Saturday, December 14, 2019

Science is hard

In the 1990s, Management Intensive Grazing was a topic of high interest.

New Zealand had been doing it for decades and they were able to make milk, reduce the water content, put it into cans and deliver it to a Walmart shelf in Madison, Wisconsin at lower cost than the dairy farmers around Madison could put the milk into the bucket.

Dairy farmers from New Zealand found many things to criticize about how US Universities did science. Primarily, our tendency to reduce a problem down to what we saw as it component-parts and studying each part in isolation.

As a credit to the University of Wisconsin, they made an effort to address the shortcomings identified by the Kiwis. One criticism was that it does not matter how many tons of hay a grass variety makes if the cows don't eat it. No food through the cow's mouth means no milk in the bucket.

The Wisconsin experiment involved planting a checkerboard of different grass varieties reported as being good for pastures. The checker-board squares represented multiple selections of multiple species. The checkerboards were grazed five times through the growing season or on roughly 4 week intervals.

The standing dry-matter was measured before the cows went in with a weighted pressure plate tool (the standard for the time) and was measured afterward.

The percentage of grass that had been grazed on each checkerboard square was visually estimated when about half the standing dry-matter had been grazed off.
In absolute terms, the best performing species/cultivar produced three times as much dry matter as the lowest performing species/cultivar. In percentage terms, the best performing species/cultivar performed twice as well as the lowest performing species/cultivar. AND, depending on the metric, the highest and lowest are not the same cultivars.

In the report, the raw data was tabulated as well as the percentage of the variety within the trial.

This is when the scientists and the engineers (maybe even the accountants) look at the chart and ask, "Why isn't it a straight line?"

The answer is that the trails were run across multiple sites and across multiple years. Different sites have different types of soil. Different years have different amounts of rainfall. The "Percent of trial average" is an attempt to handicap the cultivar by the year/site space.

The Kiwis
At this point, the Kiwis were smirking like crazy-mad.

Maybe they grudgingly gave a few points for effort but the researchers missed the point. The only two things that mattered were the weight of the milk in the milk bucket and the size of the "slice" needed to provide four hours of mob-grazing.

Since most of the research was done by working farmers, they did mostly A-B experiments which is very inefficient if you want to produce a typical, Land Grant University report. Point being, the farmer's ultimate product was a net profit making milk and the University's ultimate product was a report.

Stung by the criticism, the researchers asked for specifics.
An example of a pressure plate to measure standing dry matter. The pogo stick sticks down and contacts the ground. The weighted plate is suspended by the blades of grass. The difference is related to the amount of grass. Readings vary by "turf" vs "clump" growth habits.

Well, for one thing, the Kiwis pointed out, the correlation between pressure plate measurement and the dry matter not only varies by grass/clover species but by the growth habit of the variety. Some grass has limp, floppy blades, others are rigid and very upright. That is something that individual grazers figure out by experience on their own plots.

You don't just hand a grad student a pressure plate and tell him to write down dry matter.

"Surely, it cannot be that bad." the University scientists dismissed the Kiwis.

Total intake, tons per that per annum or were the trails run for different durations?
"Well, let's compare two trials" the Kiwis said. "Let's plot the most favorable site/rainfall trail on the same plot as the least favorable/rainfall site/year."

Can you, gentle readers, see the two separate populations? The most pernicious fact of this chart is that the worst performing species/cultivar of the most favorable site (for percent trial average) and rainfall is BETTER than the best species/cultivar from the least favorable site/rainfall for Total Intake.

A herdsman who is not minding his Ps and Qs might choose Calibra Perennial Ryegrass over Stampede Orchardgrass based on the research.

That would be an almost disastrous decision if the herdsman's soil was sandy or his region subject to six and eight week periods with no rain.

Where I screwed up
The second row looked promising.

My mistake was even less sophisticated than described above.

My laptop has a small screen. When I scrolled over to the names on the extreme left, I dropped down a row. Simple as that! I

Instead of locking onto the Festulolium that was reported to have produced 3.65 tons per acre I purchased the variety that was reported to produce 1.73 tons per acre.

Why Festulolium? Because it has great seedling vigor, like Perennial Ryegrass, but has better drought and cold resistance. Just the thing for patch repair of damaged pastures.

And in spite of all of that, 1.73 tons per acre is far more than bare dirt, which is what I have where the cattle churned the pasture to a sea of mud.

Friday, December 13, 2019

What non-US based news sources do you monitor?

A quick survey here.

Most people are rational, at least some of the time. Their perception of the universe is largely formed by the stream of information they receive and what they see as being in their best-interest.

Most people can accept that "triangulating a solution" benefits from two or three observation points that are not identical. In fact, the greater the distance between the observation posts, the more errors-of-measurement are diluted.

