RBR News | May 9, 2014
May 9, 2014
Around the Ranch
It has been quite a busy week at the ranch. Our bodies are sore, our clothes are dirty, and our farmer’s tans are starting to show. As of this week we have over 40 varieties of vegetables and herbs growing in our hoophouse! Nearly all of our animals are out to pasture including: rabbits, sheep, laying hens, broiler chickens, goats, and hogs. It’s amazing to see the animals enjoying the sunshine and fresh grass. While the animals are out to pasture they provide invaluable services for our land through a pasture rotation system that features carefully planned methodology to maximize the animals’ complementary behaviors.
Our sheep and laying hens are currently working together in an intensive multi-species rotational grazing system. Two 1/2-acre paddocks are set up adjacent to each other using solar powered electric fencing. We stock the first paddock with sheep (they are the rotation leaders), and the laying hens follow in the paddock behind. The sheep mow the grass and leave behind their rich manure, moving to new paddocks every 24 hours to minimize overgrazing in the early season. By limiting the grazing to 30-50% of the available forage, we avoid stunting pasture growth. In fact, the grazing sheep stimulate the pastures as a bit of disturbance kick starts the growth cycle.
Once we move the sheep to a new paddock, the chickens move into the paddock the sheep have just vacated. We let the hens roam throughout this paddock for at least 24 hours—and during this time they do not waste a minute! The chickens spend the day pecking and scratching, searching for bugs and larvae in addition to weed seeds and other goodies, while simultaneously spreading the sheep manure and leaving behind their own nitrogen rich manure. What is so beneficial about this? The hens distribute the manure across the pasture, allowing it to breakdown more easily and eliminating the need for mechanical harrowing.
To top it all off, the hens convert their protein-rich, bug-filled, pasture-raised diet into nutritious eggs! This is another incredible example of how multi-species rotational grazing provides our animals with robust diets in sustainable environments, while simultaneously enabling us to utilize the services of animals to minimize our workload and steward the land. So come on by the Ranch and try some of our eggs!
RBR’s pastured hens are laying lots of fresh eggs! Pasture-raised, Animal Welfare Approved, non-GMO, chicken and duck eggs are available for purchase at the Ranch Monday-Friday 9AM-5PM, and Saturday from 9AM-1PM.
~ Christian La Bar, Agriculture Assistant