Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pomeranian geese

German or Pomeranian Geese probably originated in the Pomeran or Pomorze region of eastern Germany between the rivers Oder and Vistula. They are widely distributed in Germany and Eastern Europe. Historically, the Pomeranians were the second largest group of geese in North America. They are descended from the Eastern Greylag that naturally occurs further East, from Turkey to Northeast China. Like them, true Pomeranians have a single lobe and pink extremities.
There are several varieties: Gray, White, Gray Saddlebacks, such as these credited to Laura Kendall and posted on www.feathersite.com, Buff Saddlebacks, and a solid Buff variety known in Germany as the Cellar Goose. Historically, the Gray variety was the most common, but in many areas the Saddlebacks predominate today. As little as 35 years ago, these geese were common where ever Germans had settled in North America. Today, they are nearly gone. However, they turn up in interesting places. I found some living on a lake in San Diego County several years ago, and a reader reported that she found some that were dropped off at a local park on Long Island this past week. She has taken them home and intends to keep them.

Despite more than two centuries in North America, only the Saddleback varieties have been recognized by the American Poultry Association, and those only since 1977. The APA’s standard sizes of 17 lbs. for old ganders and 15 lbs. for old hens are near the upper limit of the breed’s typical size. They are only slightly smaller than Grays and have the same profile, but are single-lobed. Pomeranians should have pink bills and feet, but the APA Standard currently specifies orange-red legs. Historically, Pomeranians and Grays stand out as the most important breeds in North America. Unfortunately, not all modern flocks labeled Pomeranian are genuine. Many birds winning today are much larger, have orange bills and feet and are double-lobed. These changes came about not by selection from Pomeranians but by crossing Buff and Gray geese with Embdens and selecting the desired saddleback pattern. This has led to serious disagreements about the proper standard.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Traditional Goose Breeds

Many varieties of geese are waning and need attention. The Mother Goose of the past, inspired by the common sight of flocks of geese, has become a rarity. The rich influence of the goose in agricultural history and myth is now relegated to commercial production of a single breed, Embdens. Geese now represent less than one percent of modern poultry production.

Geese were once the traditional Christmas meal and competitive with turkeys for other festive occasions. But today, among concerns about high fat diets and the decline of the traditional family farm, geese are the least used of our traditional poultry. Being less well-adapted to factory production than chickens or turkeys, commercial production has nearly ceased. Most recognized breeds of geese, such as American Buff, African, China, Embden, Roman, Sebastopol and Toulouse, have remained relatively popular as show birds and have retained safe population levels. However, some that were historically among the most important types in traditional American agriculture are in serious decline and need immediate help. I'll devote separate posts to each breed in future.

The Gray Goose is a large domestic variation of the wild Western Graylag, right, the goose that migrates through Iceland, Northern and Central Europe. The domestic Gray Goose was the most populous farm and commercial goose in America until the 1960s. Agricultural records document it as the most popular goose in the U.S. and in Canada. Confusion arose from commercial operations that gave the Gray Goose the misleading name, Commercial Toulouse. Both Gray and Toulouse Geese are gray in color, but otherwise very different breeds.

American Gray Geese developed largely from the English Gray Goose, the traditional bird of holiday celebrations. They are slimmer and lighter in body than the true Toulouse, without the fatty mid-body keel. They are easier to finish, not as fatty and mature earlier than Toulouse Geese.

As the American diet has targeted fat as undesirable, goose has become less popular on the table. Goose can be prepared to reduce fat in the meat, and the fat reserved for other culinary uses. The American housewife of the past valued goose fat as an ingredient in other cooking throughout the year.

Consumer demand for Gray Geese, now often called ‘Commercial Toulouse,’ encouraged hatcheries to maintain the breed. That has kept Gray Goose numbers sufficient to protect the breed from disappearing. However, the strains bred in hatcheries do not always preserve traditional qualities.

Gray Geese have historically been noted for egg production. Some modern hatchery strains have shown an increase in egg production.

