Feeding Families, Meating Needs

The North Dakota Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers have come up with a program called “Feeding Families, Meating Needs.” In essence, they are arranging for donations of livestock or wildlife (or even money to cover the processing costs!), to be processed and distributed through the Great Plains Food Bank and Community Action’s Sportmen Against Hunger. What a GREAT program!

With the deer issues that we had this spring, we are looking at changing some of our management plans. We realize we need to handle our hay differently, we need to be more proactive and we need to be creative with our solutions. And so we shall.

Step one, I’m going to promote this program fully. How many people apply for a deer license and intend only to shoot a trophy deer, not concerned about the meat, because they don’t want to go through the hassle? How many pounds of venison is wasted every year? How many families could that feed? Let’s change that!

Here’s the scoop (and pay attention, because this is important stuff!):

Livestock – If you want to donate livestock, you need to contact Ann Pollert at Community Action, Sportsmen Against Hunger, to make arrangements. Processing will be done by approved facilities, and (if donated locally) meat will be distributed back to the region it came from. To contact Ann, call (701) 232-2452 or email annp@sendcaa.org .

Wildlife – You will need to contact the nearest approved processor on the Sportsmen Against Hunger list to verify that there are funds or vouchers available to cover the processing.

Money – This whole idea won’t go far without monetary donations to cover the cost of processing. Just to give you an idea, the processing charge for deer is estimated at somewhere between $50-55, beef is generally estimated at $40 per head plus 45 cents per pound on hanging weight, and then an additional 20 cents to grind. It all adds up quickly, and monetary donations will ensure the food banks receive these meat donations.

This food drive started in April, and will run through January 13, 2012. I am urging you to consider contributing, either through your successful hunting endeavors, an animal donation, or money to cover the costs of processing.

I’m going to bringing this up from time to time, especially as the deadline nears for deer license applications in North Dakota. Instead of applying for buck only, why not apply for buck first choice, doe second? Then, if you don’t get your coveted buck tag, you can still shoot a doe, prove your hunting prowess, get some exercise and target practice in, and donate the meat to a good cause?!? Win-win all the way around! (If you’re wondering about my hunting preferences, I normally apply for a gratis tag, which allows me to shoot either buck or doe, as long as it is on our land. In the last four years, I have shot one spike buck and three does…which made some very tasty sausage!)

If you need more information, shoot me a message, or contact Katie Heger (who’s heading up the program for the NDFB Young Farmers and Ranchers). You can get a hold of Katie at skheger6@gmail.com.

And stay tuned for some other ideas that we’ve come up with. We’re not going to go down in this battle with the wildlife without a fight! 🙂

Deer, oh dear

I’m not sure if you heard, but we had a slight deer problem this winter. Well, slight is an understatement…it was a MAJOR deer problem. If you look back through my posts, you will find pictures, videos, eloquently-written, almost poetic-like blogs, etc. (well, I’m pouring it on a bit thick about that one, sorry 😉 )

I figured I would wrap up the winter deer posts with this update:

This is a pile of deer carcasses that were collected from our hay yard. Approximately 60-80 deer in this group.

Yeah, we had a problem. And some deer died. I’ve been asked many times, “Why?” The answer isn’t so simple. Game and Fish statistics say that most of the dead should be does and fawns that couldn’t handle the winter conditions. But from personally witnessing and inspecting many of the dead animals, (well, from a distance anyway) I can tell you that there were a LOT of nice-sized bucks in that pile.

So, again, why did they die? They had protection. They had plenty of protection. They had feed. Very nice, dairy-quality alfalfa. Which would have been worth between $10,000-$20,000 in the hay market. Ouch. That hurts. My guess is that the deer couldn’t handle the feed. It was truly too rich, and they basically died from really bad stomach aches. Kinda like dying from too much caviar. (Can that happen???) You see, deer are built to browse, they eat things like leaves and berries and your brand new trees that you plant! 😉

But the fact of the matter is, they died. And beside this pile of deer, remember that Game and Fish had already come and picked up a pick-up load of carcasses? So that’s more than 100 deer that died on our farm.

