Coming out from winter Spring 2017

Coming out from winter
    A story on the radio last week was upsetting. A child was taken from its home by some agency because he, or perhaps she, was overweight. Anyone in the livestock business knows the waste and general health issues that go with over-finishing. That’s an understandable concern. But equally concerning to the agency was the presence of mice in the house. 
    Imagine. They’ll be coming to take me away any day now. My trapline can’t keep up with the invasion of Deer mice, shrews, and ermine that come seeking refuge from snow and wintery gales each fall in this old farm house with its dry rock wall for a foundation. Visiting a friend recently, I spied a mousetrap in the corner of the kitchen and felt instantly at home.
    But to return to matters more relevant to our beef and sheep farmers. Here’s a quick contest. Like counting beans in a bottle, how many times have readers of Atlantic Beef & Sheep – having worked their way to this column in the back of the book –  been reminded of the upcoming Maritime Beef Council conference coming this March 17 and 18 in Truro? Three? Four? Six times?
    It really does not matter and there are no prizes awaiting whoever gets the number right. It is just good to know that many are on side with this beef conference. Once more the beef industry leads the way showing what can be done when Maritimers get together. Is there a Maritime sheep council in our future?
    Duncan Fraser, acting beef specialist for New Brunswick, reports an effort afoot to increase the province’s herd by 20,000. And follows that with more than a hint (based on a Québec study) that we might achieve an increase faster, and with better financial returns to farmers, if calves were born later in the year on pasture. All well and good, except for the purebred producer who wants calves born January 1.
    Mike Isenor is looking for 2,000 more lambs a year for his Brookside Co-op abattoir, a good news story but for the apparent stall in Maritime production. Brad McCallum, Nova Scotia agriculture commodity manager, talking to writer Vern Faulkner from New Brunswick, raises doubt we will see that increase any time soon. His list of what could stand in the way, although long, fails to include a warning the late Bill Mathewson attributed to a veteran shepherd: “Some times sheep just want to die.” Maybe it was Bill’s own observation. It is there somewhere in a column Prof. Bill wrote for Rural Delivery back when.
    Sarah Nettleton and I traded beef on the hoof for lamb in a box this winter and that lamb has been a treat. The ribs, slow cooked and then popped under the broiler are amazingly flavourful – with the added delight of a spoonful or two of garlic-apple-mint jelly on the side. The immigrant community from the Middle East loves lamb, as was noted by McCallum in Vern’s story. Wouldn’t it be super if their appetite drove Maritime growth in the sheep industry over every hurdle standing in its way. 
    This is a wonderful time for agriculture, coming as we are out from under winter, enjoying longer days, packing up to go to the Farm Mechanization Show, the beef conference, to the Nappan sale April 1. Great to be alive. DvL