Doc’s Blog

Right Under Your Nose.

   For months I had been bothered by strange noises coming from outside my upstairs office.   When it was windy out, I would hear  thump, thump, thump  of varying intensity. Listening with the window open gave no clue as to where the sound emanated. Could it be a tree limb banging on the rain barrel or a wire tapping on the roof or garage wall?  I would even stand for several minutes, outside on the deck or drive, hoping to triangulate the direction of the sounds source.  All to no avail.       

Finally, I called in our friendly handyman, Bruce.  He climbed out the window onto the porch roof and said, “Ah ha. Here’s the problem”.  It was a loose section of the eave trough.  He fastened it down with a screw and the problems was solved.  I could have reached out of the window and touched the offending noisemaker.  As my mother used to say, ‘’I don’t know why you couldn’t find it — it was right under your nose.”

     I wonder how many other situations we encounter where  the problem,  and possibly the solution, is right under our nose — if we would just look for them closer to home and not in some far-off more glamorous place. 

     We live in violent times, rightfully appalled by school shootings and other acts of public violence.  Violence is ingrained in our society.  Could it be because our children are subject to visual, graphic violence on TV and in the movies from the first day they are propped up in front of the TV.  A recent study calculated that children viewed about 8,000 murders while watching public media — before they leave elementary school! The report did not include the number of attempted rapes or other acts of personal violence available for viewing..

    When childe, grow up and act violently we look for causes in politically expedient places and ignore the commonplace TV programs and movies that are, figuratively speaking, right under our noses.  

    TV advertisers know how easily we can be influenced by the media, but we ignore the apathetic attitude toward violence it fosters in our society.. 

    Modern agriculture also has some “right under your nose” problems — or in this case, perhaps it would be more accurate to say “right under your toes”.  Much of our once fertile soils have been depleted and contaminated to the point that much of our land no longer produces healthy, life-sustaining crops. 

    “Science” proposes many seemingly innovative solutions — but as Albert Einstein so succinctly put it years ago, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”  Most soil scientists realize the main problem is a deficiency of highly carboniferous organic matter (OM) in the soil. Building back OM has many  benefits not the least of which is removal of Carbon from the atmosphere.  This pleased those fascinated with climate change and allows them to promote the process by using the catchy phrase ‘carbon sequestration.’

    In closing, here is another quote from Albert Einstein,  “Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.”

Do Animals Eat Minerals Because They Need Them
or Because They Taste Good?

Animals eat minerals because they taste good, but they only taste good when they are needed.  I know that sounds like gibberish, but consider this:   Appetite for any given mineral is governed by a biological feedback loop that involves taste buds, the cellular tissue concentration of the mineral, and the solubility of that mineral in the feed.  When the taste buds are triggered by deficiencies of nutrients in the tissue they are able to recognize the needed nutrients.  In this case, solubility equates to palatability - it tastes good if you need it. When the animal reaches satiety for that mineral, it doesn’t “taste good” anymore and they quit eating it.

This is the innate physiological ability of animals that allows them to pick and choose the elements they need from a properly presented,  cafeteria-style mineral program.  It is this same trait that allows grazing herbivores to balance their ration for energy, protein, and minerals in one 6 to 8 hour grazing cycle — if the proper nutrients are available in the pasture.

When beginning a self regulated mineral program, it is not uncommon for some animals to consume considerable amounts of certain items. In addition to filling their immediate requirements, animals will also eat to compensate for previous deficiencies; e.g. to replace bone mineral loss or liver reserves.  It may take 3 to 6 months for this apparent over-consumption to taper off.  If it does not taper off, one needs to check other issues as described below. 

Animals will seldom over consume minerals unless forced to do so because of improperly formulated rations or  mineral supplements. For example, if there is too much Calcium in a TMR ration, animals will eat excess Phosphorus  from  a cafeteria-style mineral  program, to balance the Ca/P ratio.  Consumption of P will go down if some Ca is removed from the force-fed ration. If feeding a TMR along with a cafeteria-style mineral program, it is best to add only about 50 to 75% of the computed amounts of minerals. This allows the animals to fine tune their mineral balance with out overconsumption.

  • ADE consumption goes up if there are high nitrates, excess protein or basic deficiencies in the feeds or ration, e.g. consumption goes up as hay and forages age and deplete in vitamin content.
  • BVC and Vitamin C intake increases with stress. Stress can be caused by many situations; including bad weather, extreme high production or performance, relocation, bad water, stray electrical currents, and geo-thermal events. 
  • Iodine consumption increases if nitrates are high, if subjected to stray voltage or geo-magnetic fields, or if they are fed moldy feed.
  • Animals will often change their mineral consumption overnight in response to ration changes or anticipated weather changes. If consumption changes after stabilizing on the FC system the changes could be caused by changes in seasonal needs or ration changes. e.g animals frequently take more sulfur when the are building a new hair coat in spring and fall.
  • There is the possibility that some animals may possess or develop a taste for a particular ingredient. Little weight should be given to that opinion unless and until the other factors listed above are investigated and eliminated.  