Gray Geese have traditionally been good parents, brooding and raising their own goslings. It was not unknown for them to raise two batches of goslings in a year. Some hatchery Gray Geese are no longer good brooders or parents. SPPA is looking for established flocks with a history of reproducing naturally.
Toulouse Geese, shown in this illustration from Lewis Wright's Illustrated Book of Poultry, 1890, are a French breed originally developed for production of the large livers used in making foie gras. It is low slung and heavy bodied, with a dewlap under the chin and a fatty keel below its midsection hanging nearly to the ground. In silhouette, its heavy body appears more horizontal and lower than the Gray Goose’s. Because of this lower distribution of its body, its legs appear short.

The Toulouse was originally an all gray breed but now a buff variety is recognized and some breeders maintain white flocks.

Ganders often weigh as much as 30 lbs. Toulouse as a breed are larger than Gray Geese.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NAIS Listening Sessions

After speaking my alotted three minutes at the NAIS Listening Session in Riverside, I decided to write up my comments, so that I could include all the detail and submit them to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at<http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2009-0027>. This turned out to be easier said than done.

After several tries, posting my comments to the Comment section for the original Notice and receiving a tracking number, my comments failed to appear. Subsequent comments by others have appeared, so I assume that my submission was not made correctly. Failing at the electronic method, I decided to try the phone numbers listed. The one listed for APHIS NAIS inquiries, 301-734-0799, has a full mailbox and does not allow further messages to be recorded. There is no answer at the other, for Dr. Adam Grow, Director, Surveillance and Identification Programs, National Center for Animal Health Programs, 301-734-3752.

Growing increasingly frustrated, I started calling other numbers posted for contacts in the Public Affairs department. The emergency phone number for reporters on deadline finally was answered by a live person. She, however, knew nothing about how to post comments, nor was anyone available, at 4 pm on a Friday, to answer such a question.

I've spent a fair amount of time on computers, and if this system is foiling me, I'm probably not the only one.

I shall send my comments by regular mail to USDA-APHIS, addressed to Dr. Grow, National Center for Animal Health Programs, VS, APHIS, 4700 River Road Unit 200, Riverdale, MD 20737. But I couldn't have invented a more telling experience about dealing with the USDA on the issue of NAIS.

My submission to the USDA's NAIS Listening Session:

Statement from Christine Heinrichs, SPPA Historian, on behalf of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities:

I am grateful for the opportunity to give voice to the opposition the poultry breeders of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities have to the National Animal Identification System.

In the cover letter of John R. Clifford, Deputy Administrator for Veterinary Services dated May 7, 2009, he states that the goals of the sessions are to “develop a system that we can all support – one that facilitates tracing diseased or exposed animals and assists in safeguarding animal health, one that promotes our exports, one that stands out among other country’s (sic) systems, and one that is workable for everyone involved in producing and marketing livestock.”

Regarding animal disease tracing: The National Poultry Improvement Plan continues to work well in managing several significant poultry diseases. NAIS is not needed. An effective plan is already in place. Monitoring for Avian Influenza in Live Bird Markets has been effective for Low Pathogenic AI. No High Pathogenic H5N1AI has been found in North or South America. This speaks well for the effectiveness of these programs.

Crowding animals together in filthy conditions, living in their own waste, maintained on subclinical doses of antibiotics, is the textbook way to develop virulent animal diseases that might then be transmitted to humans. I commend the USDA for being concerned about animal disease. The best way to avoid developing such infectious agents is to stop keeping birds in such conditions and encourage more small flock owners to raise birds in clean, healthy conditions. The USDA’s burdens on small farmers while encouraging increased development of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations suggests that the agency is less committed to healthy birds than it is to the interests of large, wealthy industrial producers.

Reducing animal disease through preventive measures and supporting animal health would be a better use of resources than tracing it after the fact. In a world where we must make choices about how to allocate limited resources of time, money and expertise, SPPA recommends continuing the well-accepted programs presently in use and expanding support for small flock owners. Consumers are indicating their support for a choice of poultry products by buying locally raised meat and eggs. Demand for these products consistently exceeds the supply.

