One of the great virtues of sustainable, 100% grassfed organic farming is how it forces us to take a long view. Rather than settling for a quick fix – like feeding grain, administering antibiotics, or spraying chemicals – we consider the lasting implications and long-term impact. Here’s one current example here on our farm…
It may still be summer here in Indiana, but we are actively planning for winter with field planting. Saying that our cows are 100% grassfed sounds simple enough, right? But the real picture has more beautiful complexity. The forage (aka grazing plants) in our pastures requires balance, diversity, and timing in order to nourish a healthy herd of dairy cows. But this doesn’t just happen on its own. So our farmers cultivate specific blends of grasses and cover crops, for two primary purposes…
1) to feed our herd at the right times with the right nutrients
Just like we are healthier with a variety of colors and foods in our diet, so, too, our cows! Different plants provide different nutrients at various stages in their maturity, so we work with different varieties according to their characteristics and the season.
2) to foster healthy soil
Good soil is essential – our herd’s food will only be as nutritious as the quality of our soil. Healthy soil means healthy plants means healthy cows means healthy milk. You get the picture :).
To illustrate what this looks like, here are the plants that we are sowing today in one of our pastures to prepare it for winter grazing…
Cereal Rye & Rye Grass
for cold season grazing through most of the winter months.
Mustard & Daikon Radish (yes, the kind you can eat)
long, thick roots that help aerate the soil and draw up micronutrients from deeper in the soil
Rape Weed & Hairy Vetch
to replenish nitrogen in the soil and help suppress weeds
Come late fall and winter, our herd will be happy and healthy grazing this forage in our pastures. As you can see, this kind of pasture-based, integrated system that supports our herd for rotational grazing requires intentionality, vigilance, and responsiveness to the environment. But we believe it’s a worthy investment with benefits for the land, our animals, and our health. And that trio is pretty hard to beat.