A”Paleo Diet” for Livestock


The popular Paleo Diet, also known as the caveman or stone age diet, is an intriguing concept. It purports to mimic the diet of hunter/gatherers in the Paleolithic era. However, recent studies have revealed some of the same potential health problems associated with other similar high protein/low carb diets. 

I believe the diet would be more effective if it encompassed some other aspects of the paleo world.  For example, I doubt paleo-man always enjoyed three square meals every day — thus adding intermittent fasting to the regimen would be of benefit.  Likewise, paleo-man had to work harder than today’s office dwellers just to eat and survive — so adding a strenuous exercise program would be indicated.  Like a three-legged stool, a program involving diet, fasting, and exercise is more stable and would come closer to duplicating paleo-mans environment and ancestral lifestyle.

While they cannot always be controlled, there are other variables to consider. 

  • The nutritive value of paleo-foods has undoubtedly changed over 10 millennia since paleo times. Soil depletion over the centuries mandates some form of mineral supplementation for good health in any era.
  • Ethic groups evolving in different parts of the planet would develop specialized digestive abilities to match their different food choices. For example,  Inuit’s from close to the Arctic Circle as compared to a native living in an equatorial rain forest
  • Digestive efficiency has changed but not so much as to prevent the animal’s return to ancesteal diet if provided.

Pondering the ramifications of the cave man diet led me into some interesting byways of speculation about the applicability of this concept to how we manage our animals today.    I wonder;

  • Do animals have an inherent species-specific metabolism that thrived on a certain nutritional and lifestyle environment?       If so, are we meeting those needs? 
  • Have their nutritional needs and digestibility’s changed over the millennia? 
  • Would animals be benefited by a a return to an ancestral diet and lifestyle and, if so, how?.

According to scientists, there were clusters of animal domestication in different places about10,000 BCE, give or take a couple thousand years either way.  This generally correlates to the times when human were transitioning from a hunter-gatherer society to agrarian society or stay in place form of agriculture.

There is evidence dogs were tamed in Europe and Siberia 33,000 years ago. Being carnivores by nature, there is a lot of similarity in their ancestral diet and that of today.  There is controversy even now about including grain in a canine diet.  

Some finding show cats living in close proximity to man in Cyprus around 9500 BCE.  I doubt there is any confirmed evidence cats have ever actually been domesticated to the point of being subservient to humans. .

Pigs domesticated 15,000 years ago.  As omnivores, pigs are extremely adaptable as evidenced by the ease at which escaped pigs can revert to a feral lifestyle. 

The lifestyle of sheep and goats as grazers and browsers is not much different than when first tamed 1about 12,500 years ago.

One of the greatest lifestyle change occurs in some horses.  First domesticated in the Eurasian Steppesaround 3500 BCE, horses were prey animals and led a nomadic life, ranging over wide areas because of predator pressure and the quest for food and water. Their forage was low in moisture and low in nutritive density. 

Now our pleasure horses are fed a totally inappropriate diet of high-moisture, high nutritive density grain and forage. They spend most of their time in a small paddock or box stall and get little exercise —  a lifestyle totally different from their native environment and then we wonder why they have health and emotional problems.

Arouch 1

Cattle were domesticated from the wild aurochs in the areas of modern Turkey and Pakistan around 10,500 BCE. Today some range cattle still enjoyt that environment, but many do not. In my opinion the huge mega dairies are not only an environmental disaster but also a blatant example of animal abuse.  The average dairy cow in the US rarely completes two lactations, never reaching adulthood.  At calving time, an astounding 50% of the cows suffer from either a metabolic disease or an infectious disease, and sometimes both. Many of the rations contain high amounts of grain which causes rumen dysfunction. Most of these poor beasts are raised, from birth, in total confinement and never even see grass — a sad commentary on animal welfare in this country.

A bright spot in the dairy industry is the grazing movement.  Animals are allowed to graze pastures when availabe. Forward thinking dairymen transitioning to this program see a multitude of benefits to animal health and productivity as they begin providing dietary and lifestyle condition compatible to the inherent needs of the animals. 

Bottom line: Even small steps to duplicate  a native diet and environment will be beneficial to the health and productivity of our animals.