Regarding promoting exports: Whatever animal identification is required for birds being raised for meat and egg exports should certainly be available to those who wish to participate in those markets. Those who do not participate in export markets should not be required to participate in an expensive, cumbersome system to accommodate those who do. Inspections of imported animals and agricultural products should be effectively increased. Entry of animals from countries with known disease problems should be carefully examined and tested or barred entirely

Regarding our standing with respect to other countries: This country could have a system that stands out among other countries’ by supporting the small flock owners and the maintenance of traditional breeds. These birds could be the envy of the world. They could play a significant part in international recovery, by providing stock that is adapted to local conditions. Commercial hybrids cannot fill the needs of feeding people in developing countries.

Regarding workability: NAIS is technically unworkable. The databases for tracking every bird and the infrastructure to follow them have not been demonstrated. NAIS accomplishes too little for too much cost. It is practically unworkable, because farmers will not sign up, as the USDA must now, after these Listening Sessions, be aware.

The USDA’s report on the Benefit-Cost Analysis of NAIS makes no mention whatsoever of small flock poultry keepers. While NAIS has minimal costs, on a per-bird basis, for industrial poultry operations, for small flock keepers, it is burdensome and intrusive.

Small flock owners, especially those who keep historic breeds, are doing a service to American food systems by keeping unusual genetic stock alive. Punishing them by requiring premises registration, individual bird identification and movement tracking does nothing to prevent or cure disease and will certainly force many out of business.

The claim that 35 percent of the relevant premises have registered is misleading. Many of those were registered without their knowledge or consent, when they participated in testing or vaccination programs, per the NAIS Business Plan. Those who do not know that their premises have already been registered are unlikely to take the steps, now available through as a result of court decisions, to be removed.

This lack of transparency and deliberately misleading actions increases the suspicion with which the USDA is viewed by small flock owners.

The USDA has vacillated between ‘mandatory’ and ‘voluntary.’ The only way this system can work is if it is truly voluntary: those who want it, or need it to engage in international trade or for other commercial reasons, should have it. Those who do not engage in activities that require such documentation should not be registered without their knowledge and against their will nor punished for declining to participate.

Issues of animal disease are confused with issues of food safety. NAIS will not make processing facilities cleaner or reduce food contamination. Creating policies that decentralize the livestock industry and encourage local, diversified farms would increase animal health, food security, and food safety. Many existing laws already govern unsafe practices. By improving enforcement of those laws and improving inspections of large slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, including unannounced spot inspections, food safety could be improved. Adding NAIS does nothing of itself to improve food safety.

People are learning that sustainable integrated methods produce more and better quality foods than industrial methods. CAFOs promote disease transmission between animals. SPPA encourages the USDA to take note of the needs of the American people for a safe, secure, plentiful food system. Small producers have fed Americans for most of our history. The pollution and cruelty of the industrial system are no longer tolerable. Serving the needs of small flock owners would never produce a system like NAIS.

Wendell Berry, speaking at the NAIS Listening Session in Kentucky, said: “The need to trace animals was made by the confined animal industry – which are, essentially, disease breeding operations. The health issue was invented right there. The remedy is to put animals back on pasture, where they belong. The USDA is scapegoating the small producers to distract attention from the real cause of the trouble. Presumably these animal factories are, in a too familiar phrase, “too big to fail.”

“This is the first agricultural meeting I’ve ever been to in my life that was attended by the police. I asked one of them why he was there and he said: “Rural Kentucky”. So thank you for your vote of confidence in the people you are supposed to be representing. I think the rural people of Kentucky are as civilized as anybody else.

“But the police are here prematurely. If you impose this program on the small farmers, who are already overburdened, you’re going to have to send the police for me. I’m 75 years old. I’ve about completed my responsibilities to my family. I’ll lose very little in going to jail in opposition to your program – and I’ll have to do it. Because I will be, in every way that I can conceive of, a non-cooperator.

