilton Sikhosana. Seen below on the right showing Jabulani and Mike (with their backs turned) which plants can go out into the shelterbelts.

The team that manages the planting (this winter alone they planted out 4,000 plants) and then maintains them is headed by Jabulani. Looking serious next to him are Dumisani, Machingura, Norman and Terence.

Jabulani takes himself so seriously he cannot even manage a smile.

In reference to some of the points made above, the picture below consists of the following. In the background is the start of a long Beefwood windbreak. In the foreground is Rhodes Katambora grass that is going to seed and the purple flowering plant on the left and right is the September Bush (polygala myrtifolia).

The grass going to seed on the left is Smutsfinger and on the right Tall Fescue. Helderberg mountain in the background.

We cannot allow the purple plant to be the only one to be admired so we planted this pink succulent too.

In the background a Beefwood windbreak that will be removed once the shelterbelts are more established. On the left a honeysuckle’s last flowers and on the right Smutsfinger grass.

Below is one of the newly planted shelterbelts. It is the now standard 15 meter wide variety and Jabulani’s team planted it this past July. Crimson clover is fixing nitrogen. The trees are so small they have to be staked.

One of the advantages of having such diversity is that there is always a plant in flower. In early winter the aloe arborescens comes out to dazzle.

 

Coulter Bush (hymenolepis parviflora) in the foreground. Eggmobiles behind and Helderberg on the horizon. November 2013.

Finally we are a Wine Farm and we apply the shelterbelt principles there too. Here is the shelterbelt that runs through the Merlot vineyard.

 

 

 

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