Growing Animals

The Leafhopper Farm chicks are growing fast! As the temperatures outside cool down, I am monitoring these younger babes closely, as this is the latest I’ve ever had young chickens on the farm. Also, with a new incubator in use, I hope to be hatching and raising chicks year round. This will mean designing a much better brooding set up in the garage with intension of keeping small babes warm through the winter.

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The Berkshire gilts are almost ready for slaughter. These two girls have been tilling and rooting the land all summer, and the organic grain to feed them is very expensive, so I’ve cut back on feed to encourage more earth works out of those snouts. The addition of fall fruit into their diet supplements the smaller grain portion and sweetens the meat. Next week, the cooler should arrive for installation and then we’ll have a place to put all this delicious pork.

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There will be a planned pig butchering class at the end of September. Leafhopper Farm looks forward to offering more classes on animal processing, along with more blog posts about raising animals for personal use, and how to set up animal systems on smaller acreage. The ability to raise clean meat that’s affordable for your life is possible, but it takes planning and time. Start small, with only a few animals to manage. The costs of organic grain can be staggering, but if you supplement with other smart finds, like fallen fruit from neighborhood trees, dumpster scraps, or local restaurant leftovers, you can make it affordable.

What I also think about is pasture. What am I putting the animals on and how long can that land sustain them? The pigs can destroy an area fast, which is why most people raise them on cement. I have found that rotating often and making sure feed is sufficient prevents total destruction of an area. The number of animals is also paramount. Too often I have seen people putting way to many animals on the land, destroying fertility and creating dead zones with no growth. Look at most small horse pastures as an example. Big animals in a small space ruin the land. It may be convenient for us to keep them there, but it’s not doing any favors to the landscape.

As for animal health, I let nature tell me what’s up in the first few days of an animal’s life. I’ve had sheep reject lambs when they have two. Instead of bottle feeding the weak one, I put it in the pot. This avoids encouraging genes that were never meant to be. A mother knows, and she tells you by refusing an animal. I give her that choice. My momma goat did that when she had three kids. The smallest was unable to fend for its self. I didn’t want that struggle to continue through out its life, and then pass on in future generations through breeding. Natural selection is very important, and it keeps only the best animals for use on the farm.

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By allowing nature to self select, Leafhopper Farm has avoided mass vet bills, expensive medications, and continuous high maintenance care of livestock. Instead, there is a cultivated richness of health and happiness for the animals and the land. With continued learning through experience, I hope to nurture wonderful stock to be proud of, while committing to the holistic vision that is Leafhopper Farm.

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