Where are the birds?

This just out today, it's a beautiful observation from one of our Thousand Hills Cattle Co producers Vince Hundt from WI . He's sharing what may be obvious to those of us in natural farming and ranching, but apparently not enough to the majority of people, be it in the country or the city....




Where are the Birds?

By Vince Hundt


Rotational grazier and Shade Haven founder, Vince Hundt, shares his observations and concerns regarding the impact of agriculture practices on the species around us.

On a recent trip to Europe, I had the opportunity to sit in the shade with an older gentleman in the backyard of his 600-year-old château in Burgundy, France. It was a lovely setting with forest on the left and right and a 10-acre open field of green meadow between. He told some interesting stories about how things used to be and how they are now. The revolution (of 1789!) reduced the estate from 5,000 acres to 250, and he lamented the changes in France’s agriculture from small family affairs to a very intensive corn/bean industrial agriculture model. Every large tract of quality land is now planted with the same corn, soybeans, and wheat you see in the Midwest, farmed the same way with the same seed and the same chemicals. Then he said something really shocking, “The hardest thing to accept, is that the birds are all gone.” “Really?” I asked. “Do you see any? Hear any?” he replied. And much to our utter astonishment, where we sat, and as we traveled throughout Burgundy, we saw only pigeons, a few raptors, and a few shorebirds. We stopped in parks, near forests, and on rural roads to identify wildflowers and went for hours without ever seeing a single bird. Along with no birds there were apparently no insects – nothing on the windshield, nothing buzzing in our ears, no flies, gnats, or mosquitos. What is going on? Back in the USA, I’ve taken a keen interest in the bird population. On a recent 400-mile roundtrip to the north woods, I was surprised at how few avian creatures I saw anywhere. And the real stunner was the absence of mosquitoes. What is going on? In contrast, I drove my ATV to the pasture early yesterday to move my steers and was met by a flock of 50 to 75 blackbirds of a couple varieties roosting in the Shade Haven, ready to spend their day with my animals. With a quick look around, I saw grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, horn flies, swallows, more blackbirds, and some sort of chipping sparrow on the fence post. While admiring all this life and diversity, my attention was drawn to the menacing sound of a helicopter. I quickly located it about a half mile away across the valley. What was this about? I watched as it systematically worked back and forth over corn and soybean fields dispensing clouds of fungicides and insecticides. I was stunned. Who would do that sort of thing? And at $50 an acre? Are they crazy? To get a few more bushels of ethanol corn? Is there any connection between the disappearance of the insects and birds and our agricultural practices? (U.S. farmers spray more than 200,000,000 pounds of glyphosate annually!!)

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