Monday, June 16, 2014

Out To Pasture - Where Our Meat Comes From

We believe that animals are meant to be free to move around, skip and play, roll in the dust or wallow in a puddle on a hot day. And because of that we raise all our animals on pasture, even the ones we are keeping for meat. Sheep are the last animals to come into the barn while they deliver their lambs and then they are the first back outside once the weather permits. They have shelter from the wind, rain and cold as do all our animals from Chickens with their hoop houses to our upcoming pigs who will also roam free and have small huts for shelter.

Because we plan on using our animals to renovate the fields that have been left in such a sorry state of neglect, we have a specific plan to use them in rotation:
-First the sheep will graze down the grass, benefiting from the lush growth for a few weeks.
-Next the pigs will come behind them plowing, treading and rooting up the soil.
-The chickens will come last for their turn and after they've scratched through the turned up soil we'll plant a cover or grain crop depending on what we need.
-After we harvest our grain crop we'll have the sheep back up again for a trim up before planting a winter feed crop of turnips, mangles and kale for the animals to graze.

Somewhere in this rotation we'll include turkeys, probably in their own fields away from the chickens to avoid that horrible disease 'Blackhead'. The goats have a specific purpose in that they are going to clear out the brush in and around the pasture. And if I haven't totally lost you up to this point you should be wondering what happened to the pigs? Where did they go? Well, for the hottest months we'll have them in the cool, shady and damp area between the orchard and the river where they can wallow, root through the woods for interesting things and enjoy the sunny pasture or shady woodland as they desire.

The benefits to this system are that the animals will not pass any parasites to each other and so they'll die off due to lack of a specific host, greatly reducing numbers of worms without medication or other chemicals. We feed Diatomaceous Earth already which helps. Another benefit is that we get to feed our animals good grass as part of their food and they are helping to prepare the soil for later plantings. Their dung is increasing the soil fertility and after the winter feed crops are eaten we'll be seeding new pasture seed which benefits everyone. To cover the 5 cleared acres we've got should take 2 years to do it well but of course it will depend a lot on the soil fertility and moisture in July and August, none of which we can control.

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