Why raise animals on pasture?
First and foremost is the aspect of animal welfare. Happy animals are healthy animals. We do not believe in raising animals in
overcrowded situations. Animals raised
in that type of environment are typically fed large amounts of antibiotics
simply due to the prevalence of disease in those situations, and
that’s not good for anybody.
Secondly, we are stewards of the Earth. If we take care of it, it will take care of us. To raise animals intended for food in large confinement facilities requires an astonishing amount of commercial grains. Planting, cultivating, harvesting and transporting these grains demands millions of gallons of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. This is not a sustainable approach to feeding the population of this planet. Eventually this type of food system will collapse.
One final reason to focus on raising animals on pasture is the flavor and nutritional value. If you have ever had pasture raised meat versus meat that was raised using conventional industrial agricultural methods you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, go try it for yourself and I won’t have to bore you talking about it. You won’t be sorry!
For the last two seasons we have raised broad breasted whites. They have worked well with faster gains and a shorter time to finish requiring fewer inputs. There is no comparison between store bought turkeys to fresh, pasture raised turkey.
The laying hens are rotated through our
including the horse pastures. We do this for two reasons. First, they
break up and break down the manure the horses leave in the field. They
help clean up any parasites left in the soil, reducing the need to used
commercial de-wormers on the horses. During the summer we raise the standard Cornish Cross and Red Ranger broilers in
movable chicken tractors. In following with our “slow food” model the Red Rangers take several more weeks (12) to reach maturity and while they have less breast meat the flavor is unmatched. The Red Rangers have proven to forage well on
pasture, limiting the need for supplemental grains.
For the last several years we have been successfully raising pastured duck. If you think of the greasy duck you used to get, think again. Our focus has been on both Saxony and Ancona Ducks. They are a wonderful breeds. Not only do they thrive on pasture and provide exceptional meat, they also produce fantastic eggs. Most of our ducks produce around 260 eggs per year. They definitely give our laying hens a run for their money.
Duck eggs have twice the protein that a chicken egg does. We’ve found that it’s better to cook them at a lower temperature for a little bit longer to prevent them from getting a little rubbery. If you’re a baker, duck eggs are for you. Used in baking, the results are a rich, moist, and delicious. Try it!
Pasture raised heritage rabbits has proven to be the perfect niche market for us. For several years we have worked heavily with American Chinchilla and Cinnamon Rabbits. While we love both breeds we have found that there is not enough breeders left in the Northeast to promote healthy genetic diversity and are now focusing our efforts on cross breeds that exhibit excellent hybrid vigor and animals that thrive on pasture. It is truly a shame to see these breeds slip into oblivion but when there are not enough people supporting the breeds and diverse genetics you can quickly breed your lines into a corner. Which is what has happened for us.
Our current focus is on Mule sheep, which is any hill breed ewe (usually scottish blackface or cheviot) that has been crossed with a Blue Faced Leicester ram. The progeny from this cross have the excellent mothering ability of the hill ewes, and the larger frame and wool quality of the Blue Faced Leicester. When the mules are then crossed back with a meat type ram (we are currently using dorpers) the result are fast growing lambs with excellent hybrid vigor and excel on pasture without adding grain to their diet.
We also maintain a small flock of katahdin ewes. These are a hair sheep that we raise for the table. They also fit nicely in our eco grazing program. Since they do not have wool we can graze areas heavy in brush that would otherwise get stuck in wool.
We seasonally raise a small number of crossbred pastured pigs. They fit well into our multispecies rotational grazing. As well as operate as a much needed clean up/fall tilling crew in the gardens.