My pigs live on pasture in a shrubby, weedy part of the farm. You can see that they've uprooted everything right up to the fence line.
I keep them in the same spot for about 2-3 weeks. That gives them plenty of time to root around and eat what they like, but is hopefully fast enough to avoid compacting the soil too much.
I'm trying something new with my lambos. I'm mixing garlic powder in with their pellets to keep internal parasites at bay. This is something that every sheep and goat farmer must work to manage in this part of the world.
Most of my experience has been with conventional deworming medicines, but they can be pretty harsh and there is the potential for the parasites to become resistant to them. My friend Joyce from Acorn Hill Farm introduced me to the idea of using an herbal regimen with her goats. She's had great results and seeing her farm in action made using less worming medication seem like a viable option.
My goal is to have a system where for the most part the parasites are controlled with garlic, diatomaceous earth and rotational grazing. I move my lambs and cows every other day so that they are always staying ahead of the parasite eggs that might be hatching in the manure they left behind. I'm basing my garlickin' regimen on what they do at SkyLines Farm. I do have a bottle of worming medicine in my vet cabinet, just in case.
Four Legs Farm is lucky to have Community Compost Company as our neighbors. Twice a week they drop off a 48 gallon bin of slightly damaged produce as treats for the piggles.
Their favorites are cabbage, kale, apples, peppers and carrots. They don't like sweet potatoes that are too big to take a bite out of, citrus or celery. But those are fun to play with anyway. Sometimes they get fancy things like papayas! I'm happy for them to have this much diversity in their diets.
I still feed them non-GMO grain from Stone House Farm in Livingston, NY. I need to make sure their calorie intake is consistent and that they're getting enough protein. Nobody ever got fat and happy on cabbage and apples alone.
This past Wednesday, the lambs and cows went out on pasture! While I knew this was going to be an exciting moment, I didn't realize how exciting.
The majority of my lambs' diet is grass, with only a little bit of grain to supplement them. When they are on pasture eating grasses and forbes growing out of the ground, this is the magic part. This is where the lambs (and cows) become part of the ecosystem.
The sunshine, rain and soil that helps the plants grow becomes food for the lambs and cows. The lambs and cows are ruminants and ferment plant material into protein in their bodies. They're making muscle and fat out of sunshine. Their poop helps the grass grow. It's amazing!
After such a cold winter it was easy to almost forget that the best part is getting to have animals out on pasture. I moved them to their next area this morning and they were all galloping!
The lambs are here! They arrived last Wednesday and are cute as all get out. They'll be grazing this season with some of Glynwood's cows to protect them from coyotes. The flock of lambs and the herd of cows is called a flerd. Which is obviously my new favorite word. Right now they are bonding in the barn and getting used to each other.
The piggies are growing fast! I've fussing over them like a new mom. It feels good to take care of animals again and get back in the habit of making sure everyone is eating and happy. The pigs are in the barnyard until the ground dries out a little more and then they'll be out on some shrubby, woodsy pasture.
My microloan from the USDA Farm Service Agency came in just in time to get me over the hump of expenses that come in the Spring. It has been wonderful to be able to get a small loan now to be able to build credit for my business. Between the loan and my Meat Share members I've been able to buy my animals, fencing and get through my first feed order. It's such a relief that to have these purchases behind me. The lambs are coming in NINE DAYS. So exciting!
The pigs are here! All 24 of them arrived on Monday. There is one red pig, three black pigs and 20 pink pigs with some black spots. Some of them have waddles (little fleshy bits hat hang by the corners of their jaws) that flap when they run and look extra cute.
Ben, the site manager and I drove up to the farm to get them with the snazzy pig box. Once they were loaded up they promptly fell asleep in a big pile like a baby on a car ride and snored little baby snores.
Right now they live in the barn and have lots of straw to snuggle into on these chilly nights. They sleep in a big pile and seem to have a rule where napping require touching at least two other pigs at any given time.
I just found out this week I was selected for the New York State Young Farmers Loan Forgiveness Incentive Program. Over the next two years, all of my student loans will be forgiven. This is the only program of its kind in the country that is currently funded. It is still a very small program and I feel incredibly lucky and grateful to have been selected.
This gives me $18,000 more dollars to put into my business in the coming years. I buy my animals locally, my feed is grown locally and my animals are processed locally.
It will be so exciting to put that money back into my community.
I hope this is the beginning of more programs that help young farmers with student debt. The National Young Farmers Coalition's campaign Farming Is Public Service is working on this at the federal level. There needs to be better options for student loans to keep my generation farming.
Before the animals arrive, I've got some serious shopping to-do for fencing, feed and putting together a veterinary kit to have on hand. My Grandma wanted to take me shopping for a birthday present so that I could pick out what I really wanted. The real answer is "I want a weedwacker", but in this case I think the correct answer is "let's go dress shopping".
Turns out garlic can be used to keep internal parasites at bay. You mix garlic with some molasses and water and give it to the sheep by mouth a few times a year. It helps to do this in conjunction with the right kind of mineral supplement. Sheep need their minerals kind of like people take vitamins. It will be in a container out on the pasture with them so they can lick at it as they please. This will be kind of an experiment for me because I haven't worked in a production system that isn't reliant on conventional wormers, but I'm happy to give it a shot.
Many of the things I need aren't readily available in stores nearby because they are kind of specialized for sheep and pigs. It makes me nervous not to have everything I could possibly need on hand in case of a veterinary emergency - I'm trying to strike a balance between being prepared and hoarding.
This week I sat down to make my grazing plan for the lambs. A grazing plan is an outline of where you expect your animals to be grazing at what time and for how long. I was maybe a little bit too excited to have an excuse to bust out my calculator. Cranking through the calculations felt like all kinds of fun muscle memory from engineering school.
The factors in play are how many animals you have, how much your animals weigh, what percentage of their body weight your animals eat every day, how many acres you have, how much grass is on those acres, how tall the grass is when the sheep get there and how tall the grass is when they leave.
It is one of those things where I'm making a lot of educated guesses and need to be prepared for the whole thing to be wrong. It might rain too much or too little at the worst time for making sure my animals have enough grass to eat.
The grazing plan has the big areas where my sheep will be over a period of weeks. I'll be moving my sheep everyday within those big areas in the Spring when the grass is at its most lush. In the Summer and Fall, I'll be moving my animals every few days when the grass slows down a little.
So far I've got through most of September planned out. I was pretty conservative in the amount of food for the lambs I'm expecting to be there and I'm trying to avoid bringing my lambs through the same piece of land three times in one season. It is better to give the grass time to grow back and it helps make sure there has been enough time for parasites left behind from the previous grazing have died. Fortunately there is some wiggle room in terms of finding other acres to graze on the incubator property. I'll let you know how it turns out.
Leanna at Four Legs Farm