The Buffalo Herd
Grazing tall: high-density, short-duration impact
We just moved the herd in this picture, and these cows and calves will be on half-an-acre of ground for several hours, mimicking a herd of wild ruminants moving across a landscape. The forage is tall, creating lots of quantity, quality, and diversity of nutrition. At the same time, the cows can't wander around looking for the best, so they eat a cross-section of what is before them and trample the rest. This benefits both animal and soil. The herd is moved forward every 2 - 3 hours during daylight.
The picture on the left is of the salad bar which our cows are grazing, where the stand of feed is at least three feet tall. Note the wide variety of species - fescue, orchard grass, switch grass, Indian grass, big bluestem, red clover, white clover, and numerous forbs... Sixty head of livestock will deliver over 100,000 lbs of pressure per acre to the land due to grazing, enhancing organic matter in the process.
The next picture, by contrast, is of cows grazing on a different farm. About six cows have been in that field for over six months, and the stand of grass is about 2 inches small. Short plants provide only protein for the animal and no energy, which becomes a nutritional problem over time, solved by the feeding of corn... The difference in management styles is striking.
The picture below is of a patch of "vetch" in bloom. Vetch is a perennial legume, which the sheep and cows love. We will be grazing this field in several weeks.
We enjoyed a fabulous Farm Tour this past Saturday. About 35 people were able to attend. The weather was glorious, and everything fell into place. We looked at handling facilities for beef and sheep, witnessed border collies herding the flock of ewes and lambs, discovered the water-system was malfunctioning, boarded tractor-drawn wagons and visited the cow herd, witnessed them move into shoulder-high grass, went down the laneway to meet Landis Weaver to see his calves and cows, and hear about grass-dairying, and then returned for lunch of: grassfed Morrocan burgers, soulful potato salad, local asparagus, and fresh strawberries & whipped cream over ginger pound cake. It was a fun event with great discussion, great food, and the forming of new connections among all of us.
The most important connection was made between those attending and the land itself. All of you are stewards of this farm, joining Susan and me. When you purchase our meat, you support this land and become one of its caretakers. This is invaluable, as land responds quickly to caretaking. We are a village, employing the currency of "affection" for land, animals, and food, to advance our lot and that of the greater whole to which we belong.
The picture below is of our stone circle, where Susan and I spent this past Saturday evening with a jug of water and a bottle of wine, absorbing the exhilaration of the day and the wonder behind the demanding and powerful journey we are on.
We look forward to seeing you this Sunday the 8th at the Farmers Market in Hyde Park.
Drausin & Susan
P.S. Spices in the grassfed burgers included: cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, and cayenne.