Our cattle are mostly Angus and Hereford and Crosses thereof. We run a cow/calf operation because I want to develop a genetic pool in my breeding animals so as to produce cattle that will excel in an all-grass environment.
Our pastures are composed of a variety of grass and legume species including orchard grass, brome, fescue, red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and small amounts of other species for even greater variety and diversity.
Calves begin arriving in late April, just after the grass has got a good start for the season. The calves will stay with their mommas until the following Spring, at which time they will be separated into their own group so as to begin to bond with each other and also break the bond with the momma cows. After a period of a few months they will be returned to the cow herd for green-season grazing.
As a new farm owner I began to ask myself what was it that I was trying to achieve with my farm. Its previous management had left it depleted with bleak prospects for the future. Somewhere along the way I experienced an epiphany of sorts upon reading about the concept of sustainability. The logic of it was transformative and so began a realignment of my thinking. I was able to observe that so much of the agriculture around me was not sustainable: it was anti-social, it was at most marginally economical, and it was environmentally horrific. Why not start with a clean sheet of paper and design a sustainable farm, one that is life-enhancing
I enjoy watching my animals interact with their environment such that each derives benefit from the other and each contributes to the health of the other. My challenge, as the farm manager, is to control the animal/environment interface such that a mutually beneficial relationship is sustained.
We gradually restoring the organic matter that has been depleted due to a history of intensive crop farming since European settlement. Avoidance of chemical fertilizers and herbicides provides soil microbes with prime conditions in which to thrive, which then grows healthy grass which grows healthy animals. Coincidentally, organic matter is mostly carbon such that by increasing the organic matter we are also creating an enormous carbon sequestration structure within the ground which helps mitigate climate change.
Management Intensive Grazing, in which the cow herd is rotated daily, is the foundation of our animal health program. Provision of free choice salt, kelp, and apple cider vinegar along with summer shade structures also help our cattle stay healthy. Our farm's soils have been free from chemical fertilizers and herbicides for many years, leaving them rich in soil microbes which, in turn, produces healthy forages which are ultimately responsible for animal health.