Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pike Valley Farm Tour

This past weekend Andrea and I attended a tour of Pike Valley Farm, near Lancaster, KY.  We had previously visited the farm a couple of times, to purchase ground beef and/or chicken. I was excited to be able to take a tour, though, and see how they raise the animals.

We were a few minutes late, but fortunately were not the only ones, so didn't miss out on anything. After a brief welcome and introduction, during which time we learned that the gentleman now running the farm worked for a time on Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms, we walked to the nearby chicken tractor. There really wasn't much new for us to see here, as we're already familiar with this approach to raising chickens.

After seeing the chickens we were directed to our transport. Most of the crowd loaded onto a  utility trailer, where bales of straw were stacked to make seating. We rode in the bed of the truck, which was also full.

Our next stop was to see the pastured pigs. It was my first time seeing pigs, other than from my childhood when my Dad would sometimes raise one in confinement. The pigs are rotated through paddocks, at regular intervals, so that they clear one area, and then are moved to another. It was explained that the pigs greatly improve the pasture, and that they will often follow them, once the pasture has grown back, with cattle.

After the pigs we loaded back up and headed to the cattle paddocks. The farm has both beef and dairy cattle, the latter of which is part of their herd share program, which provides a legal means for participants to receive raw milk. After explaining a bit about the rotational grazing used for the cattle, a move from one paddock to another was demonstrated. It was quite impressive, as all that was required was a couple of calls, to get the attention of the cattle, then they eagerly moved into the adjacent, now open, paddock where fresh grass awaited. I always imagine cattle grazing huge pastures, of couple inch high grass. In their system, however, the paddocks are sized based on what the herd of 120 cattle will eat in one day, and then they are moved into the next. The vegetation in the new paddock was three to four feet high, but they apparently don't mind.

After seeing the cattle we next moved to a nice shady area and saw the rabbits, of which the farm only produces a few. We finished the tour up here, with a question and answer session. Afterwards, an optional lunch was provided, as well as the opportunity to purchase farm products. We weren't interested in what they had to off lunch, and are currently considering another option for our beef and chicken, so didn't buy anything.

I found the tour to be very enjoyable, and informative as well. I like the methods used on the farm, and am wondering if rotational grazing might be worth considering when we do venture into small livestock. I am not a fan, however, of electrified fencing, but it seems that almost everyone uses it.

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