“If Allan is right, then we may have to completely rethink life on the plains. The message is an extraordinarily powerful one, and it could be the best thing, the absolute best thing that conservation has ever discovered.”
- M. Sanjayan, Host, Earth: A New Wild
Last week an extraordinary new series debuted on America’s Public Broadcasting Service network – EARTH: A New Wild, that features, in Episode 2 – “The Plains” – an interview in Zimbabwe with Allan Savory.
By Phyllis and Paul Van Amburgh
This article can be seen in the September 2014 issue ofAcres magazine, or NOPDA 2014 summer newsletter
The Madre Method is: the unencumbered suckling of a calf on its own biological dam from birth to the age of 10 months.
There are three common factors present on all the successful dairy farms: the first is farmers that read and research, second is a good mineral and feed program for cows and soils (or nutrition program, as it may be called when incorporated in a feed ration), and the third is a good heifer program. The farms that do a top-notch job raising their replacements always have healthier cows that perform and last. They suffer far fewer problems with their cows than the ones who don’t do a great job or the ones who rely on purchased, unknown, young stock.
Eight years ago we began raising our calves one-to-one on their mother. We have tried numerous other methods, but all of these other methods fall short. Most dairy farmers dismiss the technique of cows raising their own, one calf. They fear a financial disaster if they don’t sell all the milk from all of their cows.
Doing It Ourselves aims to broaden understanding of the debt crisis and peak resources and encourage action for the sake of personal preparedness, happiness and ethical living. This animation sums up the key challenges facing our global society of credit crisis and resource scarcity and describes a path we can take to a happier life, now and in the future! Find out more at http://www.doingitourselves.org
We were told that the global financial crisis of 2008 happened because irresponsible borrowers couldn’t afford to pay back their loans. This is true, but it was also part of a much deeper problem. The issue is that our economic system is based on the need for continuous, perpetual growth. It’s highly likely that we’re already in the beginnings of something much worse than a depression, even if bankers and governments won’t admit it yet. Fortunately, we don’t need to hear it from them. We can tell that something is going on, we have the internet and we can share information amongst ourselves. And thankfully, if we try hard enough, we could just end up with something much much better than what we have now. I’m no expert, however I am someone who’s done several years of reading on these topics and I really want everyone else to know what’s going on, and understand the risks and the opportunities. It’s only fair.
The documentary The First Season follows Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh and their children through a year’s worth of changes as they pursue a crazy midlife dream of operating a dairy farm. They’re slaves to a relentless schedule and, as the movie ends, they’re in more debt than they ever had been before. But there’s a sense not only of hope but also of accomplishment.
And, as Paul assured me after the movie’s New Year’s Eve premiere in Chatham, “It’s gotten a lot better for us. We’re actually looking at turning a profit this year.”
This is director Rudd Simmons’ first project in that capacity, but the list of directors he’s worked with as a producer is impressive, with Jim Jarmusch (Night on Earth, Mystery Train), Stephen Frears (High Fidelity) and Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) among them. He also produced the first season of Boardwalk Empire.
Phyllis and I have been grazing for about 14 years now. This summer, I learned that I still have a lot to learn! I am totally O.K. with this and have decided that Phyllis and I need to invest more time into the management of the farm resources. When I say resources I mean weeds, trees, grass, land, air, water, cattle, bugs, birds, cattle, time energy, other wild life and people!
In our defense we have spent the last seven years just at a dead run, trying to start the farm without going broke! We now feel like we can move to a more sane and centered, holistic approach to the farm and to our lives. We are using the techniques pioneered and taught by Allan Savory, “Holistic Resource Management”.