Well it’s not quite fall yet, but our second batch of pasture poultry for the year went to grass this week.  We start the day old chicks in a chicken coop to control the temperature and keep them dry.  After three weeks they have good feather growth to withstand temperature swings and dampness from the elements.  By no means are they exposed completely to the outdoors.  A “chicken tractor” provides shelter and protection.  Plenty of fresh grass and fresh air without the worry of predators or weather.

 

Three week old broilers in their "chicken tractor" ready to move to fresh grass daily.

Three week old broilers in their “chicken tractor” ready to move to fresh grass daily.

Contact us if you would be interested in trying a chicken.  The taste is unlike anything you will find in a store.  Why?  Very few chickens grown in the USA and sold in stores actually have access to grass at any point in their life.  Grass is not required to keep a chicken alive, but when given the opportunity a chicken will readily consume grass as part of a normal healthy diet.

Feel free to stop by to see what we are talking about.

This 2011 photo was taken shortly after our herd of 10 heifers and a bull showed up on our farm.  Three years seems like a long time but in the process of turning a startup beef herd into a product you can ship to consumers, well we still have a year to go!

starting a beef herd

July 12, 2011 shortly after we started pasture grazing our herd of beef.

Prior to the herd arrival there was about six years of on and off work to prepare the farm.  Pulling old fence, cutting unwanted trees and building new fence.  Reading, attending grazing conferences, research, meeting folks and networking with people willing to give us help and advice along the way.

That is correct, four years to manufacture our first product, we hope.  Fortunately, this has been somewhat of a labor of love for us.  One good friend told us early on that to take on something like this almost requires a “calling”.  Is this our “calling”?  We are not exactly sure but God has not closed the door on this adventure yet.  Three years (1095 days) may seem like a long time when building a widget, but when working with nature this has only been 3 growing “seasons”.

Setting your clock to work on natures time is totally different from the American 8 hour day.  Feel free to contact us if you would like to visit a working grass farm and enjoy some time away from the day and take in our current season.  Three years and counting…

Calving season ended June 4th this year with the last calf – 2014.  Our herd of 8 cows all calved within 3 weeks.

newly born calf

Newly born calf resting in fresh paddock.

Being born is hard work for both the cow and the calf.  Both animals have a depressed immune system right at birthing.  Under any conditions we feel it is important to keep the herd moving to fresh paddocks away from soiled areas to prevent potential disease issues.  Calves will creep ahead to the freshest available grass and rest away from the herd.  This is easy for them to do with our single wire poly fence.  Calves simply walk under the fence while the larger herd members stay in the current paddock.  Calves will rest often over the first few days of life away from the herd but close enough to get back to mom for a meal.

resting calf

New calf resting as mom keeps watch.

Feel free to contact us if you would like to visit the farm to view the new calves.  This is a great time of year to visit with fresh grass growing and rambunctious calves bouncing around.

The first calves of 2014 have arrived.  We found these two bull calves today.  Enjoy the photos.

First calf 2014 resting.

This calf had crawled through the fence to an ungrazed paddock to relax in some fresh grass. Momma was keeping watch from just across the fence.

 

First milk - colostrum

This calf was still wet when we arrived. Within 30 minutes the calf is up and getting that first important meal of colostrum (first milk).

 

Calf travels with herd on first day.

Later in the day, bath time. Within 30 minutes the calf was up for first milk. Here he has traveled about 300 yards with the herd to a fresh paddock.

Calves are born with a summer hair coat. Calving this time of year closely matches our local wild animal birth schedule, such as deer.

What a miracle!  God Is Great!

snow grazing - cows eating snow?

Cows eating snow?

We received our first measurable snow fall for 2013 this past week.  At our farm near Lincoln Nebraska, we usually have “open” winters, which means our pastures are not covered with snow for long periods of time.  When snow does arrive, we expect our cows to dig through the snow to find their meal.  Remember our cows graze 365 days a year.  To have grass for grazing this time of year, we set aside pastures during the growing season that are not grazed.  The grass left un-grazed during the growing season is “stockpiled” for grazing this time of the year (dormant season).

Snow Grazing

Calves learning to graze through snow by watching the momma cows.

Snow covered stockpiled green forage.

Snow covered stockpiled green forage.

As you can see from the photos, our cows are grazing down through about four inches of snow to find some excellent forage.  Cattle will easily graze through snow up to their eyes.  Further North, cattle herds graze through deep snow for longer periods of snow cover than our cows have ever experienced.  Our farm is located in what past UN-L Extension Educator Terry Gompert called the “Grass Finishing Sweet Spot”, so our cows have it easier than some other grass-fed herds this time of year.  None the less, our cows are well adapted to our farm forages and climate and the cow herd is improving with each generation.

It appears the cows are grazing snow, actually they are after the stockpiled forage and getting a drink of very cold water at the same time.  We are happy to give our cow herd the chance to be as cow-like as they want any time during the year and invite you out to see cows teaching calves to graze.