Say NO to Foie Gras! **Warning: Graphic Photos**


Foie gras is French for “fat liver”, and is made from the liver of a fattened duck or goose.  The ducks and geese are fattened by force-feeding.  The force-feeding takes place on factory farms, where the birds are stuffed into small cages for their whole life, constantly being fed from a tube.  The birds can not move, and a lot of the times they can’t breathe, either.  Their liver is about 3x larger than it should be, and it almost fills their whole body cavity.

foie gras

The brutality of being force-fed sometimes leaves the bird with a broken beak.

Ducks are usually caked with food and full of diseases.

foie gras

A goose being force-fed for the harvesting of the over-large liver.

The practice of force-feeding ducks and geese was used as far back as 2500 BC, when the ancient Egyptians began keeping birds for food.  Today, France is the largest producer and consumer of foie gras, though it is produced and consumed particularly in the United States and China.

A number of countries have laws against the force-feeding of birds and the selling and producing of foie gras.  Force-feeding is a terrible practice and is pure animal cruelty.

foie gras

Ducks are force-fed and are usually covered with the food they were forced to eat. They are often left unable to move, and sometimes unable to breathe.

 

Save the Heritage Geese


“Geese are social, intelligent birds that tend to get along with other livestock, from chickens to donkeys. They may get aggressive during the breeding season, but that doesn’t mean these fowl deserve to be characterized as barnyard fiends.”

Traditions are an important part of our lives. They give you a chance to celebrate life, what you love most, and your history. Raising heritage geese is an old tradition that is rarely practiced today. Heritage geese are a traditional livestock that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture. Since no one practices this tradition anymore, the population of heritage geese is declining. These geese should be saved.

A few farms, like Dave Holderread’s Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center, Flip Flop Ranch, and Sassafras Valley Farms, stick to their tradition of raising heritage geese. Connie, owner of Sassafras Valley Farms, said on her website that “We are one of the very few farms that raise geese in this part of Missouri, and people call me the goose lady, owner of the oddball farm (as far as pastured animals go), but I find the title, ‘goose lady,’ endearing.”

Flip Flop Ranch is known for its collection of Cotton Patch geese. The owner of the Cotton Patch geese, Tom Walker, once said:

“Over a period of three or so years I traveled more than 10,000 miles to Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee trying to find as pure as possible some Cotton Patch geese. I have breeding pairs representing the best that I could find during that time. I hope that there are enough good quality Cotton Patch geese remaining to re-establish this lovely, mild-tempered goose to its erstwhile purity.”

I have raised geese for only a year, but I am already in love with these birds. I am willing to carry on the practice of raising heritage geese for many years to come, and I hope that future generations will find that raising geese is special, too.

Heritage geese are on the brink of extinction because they are not often raised. When geese first came to America, they got their place as a number one source of meat, eggs, fat, down, and feathers. In fact, goslings and geese were used for weeding large fields of corn, cotton, and more. However, when the commercial farming of chickens and turkeys came into existence, the number of geese sadly declined.

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) found that four of the domestic goose breeds were critically endangered, or close to extinction. That means their numbers were less than 500 breeding birds. Those four breeds are the American Buff, Pilgrim, Pomeranian, and Roman. Added to the list are the Cotton Patch and the Shetland. The Sebastapol (a Russian breed that is identified by its curly feathers) is classified as rare, with less than 1,000 breeding birds. The African, Chinese, and Toulouse geese are in the Watch category, meaning that there are fewer than 5,000 breeding birds.

The number of the Heritage geese is still declining. The geese serve as an important genetic resource (non-heritage breeds, like the industrial form of the Toulouse goose, are descendants of the heritage breeds), and when these breeds become extinct, their unique genes are lost forever. That way, they can’t be used to make new and improved breeds. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy stated:
“A conservation study is underway because of concern that the genetic base for the [Shetland] breed in the United States may be too narrow to sustain.”

The disappearance of heritage geese means losing part of our history that we cannot get back. To save the heritage geese, raise your own to help get raising geese back in business. Also, donate to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy to help them find out how low the population of geese is, and spread the word.

For many years, people have feared geese because of recent attacks. However, geese aren’t always aggressive. Geese can be very territorial, but only because they aren’t used to being neared by humans, and because they see us as predators, so they are afraid. But, when bonded with someone, they turn into a great pet. Wouldn’t it be awesome to say that you have a pet goose that follows you around and eats out of your hand? Yes, geese are sweet when given the chance to bond.

