Monday, March 1, 2010

Real Food and A Box Full of Kids

This is the first day of the NDiN Real Food Challenge. I had a post about our first day and the instant challenges we (I) found feeding everyone "Real Food". But I'm posting this instead.

A Box Full of Kids

If you read this blog regularly you know we have been struggling with a kid who couldn't stand when she was born. She is the black and white one on the right. Her name is Patty. It took us some time (and some suggestions from a few helpful readers) to pin down the problem. She had White Muscle Disease. That's a vitamin E/selenium deficiency. She seems to be doing pretty well now, but her sister (who appeared strong when she was born) died today. Her heart just stopped. (That is another effect of selenium/vitamin E deficiency.) As I looked more closely at the whole herd it became apparent that everyone was suffering some of the effects of this deficiency. I've dosed everyone up with cod liver oil, extra kelp meal, and a selenium rich mineral supplement. Should solve the problem for the goats.

So, you are probably wondering what this has to do with Real Food and the Real Food Challenge. Well, here are my thoughts for the day. What I discovered was the deficiency in my goats came from their feed. They have been on hay for a couple of months now, and confined to the barn for about a month (the snow is so deep there is nothing for them to nibble on and no reason for them to go out to pasture. It would be pointless for them and more work for me.) The 'organic' hay I bought this year is from a new source. They are new to the organic game, and their fields have just 'transitioned'. Before they changed the fields had been farmed traditionally. In researching White Muscle Disease and ways to deal with it I found that selenium was depressed in plants grown on soils with low pH and on soils subjected to chemical fertilizers. It had not been a problem in the US until after the wide spread use of chemical fertilizers began. Vitamin E deteriorates in plants that are stored for long periods of time. This year we used first cut hay from a farm where the fields had just recently switched to 'organic' practices. The food caused the problem.

These kinds of studies are readily available for animals and animal feed. BUT, no one talks about it in relation to human food and human health.

Today has made me rethink this challenge and what I'm doing. I'm a farmer. My business is food. Producing fresh, nutrient dense, balanced food for my family and my community is my responsibility. That's an idea I intend to explore more this month. The how and the why of Real Food.


Linda said...

Good post and good reasoning. I am so glad she got better. So many times difficult labor and delivery is simply mineral deficiencies that owners just don't recognize.

Whirliegig said...

I find it so amazing how much imbalance we've created and how hesitant people can be to try repair the damage or spread knowledge. This really puts it in perspective why my own farmette initially did so badly while trying to undo the practices of the previous owners.
I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties, but am glad to hear of the progress the rest of the kids are making.

goatgirl said...

We are in a selenium deficient area so I feed my goats feed that has selenium and wondered if it really mattered. Apparently it does. I am glad you found the problem. I'm sorry you lost the kid but Patty is darling. Best of luck. Live and learn and just think of all the people that learned something from included.
You wrote earlier about stepping in and trying to help instead of letting nature take it's course but you learned more by working through this than by just letting her die. It will benefit the whole herd because you cared.

our friend Ben said...

Oh, no, Alan! I'm so sorry about the lost kid, but am so glad Patty's recovering and you've found the problem and are bringing the rest of your flock to perfect health. I couldn't agree more that we humans confront the same sorts of issues, even here in the so-called "land of plenty." What a disgrace.


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