We are entering the Holiday season where we will be elbow-to-elbow with people we love but sometimes disagree with. One strategy to consider is to suggest that they expand the number of news sources they monitor to get wider triangulation.

They will likely say, "Fox sucks." or "No way in Hades will I visit Horn News."

In their view, those sites are hopelessly polluted by partisan politics.

Think big
What non-US sites do you visit on a daily or weekly basis? For the sake of simplicity, consider sites based in California, New York and Atlanta to be US based.

The Economist?
Russia Times?
Times of India?
The Straits Times (Singapore)?
The Australian?
Canadian National Post or Toronto Sun?

From the comments:
The Jerusalem Post h/t Ed Bonderenka
The Sun (UK) h/t Ed
Epoch Times (US but strong Asian coverage) h/t George True
Canadian Freepress  h/t George True
Al Jazeera (Middle East NOT Israel) h/t John Galt

Back to the blog post...
The benefit of using at least one non-US news source is that the non-US source is not invested in packaging the event to fit a particular narrative. Rather than leaving information out or arranging them to fit within a particular picture frame, foreign media is more likely to just report the facts and let the reader decide.

Suggesting that your much-loved family member expand their information sources may be the best way to break off the conversation...for this year.

The question on the table is: Which sources?

Fake News Friday: Aunt Nan's Calendar

The Irony, It Burns

From the Washington Examiner

Virginia Democratic officials, however, already say local law enforcement supporting these resolutions will face consequences if they do not carry out any law the state Legislature passes. 

“I would hope they either resign in good conscience, because they cannot uphold the law which they are sworn to uphold, or they're prosecuted for failure to fulfill their oath,” Democratic Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly told the Washington Examiner of local county police who may refuse to enforce future gun control measures. “The law is the law. If that becomes the law, you don't have a choice, not if you're a sworn officer of the law.”
The quote is in reference to counties forming Second Amendment sanctuaries. Note that the Second Amendment refers to the US Constitution.

Now consider how Democrats actively thwart and pervert immigration laws. Immigration is not protected under the US Constitution.

The irony, it burns.

Fake News Friday: Carbon Pipes

Thursday, December 12, 2019


The ground is frozen so feeding hay is much cleaner.

I have a friend named John who can change the oil in a 1987 Ford Bronco in a white dress shirt and not get a drop of oil on it or on him. That is not me.

I cannot walk within twenty feet of the tractor without getting mud and other brown, sticky substances on my trousers and shirt.

The flip side of the ground being frozen is the cattle had been drinking out of a pit that had filled with water. Well, now it is ice. The challenge went from getting hay to the critters without cutting the pasture to ribbons to getting them water.

I also saw that I outsmarted myself. I was in a hurry and was careless when studying what kinds of grass seed that are most appropriate to repair the torn up areas in the pasture. More details, later.

Finally, I went into town today to bathe dad. He slept until 11:30. He consented to letting me wash his face and hands. I will wash his private parts tomorrow.

He was in a peaceful state. He is ready to go and waiting for others to accept the inevitable.

He has become quite chatty.

I shared with him that I thought of his current state of life as being similar to springtime. Every spring he would itching to get out to "the cabin" and make it comfortable for the family to visit during the summer. He went to work and did his job, but he spent the weekends at the cabin and his heart and his mind were always at the cabin.

And now, more than half of "him" is up in heaven, getting the linoleum mopped, the cobwebs cleared out of the corners and the rust run out of the water pipes. He is getting the mansion-with-many-rooms ready for the rest of us, itching for the official start of summer.

He is waiting because it is not quite time. Yet.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Dad report

Dad is going through a tough patch.

I am a pessimist about these things. I predicted my grandmother's demise a dozen times before "it" happened.

Dad isn't keeping food or liquids down. Originally, I hoped it was the stomach virus going around. More than ten days have passed and vomiting occurs sooner after eating/drinking so it wasn't the virus.

The other thing that happened is that the wheels are came off the bus, support wise.

Players panicked and left their swim-lanes. One of my siblings, stunned by dad's progression, scooped him up and took him to a specialist. It can be good to have connections.

The specialist diagnosed dad as having stage 6-to-7 Dementia. The specialist changed dad's suite of medicines, including adding one that has the temporary side effects of dizziness and nausea.

Dad's wishes were very clear. He wanted to stay in his house. He does not want to be institutionalized. He DOES NOT want to go to the hospital.

I have been getting over them most days, more to support mom than anything. She is caught in the middle of this and is aware of much of the tension, magnitude if not specifics.

As a consequence, I am distracted. If dad's health trajectory continues to arc downward, he won't be inhabiting his body in a week.

One consequence for you as readers is that the blog content will be inconsistent. I will be posting to the blog as self-help therapy and as a distraction from other things. That will include a few snippets of fiction but I don't hold any hope of them coalescing into a coherent story-line.