But that’s not why I’m writing this post. The reason why- geese are going extinct or endangered due to the fact that very few farms raise them. Seven of twelve heritage breeds of geese (What are heritage geese?) are going extinct. One of them, the Cotton Patch goose, has only about 224 geese left. Help them by adopting a goose.

What good are heritage geese?

Geese are useful in many ways. They make great pets, they are great for meat and eggs, they make fancy lawnmowers, and they are amazing guard dogs. Different geese equals different temperaments and uses- so the right breed could be a great addition to your home.

How would I take care of heritage geese?

Geese are easy to take care of. All they need is fresh water, feed, a good shelter, and a place to graze (well, now they sound like cows! Haha) See these websites to learn about care for geese:

http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/livestocksystems/di1190.html

http://www.nt.gov.au/d/Content/File/p/Anim_Man/272.pdf

http://www.hobbyfarms.com/livestock-and-pets/raising-geese-14963.aspx

(Medicated feed is not recommended. Hiland Naturals sells organic feed. Tractor Supply sells feed that will work for geese.)

What heritage breed of geese should I get, and how many?

For the breed of geese, I would take one listed under Critical on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy. Click the names of the breed to learn more about them. If you are someone looking for a pet goose, one will work well when you have a lot of time to spend with it. A pair (both of the same sex if you are not looking to breed geese) would work if you do not have much time. If you live on a farm, several pairs will work, depending on how much acreage you have.

Where would I get my heritage geese?

Here are a list of hatcheries. You may have to search for local breeders of heritage geese.

Meyer Hatchery

Metzer Farms Hatchery

Holderread Waterfowl Farm & Preservation Center

Ridgway Hatcheries

http://www.manta.com/mb_44_C00FE_36/poultry_hatcheries/ohio

I can’t adopt a heritage goose. Is there any other way to save the geese?

If you aren’t able to adopt a heritage goose, help save the geese by donating to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy (ALBC). Donate to ALBC. Another way you can save the heritage geese is to spread the word, and support the heritage goose farms around you.

Thank you for your support!

Save the Heritage Geese!

Click Here to see the previous post on the story of a gosling.

Desi, our Brown African Goose

Desi, our Brown African Goose, waiting for a treat.

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Jack, our Toulouse goose.

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How to Tame A Goose


So, lets say that you just brought a new goose home.  This goose might be mean and freaked out for the first few days.  But then you notice that it still is mean, but a little less freaked out, a few weeks later.  You try to treat it like a dog- you tell it no, stop, and you do not move out of the way.  That only made it worse.

Geese aren’t like dogs.  Geese are very territorial, and if you stand up to them and make them believe that you are the boss, they find you as a threat.  The best thing to do is to stand aside a few days.  Then try to tame your bird again- without treating it like a dog.  Here are some great tips for taming your goose.  Good luck!

1. Water bottles won’t work!

2. Make eye contact with the gander at all times.  No gazing at the geese!

3.  Look small and look less like a threat.

4. Most of all, talk softly.

5. Offer them treats.  Crouch down and hold out some corn or oats.  (Our geese, Jack and Jill, now run up to me whenever I crouch!)  If they bite because they don’t know how to eat this way, don’t react harshly.  I find that geese usually have a harder time with whole corn.

6.  Let them know that you take care of them- keep them supplied with water and feed.

7.  If they hiss, do not hiss back.  It only makes it worse.  Just step aside and keep eye contact with the gander.  You can also talk softly to the birds while doing so.  It helps them calm down a bit more.

8. Try not to pet them, and avoid handling them until you know that the gander does not see you as a threat.  No picking up geese with the gander around.

After a few weeks of this, you will have a “pet” goose!  Geese tame easily and are great companions afterwards.  This is what we did with all of our geese.

Update on the Farm


Yay!  Our Embdens have started laying- I guess a hen wanted to start a nest in the middle of winter.  Not a good idea for hatching babies.  We get about one every other day, and she will keep laying for a while if we keep taking the eggs from her.  I hate doing it, but we can’t have goslings running around this year!

egg comparison

Our goose, duck and chicken eggs.

Olga (the goose that had to get surgery done) is running around happily with good-looking wings.  I’m so glad we could help her!  My favorite hen, though, died.  We first noticed that she had bumblefoot and we put her in the recovery pen.  Then we applied some drawing salve on her foot (we did not want to do surgery and that is all we could think of- it seemed to work) and wrapped it up.  A week later Henrietta got let out of her pen.  She met my rooster for the first time in a while (not a good idea!!!), and obviously Little Peep had to mate her.  Thing is, she could not get up- I pick her up and set her down, but she could not (or would not) stand.  She kept falling to her side.