A closer shot of the pile that Mark buried.

What frustrates me almost more than the lack of action by Game and Fish is the waste of meat. Can you imagine the food pantries that could be stocked with this much meat? But I have an idea for this year…and it’s a way that we can curb our deer problem, encourage hunting, AND stock the food pantries!

Stay tuned for an announcement tomorrow! I can’t wait!!!

Silver linings

If you’re friends with me on facebook, then you’ve probably realized that I’m kinda into finding the silver lining in every situation. I think it’s a mental-survival thing. Without it, I would be completely whack-o a few times over. (Be careful…I know what you’re thinking!)

But today’s silver lining showed up a few times! Yay!

First: George ran his first fever last night since we had The Plan in place. It was a bit scary, but things went well. I called the pediatrician, he ran through things with me, we formulated our plan and all went well. I ended up not having to take him in, the temp stayed down over night, took him in this morning and all things are well. Woohoo! Chalk one to George!

To celebrate, we got his FIRST big-boy haircut! Not bad, for a boy that’s about to be 2!

Not only will George be 2 in a month, but he got his first real hair cut today!

Second: Someone asked if the deer are still a problem. Here’s the answer:

That isn't just dirt on the horizon. Those are hundreds of deer, still making our yard home.

Yep.

But the silver lining? Another creature has followed them here…namely Bald Eagles. It is COOL! There are at least four of them right now. I think they’re eating off the carcasses. But they are so majestic and all things amazing. I tear up looking at them, and feel like saluting as they fly by…kinda weird, I know.

Getting close to a Bald Eagle isn't as easy as getting pics of deer in our yard.

And just to let you SEE what kind of damage the deer are doing, I’ve got these pics for you:

Yeah, that's what you think it is...deer urine

You can see where the hay has been moved from. Notice the difference between white and yellow/brown.

Notice the yellow/brown snow? Do you remember what your mother said about eating yellow snow? That’s right, that’s urine. As in deer urine. As in lots and lots and lots of deer urine. Now imagine all that on your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yum.

But SB 2227, which will give landowners a few more options in deer depredation, is supposed to be voted on in the House of Representatives tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll keep you posted.

And come next fall, I expect you and ALL of your family to come hunting.

Silence

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Another 45 have died. I know because I counted them. Add in the two dozen or more from before, and that seems to be a pretty significant number. (And apparently the coyotes can’t keep up.) According to Game and Fish literature, it’s expected that about 10 percent of a population will perish through the winter, especially in high-stressed areas. If this is an accurate percentage, then we definitely had more than 500 deer in our yard.

We were working on a bill that would have allowed unfilled deer licenses to be used in areas that are facing extreme amounts of deer pressure. These tags were ones that the Game and Fish Department had already sold and profitted from, I’m assuming with the intentions that they would be filled. If the Game and Fish Department deemed an area a “problem,” then December through March 15, the tags could have been filled.

A perfect solution? Of course not. Another tool in the tool box? Certainly. Apparently continuing on with the status quo isn’t working.

One of the legislators that I contacted regarding the issue was kind enough to reply. He told us that they are sending the bill to a “special committee” to come up with another idea, perhaps with food plots and feeding areas. They don’t want to see the deer shot. My question is why? These are tags that were already paid for and calculated by Game and Fish as being acceptable to lower deer numbers.

Somewhere, somehow, we need to start thinking outside the box and trying something new.

Battle weary

It’s been one of those days. You know, the type of day where you just can’t wait to crawl into bed, knowing that when you open your eyes, at least it will be a different day?

Tonight, let me focus on the problem we HAVE NOT gotten rid of yet (check here and here for reminders as to what’s been going on)…and that would be deer. That’s right, they’re still here. And for argument’s sake, let’s just say the number is 500.

 

The deer are dying in and on our feed supply for our cattle.

