Just arrived in Texas to some sunshine.
The Nuffield contemporary scholars conference was a lot of fun (God bless the Irish.) There were some interesting and some controversial speakers there, thankfully interspersed with some farm visits to keep us grounded. Visiting with both an Amish farmer and an intensive dairy provided some variety to say the least. Seeing calves penned up unable to run and kick up their heels left me with a stone in my guts though, guess I just don’t have the stomach for much more than extensive agriculture.
We were invited to visit the Canadian embassy where a “proper flash” feed was put on, bit of a relief (particularly for the French contingent) after a diet of fat, cheese and sugar. The bison was a hit, as was the beer.
After the conference I flew down to Nashville Tennessee and stayed with renown American Kiko goat producer Dr An Peischel. An lives about an hour out of Nashville in a fantastic house made of huge slabs of timber in the late 1800’s I think. Upon arriving she told me the house rules, “if you don’t know where it is, find it. If you still can’t find it, try harder.” Her goats were kidding and it was an experience to see another side of production with data being collected on each animal. While I was there An’s 30,000th kid was born which was cause for some celebration. An breeds registered breeding animals and has collected data for 25 years. The Kiko goat was established in New Zealand and looks very much like our feral goat, to be honest, I would have struggled to tell them apart, which tells us something about the quality of Australia’s feral goat herd and the merits of natural selection. An’s hospitality was nothing short of amazing, welcoming a strange Aussie into her home and sitting up into the wee hours with me talking goats and land regeneration. Hopefully I’ll be able to return the favour one day.
I had a day with Dr Richard Browning at Tennessee State University. Richard has been doing some work testing goat breeds for productivity and had some surprising results. One that would interest most goat people is that even though the Boer goat and subsequent crosses scored highly in the visual muscle score, they actually scored the lowest in actual carcass yield.
According to Richard the US goat industry has grown by 627% over the past 20 years with a corresponding increase in goat meat imports, mainly from Australia. Richard and his wife Maria took me to a Jamaican restaurant for lunch, yep, Australian curried goat. We also found some bags of skin on, bone in, cubed goat meat from Western Exporters, an abattoir not far from home, selling in a local ethnic supermarket for $8/kg.
Richard was also performing what he called an extreme stress test, which I don’t think the animal welfare authorities would let us get away with in Australia. Basically the goats are run in a wet area and data collected on parasite infestations and foot rot incidences, enabling goats to be selected for genetic traits that enable them to live in a cold wet climate. The natural attrition rate was pretty high, particularly among the Boers, so much so that he was needing to source more goats.
At the university they had some of the famous “fainting goats” (myotonic.) These goats go into a state of paralysis under stress, resulting in muscle stimulation that increases muscle size and density. They are tiny little goats though and quite a sad looking animal, wouldn’t last too long at Wanaaring.
I had a great day yesterday visiting with a couple of Tennessee farmers Bill Legg and Greg Brann. We had a look around Greg’s farm and like a true Aussie I was most impressed with his water supply. It’s wet country when you can push a piece of PVC pipe into the side of a hill with a spring in it and feed a water trough, unbelievable. Greg has a spring fed “blue pond” on his place. Water travels under pressure through limestone rock layers from a creek to bubble up in a spring at the rate of 30,000 to 50,000 gallons/minute. Ahh the water…
I kick off my Texas tour tomorrow with a visit to the A & M University at San Angelo, was supposed to go this arvo but need a catch up 1/2 day to get in contact with everyone at home where things are not as good as they could be. Keeping in contact has certainly been difficult with time zone differences, phone and internet problems and a schedule as only Colonel Geltch could deliver.
My thoughts have been with everyone back in Wanaaring who’ve had the Paroo River come and visit big time, thank you Queensland! I wish I was there to see it, make sure you take plenty of photos for me.