We put her back in and she kept getting worse.  We soon learned that she had chicken cancer.  Not too common, mostly occurs in chickens 2 years or older.  She died a few days later.  Can’t save them all.

But other than that, it has been a good year so far.  Just rolling along:D  Could do without the cold, though. We have to go out every hour to clear the ice from the water tubs and make sure that there are no problems with the birds.  Little Peep already has bad frostbite- his wattle fell off!   Poor rooster- we were already picking on him because he was born with one wattle (the other is stuck to the side of his face).  Now he is picked on because he only has half a wattle left!

Shetland Geese


shetland geese save the heritage geese

Pair of Shetland Geese- Rare Autosexing Geese: Gander (Male) on Left, Goose (Female) on Right

The Shetland goose, in my opinion, is probably one of the most rare breeds that is alive today.  The Shetland is listed under Critical with the statement from ALBC:  “A conservation study is underway because of concern that the genetic base for the [Shetland] breed in the United States may be too narrow to sustain.”

The Shetland is, of course, derived from the Shetland Islands.  The breed is very hardy and will forage for most of its food.  The birds make excellent mothers and setters- and lay about 30+ eggs yearly.  The birds weigh up to 12-14 pounds at maturity.  The Shetland is a flying breed.

The Shetland goose is also auto-sexing.  You’ve probably heard this often in this blog.  If you are new, though, auto-sexing means that you can automatically tell the difference between the male and female just by looking at them.  The ganders (males) are pure white, while the females (geese) are white and grey pied.

(I will be adding a glossary for the poultry breeds soon.)

Update on Olga, Our Sebastopol Goose


Olga’s conditions kept getting worse.  Every bandage we put on her never worked.  So I did some research and closely inspected Olga to find out that not only does she have angel wing, but she also has two to four infected broken blood feathers.  To fix this the broken feathers need to be removed, or pulled out.

So the plan was to build her a small box for her to recover in after the surgery.  There she would stay, in the warm garage, for a few weeks.  The pen is nothing fancy, just built with a small frame and wire fencing around, because geese do not need too much restraining.

sebastopol goose

Olga after surgery, in her new pen.

Here is what you need for a broken blood feather “surgery”:

  • two towels
  • strong tweezers or pliers
  • Veterycin
  • hand towel to stop the bleeding
  • cornstarch
  • and anything else that is okay for waterfowl that will stop infection.
  1. Place the goose on a clean surface.  Place one towel over the head, leaving the nostrils exposed.  Have cornstarch, hand towel, and Veterycin ready.
  2. Make sure the goose is restrained.  You do not want to hurt the bird.  Take the pliers and grip the base of the broken feather and pull.
  3. The feather will come out, as well as blood.  Put a dab of cornstarch on the opening, and squeeze with the hand towel to stop bleeding. Spray with Veterycin (as well as a few more things to stop infection, like liquid colloidal silver or iodine).
  4. After this, you should have a pen set aside with no other animals in it.  Make sure that the pen is sanitary and the goose has fresh, clean water and food as well as bedding.  After a few days you may want to bandage it, but leave it alone for a while- the goose will be in pain.

Unfortunately I did not get pictures (but oh well, I just wanted to get Olga patched up so that she wasn’t in pain anymore).  We are leaving her alone for a day for her to get rested and calmed down.  Each day we respray the Veterycin to stop any infection.  Hopefully she will get better soon.  The poor girl is really freaked out right now!  She has never really been handled.  It is a big change for her.

sebastopol goose

Olga, a few days before the surgery.

Updates on the Farm


The new geese are settling in nicely. The geese are coming up to us and taking a little bit of chicken scratch from my hand. But the new geese are not pure bred, and the Sebastopol geese are in horrible shape. That is why it is important for you to look at the birds before you buy them.
Olga (our Sebastopol female) has Angel Wing. Her wings stick out from her body. The tips of her wings froze and bled, so we had to isolate her and Ivan. They are now in the barn, with panty hose stretched over themselves.
The panty hose keeps the wings pinned to their sides, and it keeps the wings in their natural position. It also helps stop freezing (because the wings stick out, they do not get enough heat and they freeze and bleed).
So the two Sebs get to stay in Jack and Jill’s old pen.

New Page Coming Soon!


New update! There is a new section on “Poultry Breeds” coming soon!