We’ve mentioned the bulls in previous posts, but here is the official introduction to the cattle at the farm:
We are really enjoying watching these cattle grow. Currently, we have the 3 bulls above and one bred heifer who is due in spring, but we hope to continue to grow the herd as we move along. From watching them ourselves, we think it will be a nice addition to the wedding venue to be able to look out from the venue, over the lake, and see peaceful cattle grazing in the afternoon.
Typically, during the summer, we like to try to keep the cattle moving at all times, rotating from paddock to paddock, separated by temporary fencing. This helps to make sure that the cattle eat all that is available in each paddock, without killing the roots of the grass, and also keeps them continuously jumping to fresh, green grass. Another important aspect is that this spreads the cattle manure (at least 50 pounds per day per animal) around to various parts of the farm. Birds (our chickens, crows and others) and other organisms then help break the manure up. This way, it gets taken up by the grass in the soil as fertilizer instead of draining down into the watershed and also limits the escape of organic matter as fumes into the air.
Things change during the winter, however, when growing grass is not available, and we need to feed the cattle hay. We intend to do this in our new cattle barn:
It might not be much to look at, but this barn makes up for it in functionality, and you don’t have to get married in front of it! In the center, you’ll see the main shelter to keep the cattle safe from the elements and to keep the hay and minerals dry. There is electricity in the barn for early mornings or night time issues that may come up. There is also a well nearby. To the right, there is ample space for hay storage. On the left, a chute for capturing the cattle if needed for veterinary issues or transport:
Behind the barn is the watering area. We’re going to install a waterer which is directly connected underground to the well, and it will be insulated from freezing temperatures, so the cattle will always be able to get their water. We haven’t quite installed it yet, but we have the pipes buried and poured cement today just after this picture was taken.
Concentrating all of the feeding of the animals into one area like this totally changes the system of managing the animals and their waste, but we’ve got a plan. By doing all of the feeding and watering in this area, we’re trying to concentrate as much of the manure as we can into one area. Why? – so that then we can eventually make our own organic fertilizer, hopefully eventually eliminating the need to buy organic fertilizer.
The plan starts with throwing down shelled corn onto the floor of the barn. We then covered that with a layer of beddings originally intended for horse stables, and we then covered it with a thicker layer of mulch which we had let sit for about 1.5 years. The beddings and the mulch will help contain all of the organic matter from the manure and store it for future use. It will also help prevent leakage into the water system or into the air. Then, we began feeding the cattle in the barn, which has in turn resulted in accumulation of future fertilizer. We will then add on layer upon layer of mulch to continue to absorb all of the organic material. We know it’s working currently since the barn still smells terrific. In the spring, we’ll bring back in some of the pigs we’re developing over the winter, and they will go looking for the shell corn at the bottom of the pile. As they root through the organic fertilizer, they will help mix things up and introduce oxygen back into the bottom layers of the soil, therein promoting further break down. After that, we’ll scoop it all up and try to spread it along the fields with a manure spreader. Here’s a picture of the hay feeder and its surroundings – so far, the cattle are wasting some hay on top of the beddings and mulch, which will only help to contain more organic matter:
This project is in line with our goal of learning all about the wonderful ways people are working with animals these days. On a simple note, we really enjoy just going down to the barn and watching the cattle. One of them is nice enough to even let you scratch behind his ears. Please come up and take a look, and we’ll keep you posted on the progress.