Contented Cows…That is how I think of our cows. All year long at some point in the day the cows are laying down, contentedly chewing their cud. It is a sign that they have had enough to eat and drink and now is the time to lounge.
Our herd started with Fawn, a cow that we used for milk. She was half Angus, half Jersey/Holstein. She gave 3 gallons of creamy milk a day, which we used in the house and fed the extra to pigs. She also gave several calves, including 2 heifers: Malegra, born in May during turkey season, and Switzel, born in August during haying season. Fawn and Switzel have passed on, but Malegra is still on the farm, expecting a calf in September.
Up to this point we have used the AI company, Genex, to breed our cows. It lets us not have to house a bull. When we see the cows in heat, we call Genex, and they get the cows bred. And as long as the cows don’t come back into heat, we assume that in 9 months we will see a calf.
Our cows live outdoors year round. May-November they graze our 40 acres of pasture. They are rotated to new areas as needed, usually weekly. This lets them spread their manure on their own. From December-April we feed them untreated hay that we buy off the field from a neighbor or that the Bros harvest from some of our fields. They are fed from hay feeders in a field that is close to the barn. We use about 800 bales of hay a year. This makes our cows grass and hay fed.
On really cold windy days (wind chill below 0F) we do let the cows get under the eaves of the barn, which works like a 3-sided shelter. Because they are outdoors, they grow the hair that they will need to live in the outdoors. And as spring comes, they shed that hair. All in all, they enjoy being out side, eating, drinking, and lounging being the contented cows they are!
Chives are an allium perennial that start early in the spring. By late spring they send up flowers to seed more chives. (The flower throws the seed to expand the area.) The seed heads are pretty for the table and are edible as well.
Here is a supper salad with potatoes, beef, and Swiss chard topped with the parts of the chive flower. I took the flower, pulled it apart, and sprinkled the parts on my salad. It added a chive/onion flavor to the meal.
We raise and finish our Angus-cross cows on grass and hay. One of the cuts that we get from our cows is rib steaks.
With a bone and nice marbling, these steaks are excellent for grilling, frying, or broiling. OR you can cut the meat off the bone and saute it with veggies in a stir-fry. These beef rib steaks come two in a package and are 1.5-2.0 lbs.
Some of these steaks have a yellow fat and some have the more traditional white fat. Our cows are at least half Angus. The other half may have some Jersey which tends to have yellow fat. The coloring doesn’t affect how the meat works or acts. It is tasty either way!
We raise our animals outdoors as much as possible. For chicken, this means we only raise meat birds (chicken) during the spring and summer when we have grass to put them on. This year the plan is to process meat birds in June, July, August, and September.
Our chicks come from Freedom Ranger Hatchery. They hatch on Tuesday, are shipped in the mail, and arrive by Thursday. They have the internal nutrition that they need to do well on the trip here and have each other to stay warm with. When they arrive, we dip their beaks in water and grain so that they can find the water and food again. They have 3 heat lamps to warm up under and again have each other to huddle with if needed.
The chicks live in the brooder for 3 weeks. The brooder gives them time to grow and feather out. By 3 weeks they have the feathers that they need to keep themselves warm and then they can be safely moved outdoors.
We use moveable pens in the pasture, moving them daily at first and twice a day as they get older. This gives them fresh grass and bugs, spreads their manure as they deposit it, and protects them from the various predators that may be around.
The grain we provide comes from Gianforte Farm over near Cazenovia. Gianforte grows and supplies organic grains, grinding and mixing them with Fertrell Poultry Nutribalancer, to add extra minerals, and Fertrell Fish Meal, to boost the protein.
Another key piece to protecting all of our chickens is a livestock guardian, in our case, Yorek, a one year old Great Pyrenees. He is learning what is normal and what is not and barks as needed. This warns off predators and makes our meatbirds a less desirable option.
When the meat birds are 8-10 weeks old, we will process them here. With a good scalding and plucking, the birds look similar to chicken from the grocery store and taste much better. We are hoping for 2-5 lb. birds and will have them available for sale as whole, frozen chicken.
A new item that we have is beef tenderloin. This is a piece of meat that retains its tenderness regardless of the age of the animal. And boy is it good! Tenderloins are boneless meat with some fat that cooks up to yummy tastiness! Because it was the first time for me to try it, I didn’t take any pics of the beef tenderloin.
These images are from a venison tenderloin that one of my hunters got this year. It is shorter than our beef tenderloins. The process and the result is the same for both animals. I put the tenderloin on a cookie cooling rack and then set the rack and the meat in a 13x9in pan with a touch of water covering the bottom.
I slit the fat so that as it cooked it wouldn’t pull the meat into a half circle. Then I put it in a preheated 400F oven and baked it uncovered for (30-)45 min. Next I checked it. A oven thermometer would be the best way, but not having that, I cut into the meat to see how rare it still was. I needed to cook it for another 15 minutes to get it to medium to well-done.
After I took it out, I let it sit under loose aluminum foil for 10 minutes. and then cut it. (See the pic at the top.) The result was a wonderfully roasted piece of meat. The fat when sliced with the meat adds to the loveliness. And making something so easy to cook that tastes so good – Wow! It is no wonder that tenderloins are considered a delicacy! Ours are $20/lb. and weigh 2.22-3.27 lbs.
On our farm some things happen year round and some things just happen seasonally. On the meat side, we raise beef, pork, and goat, and collect eggs year round. On the veggie side we have our perennials that come up on their own each year – rhubarb, horseradish, asparagus, scallions, mint, oregano, chives. Then in the spring and summer of each year we raise meat chickens and plant annual veggies.
These spring and summer doings have started!
Our first batch of meat birds, 50 of them, arrived last week in the cold. They have done well in the brooder and will move to the pasture in another couple of weeks. They will be large enough to process and eat in mid-June.
On the veggie side, peas, spinach, carrots, and Swiss chard are out of the ground. We have planted red and yellow onions, tatsoi, beets, bull’s blood beet greens, carrots, and lettuce. Potatoes should go in the ground in the next week or two. By mid-May to late May we will plant the warm weather, frost-intolerant crops – beans, corn, squash, basil.
A lot can happen between now and the veggie harvest (and between now and when we process chickens, too) – too much rain or sun, not enough weeding or mulching, predators, like rabbits, woodchucks, or deer. But we have started and gotten things in the ground. Now to work and watch…We will keep you posted!
Savannah, a red Boer meat goat, recently freshened (gave birth) to a buck and doe kid. The buck looks brown and cuddly. The doe has the brown face and white body of traditional Boer goats. She also has a white spot on her nose.
Early one morning we found the kids curled up together in basin. Good spot to sleep and cozy up together.
Pigs like to eat and given the opportunity will spill their feed on the ground. This leads to the feed being wasted. To reduce how much is wasted, someone designed this feeder. We put feed in the top. The back lid keeps the feed from getting wet. When the pig wants to eat, it comes to the front, lifts the lid with its snout, reaches in and eat what it wants. This method keeps the feed contained, reduces feed wasted, and lets the pigs eat what they want. Creative tool!