My husband has been working diligently for the past month getting the pastures fenced and ready for animals. Fencing in the pasture was a more expensive and time consuming project than we had anticipated. After crunching the numbers, we have decided it would not be wise for us to purchase our own calves to raise as beef steers this year. It would mean buying lots of hay for them to eat over the winter and we don't have the cash for that , since we've spent all our money on fencing. But in the meantime, we had these lovely pastures full of grass that needs to be mowed. Since we're cheap and didn't want to spend the gas money mowing with a lawn mower all summer, we contacted a family down the road and asked if we could "borrow" their animals for the season. It was a "win-win" situation. They desperately needed more pasture for their animals (they didn't have enough grass to support their animals, so they were having to feed them hay) and we needed our pastures mowed and managed. Everyone is happy.
Last weekend they delivered their calf, Babette, to be fattened up. She is a Jersey/Angus cross that they are raising for meat. Her mother Lucy is a Jersey (a dairy breed) that they keep as a milk cow. In order to get milk from a cow, she needs to be bred and have a baby - I know this seems pretty obvious, since all mammals only come into milk when they have babies, but there are plenty of people out there that think all cows have milk, all the time. Anyway, Lucy was bred with an Angus (a meat breed), so that her offspring could be raised for meat. Babette is over a year old now and will likely be butchered this fall. Most meat steers/cows are butchered before their second winter, since it's so expensive to feed a steer hay over the winter.
Babette was raised by a family with several children, so she is very tame and well socialized. She is halter trained and easy to lead around as desired. Whenever we walk over to the barn, she comes over looking for attention and affection. She is very sweet. My kids are delighted with her and I'm thrilled to have such a gentle, patient animal to work with as I train my children how to interact with large animals. They are learning how to be calm and quiet around animals, how to give them adequate space and respect.
My son learning to lead Babette - note I said "learning" - he's walking on the wrong side
My son and niece hanging out with Babette
As thrilled as we were to have Babette, she was not happy for the first few days. She was one lonely cow. Cattle and many other herbivores are herd animals and do not do well on their own. Poor Babette would moo mournfully whenever we left her sight. She would only eat if we were present, otherwise retreating to the barn to sulk. We called up her family and asked if they could spare another animal.
And so we came to acquire a buck goat named Tacori. He is the breeding male at his farm, but since all the female goats have been bred for the season, his services are no longer needed until fall. Tacori will be taking a nice little vacation at Third Day Farms for the summer, where he can graze on pasture all summer long, instead of being confined to his separate buck quarters. He is a funny character, very chill and laid back. I expected more shenanigans from a goat, but he seems pretty dignified... if a goat can be dignified. His awesome beard makes me chuckle every time I look at him.
Babette and Tacori come from the same farm, but they have never been pasture mates before. There were some tense moments as they literally butted heads, trying to figure out their pecking order. Tacori doesn't seem to realize that Babette outweighs him by a couple hundred pounds. They've slowly come to an uneasy truce, with Babette as head honcho. Every once in a while, they have to duke it out again - I think Tacori secretly enjoys it.
We have our pasture divided up into 4 smaller paddocks. As the animals mow down one pasture, they will be moved to the next fresh pasture. This method, called rotational grazing, helps to improve the growth and quality of the grass, while also helping to reduce parasites in the animals. Most parasites have a life cycle of being ingested by their host, living in the host, then laying eggs in the host that are expelled in the host's manure. When an animal is grazing on the same pasture day after day, they are continually consuming the parasites eggs and reinfecting themselves. By rotating pastures, many of the parasite eggs will die before the host animals makes it back to that pasture. Rotational grazing is healthier for the grass and animals.
So far, Babette and Tacori have been doing a good job mowing the pasture. Babette, the cow, is a grazer, so she eats the grass. Tacori, the goat, is a browser, so he eats weeds, shrubs, woody plants - pretty much everything the cow won't eat. It amazing to see how they work as a team to complete their jobs! Now if I can just convince more chickens to head over there and scratch up the manure. They were designed to scratch and consume bugs, helping to keep flies and pests to a minimum by eating the larva in the manure.
It really is beautiful to observe these animals working in harmony with each other. God created each one with a specific task that complements the other creatures it interacts with. He really knew what He was doing! I like to think this is how animals praise God - by doing what they were designed to do. And isn't this true of humans as well? We best glorify God by doing what He created us to do - love Him, praise Him, tell other about Him. I never knew that I would learn more about God by observing farm animals... He truly is Lord over ALL parts of creation, big and small. No little detail is too insignificant for Him. I can't wait to see what other lessons God has to teach me as we continue on our journey.