Alternative Farming – Intensive Grazing

jersey_intensive_grazeAn electric fence wire held up on insulated posts is all that keeps these two heifers grazing where we want them to. The left side of the photo shows where they were the day before.

The traditional, natural, sensible, holistic method of feeding herd animals is classified today as “Managed intensive rotational grazing.” We prefer to call it the best way to raise dairy cows.

This is the way nomadic herders grazed their animals for centuries, until “modern” methods were employed to produce feed for animals on very small plots of land.

We have chosen to return to more natural ways. We practice managed intensive grazing on our land which is certified organic. Our goal, in addition to producing top-quality dairy cows, is to contribute to and protect the relationships between all the elements — the animals, the land, the plants and the watershed. Sustainability is a key concern.

Basic Principles

Pasture management has a number of specific goals, all of them interrelated:

  • Balancing the stock numbers to the forage supply
  • Ensuring a healthy plant supply and providing adequate recovery time after grazing
  • Maintaining healthy soil and water supplies
  • Meeting all animal needs and optimizing growth
  • Ensuring financial stability, ease of implementation, and stability as well as flexibility

 

electric_fence_cowElectric fence wire is nothing more than a thin poly rope woven with strands of stainless steel wire. The steel posts are wrapped with a plastic insulating material.

Our calves get raw milk from our nurse cows; all our animals forage what they like from the seasonal pastures, and they receive some supplemental organic hay…more during the winter months. That’s it. Our small herd is moved to new areas of pasture in an attempt to “manage” the feeding in the most beneficial manner possible. We do not allow any one paddock to be grazed thin. The optimum goal is to supply, when possible, all the food and nutrition the animals require through natural foraging. Our heifers grow to maturity without ever a need for additives in their feed.

They’re happy. We’re happy.

electric_heifers_fenceWe use solar power to charge all of our electric fences. 

The land itself is nourished and regenerated by the fertilizer our herd leaves behind; the natural processes and “resting” periods allow grass roots to be strengthened and new shoots to take hold. Other organisms aid the process, and we never have to plow the soil, add nutrients, spread manure or apply chemicals to help it along.
Intensive grazing is nothing new. And no one should really be surprised that it works; it’s a natural way to raise animals, it’s traditional and sensible, it’s good for the farmer, good for the animals, stimulates plant growth and nourishes the land. It makes sense.

 

intensive_grazing_jerseys

Changing Face of Food Production

Today, more than ever in recent memory, Americans are concerned with their food, and with the future of the food supply. The growth of the organic food movement, resurgence of farmers markets and the return to locally grown and seasonally available produce in many local markets has spurred a new interest in health and nutrition.
Food production, and the management and regulation of food production has changed dramatically in only the last 50 years or so. But, with the changes have come questions about the advisability of tampering with natural methods of growing and traditional wisdom. Recent public outcry about food safety and food additives have sparked national concern and international attention.

electric_jersey_cowsSix heifers form an almost perfect echelon formation as they graze towards the electric fence at left.

Our Goals Are Simple:

Because we are a family-farming operation, we view our relationship with the land, and with our animals, personally. We are committed to our stewardship of the land and the resources it offers in order to produce the best and healthiest dairy cows we can. We take our responsibilities to our customers just as seriously as we view our own quality of life.

We grow no rotational crops, and we do not plow or till the soil. Not only is our land certified organic, but we have not used chemically treated lumber even in our new, modern barn. All our fence posts are yellow locust. We walk the walk on our farm, and employ no chemicals, pesticides, hormones or antibiotics. We never will!
We seek to simplify the business of producing healthy cows. And we do it the natural way.

locust_fence_post_cows

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Farmer Guy June 24, 2014 Farming Techniques