Now That Winter Is Near

This week on the farm…


Our bull, back with his harem

After a nine month hiatus, the bull rejoined the group. Now the cows, calves, steers, heifers and bull are all reunited into one large ruminating mass. Together they will roam their early winter haunt, a large area of about 160 acres full of stockpiled forage: native warm season grasses, non-native orchard grass and clover, and, last but not least, fescue. The fescue can be problematic during the summer because it carries an endophyte (a microorganism that lives between plant cells) that can cause “toxicosis.” But during the winter, fescue is a grass that stays green often into late January, which gives the cows fresh forage at a time when little else is available.


American White Park Cattle

Adding the bull to the mix now means that there will be new calves late August (gestation for cows is 283 days). But we have 37 cows, and one bull can only “service” about 25. So we are looking to buy a new bull, an American English White Park (yes, a “park” is a breed of cattle). Our thinking is that, as climate change becomes more of an issue in the coming years, lighter colored cattle will be able to deal better with the heat. To this end, we are hoping to phase out our Angus cows, all of whom are black haired, and replace them with the white Park genetics. The Parks also happen to have a cute black button nose, which of course is fun to look at. And although we have liked the temperament of the Red Devons we bought two years ago, they also have horns…which can be a bit scary on a 1600 pound animal.

The goats in their winter home, with a house and toys

The goats too are enjoying the time with their buck, Bucky. The gang of 13 moved from the land around our blue farmhouse (where they grazed on multiflora rose and honeysuckle most of the summer) to the main farm where John grew up, two miles down the road. Now they have access to the old-hog-house-turned-goat-house and can amuse themselves by jumping on and off an electric wire spool 1000 times a day. They also have a large space on which to run around, although they rarely “run” in their free time — their preferred method of play is to stand on their hind legs and slam into each, horn to horn.


The cattle forage on their winter "stockpiled" grasses

All of the animals spending more time in each area and not moving daily means our time is freed up to take care of other projects like fixing fence and finishing the trim in the old farmhouse. We may even get a closet door or two installed before next summer.


And with our long, dark nights? Last night we set an alarm to get up to look at the lunar eclipse. The pitch black dark of the winter, country night sky is a wonderful place to see the moon and stars, even through windows in the warmth of the house.

 

Are you an ebook reader?

If you have not gotten your copy of Bet the Farm: The Dollars and Sense of Growing Food in America, the ebook is on sale! You can purchase the electronic (or hard back) copy through the publisher at IslandPress.com or via Amazon.


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