Boss Man is trying to put plans in place so that we’re able to be better prepared for next year. Apparently this year is a loss. We will never get back what the hay was worth that has been destroyed. (Think in the terms of multiple thousands.) There is nothing we can do about that. So we need to move ahead.

 

He spoke with North Dakota Game and Fish today. They are less than receptive to assisting. According to them, we have been uncooperative. By uncooperative, they mean that we were not interested in the only plan that they came up with. This “plan” was to wrap our bales with a plastic wrap, that would supposedly deter the deer from eating our hay.

Every person we have spoken to regarding the plastic wrap has claimed that it does NOT work. Not only are there problems with the wrap coming undone, or stacks falling over, but remember that we’re trying to sell our hay that is salvageable. That means that we would have to wrap and unwrap bales each time we were moving or grinding hay. We would also have to dispose of the wrap as we were using the hay.

Another concern we had with the hay wrap was that once the deer made our yard their winter habitat, without STRONG encouragement, they would still be in our yard, just forced to feed with our cattle. The deer are a danger to our herd, just by being in their feed supply. But the danger would be even greater if they were nose-to-nose and feeding out of the same bunk.

So, by trying to protect our livestock, while still being conscientious of the wildlife, we are now deemed uncooperative. Thank you.

Tonight, Mark decided to be proactive and try to call some of the neighboring landowners, making them aware of what the problem is, and asking if we could all be more receptive to allowing hunters access to prime hunting land.

The first call was to a “neighbor” who happens to own a hunting lodge and guide service. He basically thanked my husband for ruining his evening, told him not to tell him how to run his business and hung up the phone.

Most of the other phone calls went very well. Most people understand what the problem is, and are willing to do what they can to help. Here’s hoping that they remember next fall.

Here’s what I’d like to remind Game and Fish: this isn’t just another hay yard, another complaining farmer, another “problem” that they’d rather not deal with. This is MY hay yard, MY herd and MY sons’ futures. I have four boys that I hope have the opportunity to continue to make this farmstead their home, and continue to live and prosper in North Dakota.

I hope and pray it’s not just a dream.

And by the way, if you’re looking for a place to hunt this coming fall, I can hook you up…bring your family, your friends and your neighbors!

Post of destruction

I’m not sure that words are necessary…so just watch the slide show.

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I didn’t take the picture of the Game and Fish official who stopped and had picked up a pick-up load of the carcasses. (He did give me permission to take a photo.) These were just the ones left behind, or the ones not picked up yet. It makes me sad, frustrated and wondering.

To quote the Game and Fish website, the department’s mission statement is:

“The mission of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is to protect, conserve and enhance fish and wildlife populations and their habitat for sustained public consumptive and appreciative use.”

Well, they’re failing.

A new twist

So, I’ve written quite a bit about our deer problems. But now they’ve taken a whole different turn. Now the deer are dying.

I don’t mean that one or two has met its maker in a peaceful ceremony performed by the deer-healer. No, we’re talking more than a dozen of them, all lying in our feed. I actually believe that there are at least two dozen carcasses, but I’m not interested in actually going out and counting. Here, see for yourself.

So, yeah, it’s a problem. And here’s the kicker…why are they dying? There’s plenty of feed (although, truth be told, deer aren’t meant to eat dairy-quality alfalfa, so that could be part of the problem), they’ve made nice little burrows in our haystacks, which should be providing excellent cover. Do they have diseases? Are they sick?

Next comes, what will happen to our feed? Is our herd at risk?

The master-minds at Game and Fish are supposed to be here in the morning. One of our neighbors called them this evening. It seems that one of the deer decided to die next to his house. Even kicked the house as it was taking its last breaths. I’m very sorry that the deer caused such a commotion, but I’m grateful that our neighbor called Game and Fish to complain. Perhaps if we’re not the only ones calling, they’ll start paying more attention.

Well, I better head to bed. There’ll be a long night of checking cows, since it’s so cold tonight. Plus today was a very stressful, crazy day. I’ll tell you more about it later.

If I remember.