“I understand the principles of civil disobedience, from Henry Thoreau to Martin Luther King. And I’m willing to go to jail to defend the young people who, I hope, will still have a possibility of becoming farmers on a small scale in this supposedly free country. Thank you very much.”

SPPA seconds those sentiments.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kansas City Urban Ag Tour

Kansas City, Missouri’s Urban Farms and Gardens Tour is scheduled for June 28, 10am-5pm, http://urbanfarmstourkc.com/. The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture is the sponsor. Pre-Tour Events started June 18 and continue through June 27. The theme is Food from the City, For the City. “Growing food is something that is, and should be, happening in the
neighborhoods where we live, work, shop and play,” they say.

The tour is self-directed, $5 for an individual ticket or $12 for a family ticket. Thirty sites are included on the tour. Buy tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/57884.

Organizers have posted an Interactive Map, http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&encType=1&cid=5B8EAC91E0C832B%21526, to show where the farms are located so you can plan your own tour route.

Tour brochures can be downloaded from http://urbanfarmstourkc.com/.

Check the site for full information on pre-tour events, including a showing of Mad City Chickens Film on Tuesday, June 23, hosted by All Souls UU Documentary Series. 7PM at All Souls UU Church, 4501 Walnut, donations only.
“The film is a sometimes wacky, sometimes serious look at the people who keepurban chickens in their backyards. From experts and authors to a rescuedlandfill chicken or an inexperienced family that takes the poultry plunge, even a mad scientist and giant hen get into the act. It’s a humorous and heartfelt trip through the world of backyard chickendom.”

Includes an interview with me! Do I qualify as wacky or serious?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Urban chickens

Nightline, the ABC News late night program, had a segment on urban chickens in New York City June 17, http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7868138.

Thanks, Martha. Your girls look delightful.

The Economist is taking note: http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13856313. Chickens are everywhere.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mr. Clucky

The Miami Herald Monday, June 08, 2009

Miami Beach wants to evict famous riding rooster Mr. Clucky
BY JAWEED KALEEM, jkaleem@MiamiHerald.com

In the live-and-let-live annals of Miami Beach, the city has embraced a disparate cast of characters: the cross-dressing former cabbie who jives to '60s hits for change; the woman who walks her iguanas in a pram built for two; and the middle-aged man who makes custom paintings with his toes, to name a few.

But you have to draw the line somewhere, and so the city has decreed that Mr. Clucky -- the bike-riding rooster known for weaving his way through the laid-back crowds at Lincoln Road Mall -- must go.

The morning of May 27, a code enforcement officer showed up at owner Mark Buckley's Jefferson Avenue studio apartment, where the bird sleeps in the closet.

'He said, `Don't shoot the messenger. I love Mr. Clucky,' '' said Buckley, who rescued the battered, 6 1/2-pound animal more than two years ago from the streets. The officer took a photo of the bird and his female companion, a homebound black hen named Wallflower, and handed over a ticket.

Someone had complained, presumably about the rooster's habit of crowing every morning at 6 a.m. sharp. The city had to investigate.

The charge: keeping farm animals. The punishment: a $50 fine. Buckley was given 10 days to get rid of the chickens or appeal. But the 54-year-old construction worker who props the bird on the handlebars of his red Schwinn as he -- Buckley, not the rooster -- pedals the beach is not backing down.

''What are they going to do?'' asked Buckley, whose passenger has graced ds for animal activist causes, not to mention thousands of tourist photos, becoming an unofficial city mascot.

The animal has his own website -- www.mrclucky.com -- and MySpace page.

''He's a staple of Lincoln Road,'' said Elina Aran, 23, who is a bartender on the strip at Zeke's and was surprised to hear the rooster may be evicted. ``It's what makes South Beach great -- the weirdos.''

South Beach is known today for its exclusive dance clubs, haute cuisine and chiseled bodies, but at one point, the buzz was more about its eccentricity.

