It has been a crazy winter around here. We have had a couple health related issues keeping us down, and as a result, we have been unable to keep up with the site, but they will straighten out rather directly. First off, I (Dave) need to have a back surgery to replace a herniated disc I suffered years ago that has refused to disappear. After every possible attempt at non-surgical fixes, this fall it decided it had enough. I go on Thursday (March 3) to have the protruding disc removed and patched. That will have a big effect on my ability to be productive for a couple months. But, I am useless now as it is, so with rest we will be back in business. What does that mean for the farm? Well, significant changes in how we operate. We had already been discussing changes when the big blow-out occurred, so we just sped up the process. Necessity makes decisions a whole lot easier. One major change will entail our beef. We have gone to a cow/calf operation. We are no longer offering sides of beef for sale. We will wean calves and sell them direct to other finishers. That does not mean we have nothing to sell, though. We will be offering ground beef by the pound from our older cows that are no longer breeding. Mature animals are generally better marbled and more flavorful. They will make great burger. We are also finished with corn silage. In April, our cattle will never again see corn in their diet. We will become a 100% grass-fed system. To take matters further, we will be grazing our cattle longer into the fall and winter and turning them out sooner in the spring. We will not be bringing them into the barn daily and feeding them. They have 4 hooves and big stomachs. They love to eat and choose their diet. Instead of baling hay and storing it in the barn to feed them, we will stockpile the right grasses (some grasses last longer than others) and leave them in the pasture. The cows will be moved daily all fall/winter until the snow prohibits them from foraging (believe it or not we are talking 18-24 inches) . This winter, had we been set up, we could have grazed all year. No additional food. Will that be every year, no. So plan B is to store hay in the barn and feed as needed. This hay will not be the daily staple, however. Each year we replace only the hay we use. No more. Our fuel consumption (a negative environmental impact) will decrease and our animal health will increase.
The pigs will stay as they are, happy in the fields, but we will be selling primarily feeder hogs. Finishing fewer off. For a couple years we are backing down from the finishing off of animals. We need to get the operations in order before we start back up. We will still produce eggs from our pastured flocks and finish a couple hundred broilers on pasture. But we will not be finishing as many chickens as we had in the past. Our animals are extremely important to our management, so they will not be leaving the farm for good. We depend on them to keep the fields and pastures in order and keep minerals and nutrients cycling. We actually anticipate an increased presence of cattle and layers in the future.
As for our crops....they are another ball game! See our next post to follow in a couple days for that program. We are very excited to be unveiling the vegetable program. It could change the way consumers see the food system altogether!