Geophagia Calves

Calves in sandpit enjoying a natural earth lick.

There is actually a term for eating the earth, geophagia (geo = earth; phagia = eating).  So what are the health benefits?

  • Minerals
  • Clay absorbs toxins

This article from Answers covers more topics than geophagia, scroll down to the section “Eating Dirt” for a little further reading.

Our pastures contain remnants of past glacier activity in this part of Nebraska.  As the glaciers receded, sand, gravel and boulders were deposited across our farm.  The exposed “sand pit” the calves are visiting in the photo above has very fine sand with clay.  We have a few of these open sand areas across the farm where the vegetation is sparse.  When the cattle move into these areas they take advantage of the naturally available minerals and clay.

Licking clay off calf

Momma cow cleaning “dirt” off her calf.

As you can imagine, we and the cows, prefer vegetative cover and not bare soil patches in our pastures.  Since the majority of our pastures are covered with grass, we can count on the local badger population to create small exposed earth patches all across the farm.  When our herd encounters these badger earth piles, they will paw, scratch and lick the earth.  During fly season the cattle will use their hooves to throw the “dirt” onto their bellies and backs as fly repellant.

In addition we offer clay as part of our mineral program to allow animals to self medicate when bare earth is not available.  A quick search of the internet will give you ideas on how to add clay to your medicine cabinet also.

Please leave a comment if you have experience with the health benefits of clay as part of your diet.

Broilers on fresh grass.

Broilers on fresh grass.

Prior to our start with cattle, we practiced pasture animal production using poultry.  Specifically chickens known as “broilers”, birds bred and raised for their meat, not eggs.  Pasture poultry production is a fairly easy process.  Day old chicks arrive in the mail.  Their first few weeks are spent inside, protected from the elements.  At around three weeks of age the young birds move to a portable (floorless) shelter.  The shelter provides protection from weather but more importantly, security from predators.  Without a floor, the chickens are free to pick and scratch through grass and excrete their waste right onto the soil.  The shelters are moved daily to a fresh patch of grass.

Fresh grass is the key to chicken health.  They do consume grains for a large part of their diet, but you would be amazed at the amount of grass a chicken will eat.  In addition to grass and grain, chickens love to feast on any unsuspecting bug.

In the end, a healthy pasture raised broiler in your grill, skillet, oven or crock pot will translate into a happy healthy family.  Email us for current or future availability of pasture poultry.

Our farm is located in the tall grass prairie region of eastern Nebraska.  A rare remnant of this tall grass prairie exists within our pastures yet today. Most people are familiar that historically a key component of the grassland ecosystem involved large roaming herds of grazing bison.  When we arrived in 1997, the prairie was in a degraded state, in a large part due to lack of grazing.  A system built and maintained by the interaction of growing plants and foraging animals will decline when animals are removed.

Early efforts to restore the native prairie on our farm involved chain saws, herbicides and fire.  The initial results were dramatic, invasive species declined and native species rebounded, but soon the grasslands returned to a stagnant state.  Fire, mechanical and chemical inputs created an attractive short-term response but did not restore the key need of animal impact on growing plants.

July 2011 our first cattle arrived, 10 heifers (females) and a bull (male).  You could say we became a “farm” at this point because we began producing livestock.  From another point of view, the cattle restarted the biological processes that will bring balance back to the overall ecosystem.

We believe what we began on this small piece of land is for the betterment of the soil, water, plants, animals, our community and the world.  In early 2013 we were surprised and honored to be recognized by the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society with the 2012 NSAS Beginning Farmer Award.Beginning Farmer Award 2012

You can read more about the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society at http://www.NebSusAg.org/.

Here we will share our experience on a small “grass based farm”.  Maybe you are interested in some of the same things we are?
grass fed cow and calf

Soil, grass, animals, sunlight and management equals regenerative health.

  • Enjoyment and health benefits of grass based animal products
  • Local foods
  • Environmental harmony of grass and animal production
  • Tall grass prairies, soil, water and wildlife
  • Animal welfare and care of working livestock

Located 15 miles Northwest of Lincoln, Nebraska, we look forward to any feed back that is shared; your experiences, questions or comments.

 What topics related to our site interest you?  Feel free to leave a comment.