''Everybody used to have a Mr. Clucky of some kind,'' said Brian Antoni, a 20-year Miami Beach resident and author of South Beach: The Novel. ``What's next, cats?''

At least one person has offered Clucky a new home if he's ousted from the beach.

''Send him to Coconut Grove,'' said Glenn Terry, founder of that city's King Mango Strut, an annual parade of all things odd. Clucky served as the grand marshal last fall.

Clucky and his less-celebrated mate -- Wallflower, not Buckley -- might yet be given a reprieve if Buckley appeals the city's citation, said Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez.

''I don't know if we've ever gotten a complaint about Mr. Clucky riding around,'' she said, ``but it's not about what he does outside his home. It's about living with the rooster in the home.''

Friday afternoon, Buckley had handwritten a request for appeal on a lined piece of paper and said he plans to deliver it to Miami Beach City Hall with Clucky riding along, as always, like a feathered hood ornament.

''I've got nothing against the city,'' he said. ``It's just somebody trying to take down a happy little rooster.''

If he doesn't pay -- and if Clucky doesn't go -- Buckley stands to receive repeated violations and higher fines, said Fernandez. But arrest is not likely.

As for whether the city will go in and remove the rooster by force, Fernandez said that is still being figured out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Russian Orloffs

The Orloff, well-adapted to cold weather, has minimal wattles and a small raspberry comb, that is fitted low and close to the head, as shown on this rooster belonging to Michelle Conrad. Harsh winters will not freeze combs or wattles. They tolerate the cold very well. Although they were developed as a meat breed, the hens are good layers of light brown eggs even through dark winter days, around 160 eggs annually, and weigh 6.5 pounds. They are known to lay through cold weather. Roosters weigh 8.5 pounds.

The breed is characterized by its upright stance, legs that are well placed far apart, and deep-set eyes. The resulting overall appearance has led some to describe them as “vindictive,” “rebellious” and “cruel-looking.” Despite appearances, the Orloff has a wonderful genteel temperament. They are calm yet alert.

Their advocates find them possessed of an austere beauty. The Orloff should have a full beard and muffs. In the Spangled variety, such as Michelle Conrad’s hen, left, the hens and roosters will be a mix of golden, black and white. No two are alike, a good trait for those who would be bored by uniformity. They blend well into natural settings, making predation less of a problem. The Orloff varieties are: Spangled, Black, Mahogany, White, Cuckoo, Black Breasted Red, Buff and Crele. They are all rare.

Historically, Orloffs were assumed to have originated in Russia, but recent research suggests they originated in the Gilan Province of Persia (Iran), where it was called Chilianskaia. Russian Count Alexey Grigoryevich Orlov, whit the honorific title Techemensky, promoted the breed across Europe in the 19th century. It arrived in Britain in the 1920's. Malays, Belgian games and a bearded European Spangled breed probably contributed to its heritage.

The Orloff is so rare, the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection dropped it. So few birds were exhibited at shows that the breed is no longer recognized for showing. Charlie Casper in New York discovered that he was breeding incorrect plumage colors to his birds when he brought them to a show and had Craig Russell evaluate them. He acquired a rooster at the show and is improving his flock accordingly. In 2004 the members of the Society for Preservation of Poultry Antiquities reported only 74. Efforts from SPPA members increased its numbers in 2006 to a reported 221.
Please contact me if you are interested in this breed. Additional breeding flocks are needed.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wendell Berry

A report from Stephen Bartlett of the Community Farm Alliance, posted on the site of The Organic Consumers Association, http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_18076.cfm, is one of the few places Wendell Berry's impassioned presentation to the USDA against the National Animal Identification System during one of the USDA's recent Listening Sessions was reported:

Wendell Berry, also wearing a nice suit, said that the problem N.A.I.S. was supposed to solve was a problem caused by agricultural industrialists themselves, who now intended to use that problem as a pretext to further marginalize and limit the possibilities of small-scale agriculture. He said it was insulting to rural Kentuckians that USDA had hired policemen to be present at this listening session. He noted that USDA's fear of the people they were supposed to be serving made it clear what N.A.I.S. was all about. And he said that if NAIS were implemented, USDA was going to need far more than a couple of policemen to deal with the resistance and civil disobedience that would result. Naming Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. as honorable examples of the tradition of non-violent non-compliance, Berry said he would absolutely not comply with N.A.I.S. As an older person, he said he had little to lose by going to jail for the sake of the younger generations whose lives and livelihoods would be threatened or eliminated by such oppression, and who still did have much to lose.

