Although I found this interesting, I didn’t really think to post it until Mag mentioned how she thought it was quite cool and I should talk about it on here. So here it is: I am a Grass Farmer.
This is from the book Omnivore’s Dilemma, and is regarding a farm that he writes about called Polyface Farm (link to Polyface’s website) in Virginia. He writes about this farm, and so am I because the farmer strives to maximize grass growth, which maximizes growth of everything else, if the farm is kept in balance.
The farmer works like this:
1. He plots the growth of grass in the fields with a computer model, and rotates the cows to new fields with use of moveable electric fencing when the grass has reached max growth, before it goes to see. This takes about 2 weeks during the growing season.
2. 3 days after the cows have grazed that area, he moves in moveable chicken coops and releases the chickens to eat the grubs out of the cow patties. The chicken poop provides the nitrogen for the ground to maximize grass re-growth and the chickens get good protien from the fly lavae incubating in the cow poop, which causes the chickens to lay beautiful eggs, and the cows to have tons of grass to eat to get fat.
3. In the winter, the cows are moved into the barn. He allows the cow poop to pile up in order to start decomposing in the shed. This causes heat to be released and warms up the cows without having to pay for electricity. Further, he tosses wood chips, straw and dry corn into the cow manure throughout the winter, which allows it to compost better and ferments the corn. In the spring the pigs are allowed into the barn when the cows go out. They love fermented corn apparently, and root around with their noses in the cow manure looking for corn. This gives the pigs a tasty treat and aerates the cow manure, which then means it’s ready to be put back on the fields to provide fertilizer to help maximize grass growth.
I love how inter-related this farm is and how this farmer has worked to keep his systems in balance. He has a portion of his lands as forest, which he cuts a few trees out of each year for wood needs, but the forest keeps the water table clean. Further he limits the number of chickens, turkeys, cows and pigs he raises so that the grass he grows is more than enough to raise them all without putting huge strains on his lands. I almost want to visit this farm to see what I can learn from this guy.