Moving On From Grassfed Beef

When we first moved to the farm we wanted to gain experience in lots of different farming endeavors and ultimately choose the ones that worked best for us and our land. We knew from the beginning that raising goats on our land would work. It was obvious just by looking at the pastures. Wild blackberry, multi-flora rose, lespedeza, ironweed, and many other "weeds" and "noxious" plants were growing everywhere. It happens that many of these plants are great forage for goats. Thus far we've been right. The goats are thriving, we've had almost zero illnesses, no losses and they're giving a bunch of milk on very minimal feed.

Pigs also make a lot of sense for us. We have about half of our acreage in woods, which provides an excellent habitat for the Ossabaw hogs. They can root, eat the mast, make wallows and be happy pigs. It's a great companion to the goat dairy as well. For every 10 pounds of milk used in cheesemaking, only about 1lb of milk soilds end up as cheese. The other 8-9 pounds would typically go down the drain as whey. Or in our case we'd need to build a lagoon for it. So instead we feed it to the pigs. This left over fluid is full of whey protein and other vitamins and minerals that are not captured during the cheesemaking process.

So pigs and goats fit perfectly. Unfortunately, the idea of raising grassfed beef just didn't make sense. Much of our forage base is not palatable to cows. Fattening up a beef on grass takes a very skilled grazier utilizing high quality forage. If the beef does not gain a certain amount of weight before finishing it won't be well-marbled. That's why so many consumers have had bad experiences with eating grassfed beef. It's very hard to do well, and the people that do it well are few and far between. Sure, we could grow out some beef cows and get them slaughtered, but would it be the best beef you've ever had? Probably not, and that's not what we're aiming for.

Over the past couple weeks we sold Joplin to a neighboring farm and processed Janis for beef. We miss them, but it was the right decision for the farm. Narrowing our focus also helps free up some time for when the baby arrives!



New Farmstead Goodies & A Sneak Peek

We're very excited to share some new farmstead goodies being released in our Shop today!

After our first release and a successful holiday season with our original Farmstead Milk Soap collection of Milk, Oat, and Lavender, we decided to expand our horizons with 4 new soaps for Valentine's day. We thought it could be the perfect time to play around with some fun ideas we'd be having (like local beer in soap), so for a few months we locked ourselves in the "soap cave". We experimented and tested (on ourselves and friends - no animal testing here!) until we emerged with these four new soaps that we love and that will hopefully make some people smile this Valentine's day. You can read more about our Activated Charcoal, Clay & Kefir, Cocoa Stout, and Rose bars here!

For sometime we've been getting lots of requests for a lip balm, but wanted to wait until we had something really special. We had starting making our own salves this past summer and have enjoyed using them on sore muscles and scrapes this fall and winter. Eureka! Why not make a lip salve? We started infusing different oils and nut butters with the calendula and comfrey we had grown in our gardens (following organic practices). Both are known for their extraordinary abilities to soothe and heal and have proven to be the perfect match for the blend certified organic oils and butters we use to craft the salve. They're available in Naturally (unscented), Geranium Rose, Lavender, and Wildwood. Check them out and let us know what you think!

Finally, we wanted to leave you with a sneak preview of the final piece of the new release - His and Hers Valentine Gift sets featuring the new Farmstead Milk Soaps, Herbal Lip Salves, and new note cards made from my sketches. We're a tad delayed on getting it in the shop (printing issues - ugh), but they should be available early next week if not sooner. Here's a little peek at one of the sets:

Thank you all so much for your support!


Grazing in the Winter - Speed Up or Slow Down Rotations?

Willow grazing on a sunny November morning This is our first winter on the farm and the shift in seasons has posed a lot of new hurdles, including the grazing situation.

Over the past few weeks the pastures have slowly transitioned from bright, green grass to a brown, stemmy, seedy mess. The cows tend to seek out the green stuff, buried below the dead grass. The goats seek out cold-hardy “weeds”, such as rose, privet, cedar, and other small bushes/saplings. Both the cows and the goats are eating through their paddocks about two or three times as fast as in the summer. There's less available forage in each particular paddock and the animals need to eat more since they're burning more calories staying warm in the cold weather.

The rapid pasture consumption brings up the dilemma of rotating them through the pastures faster or slower. There's not as much good forage in the same amount of area, so you would think that rotating the animals more quickly would be the best idea. Generally, however, I would say that slowing down the rotation would be the best idea, if possible. You push the animals to get more out of each paddock and you also give the other paddocks a longer rest period. In the winter (and other slow growth periods) you want to increase the rest periods to encourage better regrowth and reduce pressure on the forage base. That's not a hard and fast rule, everyone has their own unique circumstances.

For instance, we have a small goat herd this year and lots of pasture that hasn’t been grazed in a long time, so I’ve been increasing the rate of rotation and waiting to feed hay. So far the goats are doing very well and we haven’t fed any hay on pasture. Depending on the weather I think we might be able to go close to the whole winter without bringing the goats hay. Another reason to rotate dairy goats more quickly is because you can't push them as hard as meat animals (i.e. beef cows or meat goats). The meat animals can be pushed to "do a job" on the pasture. The dairy animals have higher nutritional requirements (particularly during lactation), so keeping them on fresh pasture is almost always the optimal solution. That means I am moving the goats at least every other day (sometimes every day), whereas in the spring/summer I might go 5-7 days.
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