In the winter, we could lighten our work load. The cattle are bale grazing
and require as little as breaking ice, opening a section of fence for the next bale, or just checking on.
The pigs’ whey troughs need to be filled daily
and any supplemental food (veggies or organic grain) are easy to spread in their large yard.
So how can we be productive with all of this “time off” the normal pasturing chores?
One way we have found is to raise bottle or bucket calves.
Calves who are born in dairies–typically males–who aren’t needed and end up at auctions or as veal.
Each year we get a few to raise for meat for ourselves and friends.
This year we have a thriving Brown Swiss,
and three Devons.
We are particularly excited about the Devon calves because they are a dual purpose breed.
They are known for their milk production and their meat quality.
We got these three from the wonderful people at Dharma Lea who are doing meaningful work on and with their farm.
Bottle or bucket calves, or in our case nipple pail calves, need to be fed twice a day.
These five together drink eleven gallons of warm milk.
We have a source for milk and store it in a shed off our farmhouse.
As we need it, we move it from the below freezing shed to as near the wood stove as possible.
It thaws all day or night and a few hours before feeding, we transfer it to large pots on top of the stove.
When the milk is about 100 degrees we carefully transfer it to the nipple pail (carefully because the ice between the house and their pen has been tricky to navigate lately) where they take care of it in less than five minutes.
It is simple enough if we keep to our routine.
We get a lot of meat in return for a few months of thawing and warming milk
during a time that should be less complicated.
In the spring, these guys (and a gal)
will be turned out with our beef cattle for rotational grazing, and we will have eleven in our herd.