Spring has sprung and it is all systems go! Corn planting began on Tuesday, the meat chickens went to pasture on Wednesday, more laying hens came into the brooder on Thursday, and water systems were setup on the next field the cows will go to. Combined with record orders and deliveries, it has been a busy week! We are happy that we get to serve you delicious and nutritious food. You are helping to make it possible to improve soil health and allow livestock to live a great life!
Take a look at the videos from this week and read more below about what we are up to.
We tried a new way to move our chicks to pasture. After 3 weeks of growing up in the brooder, getting the “wings” (feathers), our freedom ranger chickens were ready to go to the big house (our mobile chicken house) on pasture. We herded chickens into our cattle trailer and moved them from the brooder at the ranch office to the pasture at Ranch 226.There they will get a diet of fresh grass and bugs with the daily barn moves combined with organic feed from our local organic mill.
Shortly after arrival, Robyn and I noticed a 4 legged critter, likely a fox or coyote, checking out their new potential buffet. Not to worry, Sam the guard dog was deployed to protect them. Over the winter we trained Sam to stay within 90’ of his dog house. We built a solar array, battery, and electronic radius collar into the roof of his barn. He knows to stay close otherwise his collar will beep and give him a few seconds to turn around before he gets a corrective pulse. This works just like an invisible fence, but instead of a set boundary, he learns that he has to stay close to his house. This gives him plenty of room to patrol the area around the chicken house to protect the chickens from predators. Plus, no more setting fences everyday, we simply pull his dog barn forward at the same time we pull the chicken house.
Soil conditions were excellent but cold from the previous week. After waiting patiently to start for a few days, we finally got the planter rolling. For many years we have been a corn and soybean only farm. We began focusing on improving soil health by eliminating tillage (plowing, disking, cultivating). This practice is called No-Till. The only thing we disturb the ground with is our planter when we plant the seed.
When you eliminate tillage, you change how nutrients release to plants. That is why we put on a specific balanced diet of some of the nutrients needed by a crop when we plant. Traditionally, most fertilizers are applied in the fall or ahead of planting which increases the risk of water pollution and soil degradation. We apply 3 different nutrient mixtures in 5 locations as we plant along with one or two more applications while the plants are growing. This allows us to apply 50-80% less total nutrients, improve soil quality, and maintain yields. It is harder to do and requires specialized equipment, but when your goal is soil health, you follow the soil health principles.
Soil Health Principles
Soil Armor (residues and plants protecting the soil)
Minimize disturbance (eliminate tillage and reduce inputs)
Living Roots (feed the soil biology at all times)
Diversity (the greater the diversity of plants and animals the better)
Integrate Livestock (Bringing Livestock Back to the Land)
That is why we do what we do. No-Till, Precision Bio-Nutrients, Cover Crops, Wheat & Cover crop Seed, and Integrated Livestock is what is best for the soil. When you do what is best for the soil, it’s best for the plants, the animals, the people, and the planet.
Stay tuned, we plan to plant cover crops inside of the growing cover crop. This is called inter-seeding. Then to take it a further step to the wild side, we have trained our sheep and guard dogs on poly wire over the winter instead of cumbersome netting. This will allow us to fence inside of a corn field and allow the sheep to graze the cover crops growing inside of the corn! The goal is soil improvement, yield improvement, nutrient reduction and multiple harvests per acre per year. In this case, grain from corn and lamb meat from the sheep.
You make this all possible. When you choose our pasture raised meats and eggs, you are voting to change the current farming system! Thank you!