Grazing was something new to our family, but in 2015 we took the bull by the horns and started from scratch and gave it our best go. We spent countless hours researching and visiting farms to see what the optimal environment was for our animals and our farm to thrive. Everything pointed to nature: mimic the massive herds that roamed North America and Africa (think Bison and Wildebeest). They need fresh and lush food, and need to keep moving (move away from predators, disease, pests, and their own dung). We constructed our own fenced pasture to provide twice-a-day moves to fresh "salad bars" of forage, a technique coined by Joel Salatin. It was relatively straight-forward, and the cows LOVED it! They were extremely healthy, happy, and FAT (a good thing)! Most of the year, during the growing season, the herd rotates around their 50 acre pasture, drinking fresh water and eating nothing other than prime pasture and organic kelp and salt. Our animals are never fed antibiotics, though in the rare occurrence that they get sick we will keep the option to treat them appropriately. Our animals are never fed or injected with hormones. Simply put, they don't need any extra "boost", their environment gives them everything they need. We are considering becoming certified organic in the coming years. In the winter when there is no more available pasture, the herd moves inside our cattle barn with access to pasture. They are fed stored and saved hay bales and haylage from the growing season.
In February 2015, we bought a starter herd of 17 Black Angus cow-calf pairs from a retiring grass-fed beef producer in WI, and welcomed them to their new home. They settled in quickly, and gave us 17 healthy and hearty calves starting in mid-May. We love our Black Angus cows because they are calm, friendly and grow very quickly to a big size (HUGE STOMACHS)! We don't have to mention the quality of Black Angus meat, they are the most well-known breed for that.
Along with our Black Angus nucleus, we purchased a handful of Red Devon females and a bull in order to grow
our herd. We hope to expand our herd 5-fold, and we intend on having Devon being our breed of choice. We only have 5 right now, but our bull will change that when calving starts in Spring 2016.
Devon are one of the best breeds for grass-fed environments, and are used around the world in hot and cold climates due to their thick hides and hardiness, and efficiency in eating grow. They are
smaller, curly-haired, and extremely docile! On top of all of that, they produce gourmet quality beef that is craved by anyone lucky enough to have tried some.
2015 went so well, we decided to expand our pasture another 30 acres, and bought 10 more grass-fed cows in December. This time the breed was American Galloway. They resemble the Black Angus cows, but are much smaller, and are really curly! They should be "superstars" on our farm. We are happy with how our herd will grow from here. Lots of diversity (just like what's found in nature) and prime genetics.
We keep saying it, because it is true: "our pastures are LUSH!" We were pleasantly shocked by how well our seed mix of 18 different species (native grasses and legumes, and some medicinal herbs) established and grew. It is truly a buffet of food. It is also incredible habitat for wildlife and pollinators. In our first year, it quickly became a sanctuary for monarch butterflies, and was a convenient nectar source for our own beehives. Both butterflies and bees, like most pollinators, are diminishing in population locally and nationally. Not much beats walking out in the pasture with monarchs fluttering past you and a soft, low buzzing of bees making sweet honey from clover! Come see it for yourself, it is healing. How will it look after year 1???