WillowSedge Farm

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Frequently Asked Questions

The Cows

We have a small herd of 12 black Angus and Angus x Hereford cross cows, their calves, yearlings, and a Hereford bull. Altogether there are 27 animals in the herd as of March 2016. I use a fairly high-intensity managed grazing system. During the summer, the cows are usually moved to a fresh paddock every day. This system keeps good forage in front of the cows at all times, returns their manure to the soil, and lets us raise some really excellent quality beef on grass.

Managed grazing is good for the soil. The cows eat what they need and trample the rest, which creates a mulch layer on the soil surface that captures rainwater, conserves moisture, prevents soil erosion or runoff of nutrients, and helps the new re-growth of grass and clover get a fast start. The trampled forage also breaks down and returns nutrient-rich organic matter to the soil, which feeds the life in the soil: bacteria, fungi, beetles, worms, and other tiny creatures that are essential to a health soil.

The cows have their calves in April and May. Calves stay with their mothers on pasture all summer and through the fall. I wean the calves in January, so that calves stay with their mothers for about 9 months. Weaned calves go into a pen and are fed good hay and a vitamin/mineral supplement. They stay in a pen for about 4 months, until they are released to go on pasture with the herd. These yearlings stay on pasture all summer, and are then butchered for meat in the fall. At that point they are 18 months old, the perfect age; and they have been eating green grass all summer so the meat is at peak grass-fed quality.

The cows remain out on pasture all winter. Hay bales are set out in a grid pattern in the fall, with about 20 feet each way between bales. The hay that the cows trample breaks down and returns nutrients to the soil -- there is no waste in Nature. The cows deposit their manure in the area where they feed. This is a way to renew the fields: I rotate the feeding area to a different spot each year, and the previous year's feeding area becomes the area of the most lush growth of grass in the following year.

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