Another blog, cakeaustin, includes some information about the meeting:

Wendell Berry gave a rousing speech declaring that this was the first meeting he’d been at with USDA, after decades of activism, where USDA brought armed police to protect itself.


Here's the text of his statement:

The need to trace animals was made by the confined animal industry – which are, essentially, disease breeding operations. The health issue was invented right there. The remedy is to put animals back on pasture, where they belong. The USDA is scapegoating the small producers to distract attention from the real cause of the trouble. Presumably these animal factories are, in a too familiar phrase, “too big to fail.”

This is the first agricultural meeting I’ve ever been to in my life that was attended by the police. I asked one of them why he was there and he said: “Rural Kentucky”. So thank you for your vote of confidence in the people you are supposed to be representing. (applause) I think the rural people of Kentucky are as civilized as anybody else.

But the police are here prematurely. If you impose this program on the small farmers, who are already overburdened, you’re going to have to send the police for me. I’m 75 years old. I’ve about completed my responsibilities to my family. I’ll lose very little in going to jail in opposition to your program – and I’ll have to do it. Because I will be, in every way that I can conceive of, a non-cooperator.

I understand the principles of civil disobedience, from Henry Thoreau to Martin Luther King. And I’m willing to go to jail to defend the young people who, I hope, will still have a possibility of becoming farmers on a small scale in this supposedly free country. Thank you very much.

It's posted at http://www.foodrenegade.com/wendell-berry-picks-jail-over-nais/.

I'm disappointed that the daily papers have ignored these meetings, even with such a prominent advocate as Mr. Berry appearing. His bio on poets.org is here, http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/675. This portrait is from http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org/pgs/portraits/Wendell_Berry.html.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pullets Needed -- LA area

Dayna in the Los Angeles area contacted me for some laying pullets to join the now solitary one at her house. Dayna acquired two chicks, but when one turned out to be a rooster, he had to move out of her suburban neighborhood. Olive, who may be a Brahma/Ameraucana cross, is lonely without him. Their attachment to each other is obvious in this video posted by Dayna's husband Mark, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KkU_NFu6X0U.
Chickens are flock birds and will seek companionship with other animals or people if there are no other chickens available. Like many birds, they imprint within days of hatching on the significant living critter around them. Since Olive spent her formative days with Yuba, the rooster, she is imprinted on chickens.
Dayna notes that Olive doesn't make the companionable clucking sounds she used to make to Yuba now that she is alone.
My friend Barbara Bullock, who wrote an article about her Buttercups in this month's Backyard Poultry, http://tinyurl.com/pyvfx4, offered a couple of her surplus pullets to keep Olive company. We'll see whether we can arrange transportation from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles for those girls and give Olive some company.
If any readers are in the area and have some pullets to spare, please let me know and I'll put you in touch with Dayna.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blue Geese

Rare Blue Geese are now available through top waterfowl breeder Dave Holderread, at his Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center in Corvallis, Oregon, http://tinyurl.com/p84o6y. This two-year-old gander is an exemplar of color and type.

Craig Russell, president of the SPPA, passed the word about the Blue Geese to me, after he heard from a colleague who purchased some. He says this new owner reports the goslings, beginning to feather out, are some of the most beautiful he has ever seen. Craig is delighted and plans to acquire some for himself next year.

At right, the photo shows the distinction between blue and lavender color varieties. Dave gave me permission to post his copyright photos on my blog. Thanks, Dave. They are beautiful and impressive birds.