Poppy George's Farm Advice: Beefalo, Goat's Milk, and Termites

"Poppy George" Plitt answers homesteaders questions about the disadvantages of beefalo, goat's milk for babies, termite problems, and other homesteading insights.

| July/August 1975

"Poppy George" Plitt graduated from college with a degree in agriculture in 1932 During the years that followed he made good many friends and a name for himself (as a gentleman, inventor and executive) in the field of bird and animal husbandry and care. At various points in his career, Mr. Plitt served as Director of Nutritional Research and Field Services for two of the East's larger grain mills. He is also the originator of Pride of the Valley Wild Bird Food and Kleen Kitty cat litter. Mr. Plitt now raises and trains standard bred horses and keeps a wide variety of other birds and animals on a New York farm. "Poppy George" is now sharing his experience by giving MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers down-to-earth farm advice on the care and feeding of homestead livestock. 

QUESTION: Poppy George, I've been reading about a breed of cattle called "beefalo" . . . a cross between a buffalo and a regular beef-breed female. Do you feel that these animals have potential enough to warrant an investment on my part, in spite of their expense?

ANSWER: "Beefalo" — or "cattalo", as they're sometimes called — result from the crossing of a buffalo (bison) bull with females of domestic beef cattle breeds. In my opinion, the only advantage of this hybridization is that the offspring have a high degree of tolerance to cold and are well suited to northern climates.

On the other hand, cattalo have several drawbacks: [1] The hybrid is less efficient — per pound of gain — than a straight beef breed in utilizing digestible nutrients. [2] As the proportion of buffalo blood increases with each cross, the offspring become heavier in the front end of the carcass (from which the lower-priced cuts of meat are obtained). (Although males of the first generation of such a cross are usually sterile, cattalo unlike mules — are able to reproduce.MOTHER.) [3] One would expect the breeding of bison bulls to domestic cows to result in a higher than normal mortality of calves at birth.

A final caution; If you decide to buy a buffalo bull in spite of these disadvantages, be sure your pasture fences are extra strong.

QUESTION: I have an excess of goat's milk and would like to sell it for human baby formula. Can you tell me how this food compares to cow's milk?

ANSWER: Goat's milk is an excellent product if obtained under sanitary conditions (i.e., if the doe's flanks and udder are clipped, the teats washed with a clean cloth and dried before milking, the milker's hands well scrubbed, and a clean pail used).

Goat's milk contains 4.1 percent more fat than that of a cow . . . in smaller globules which are more digestible by infants. The doe's yield is also higher in protein by 3.6 percent and in lactose (milk sugar) by 5.1 percent. Good luck in your marketing!

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