No I did not arrange these guys in a circle- they just did that, amazingly, on their own, each wanting to get a good look at the camera. We got these seven Jersey calves from our local raw milk dairy, Claravale Farm. The male calves aren't worth much, even less now that dairies are doing so poorly and there isn't much of a veal industry left in this country. But we happily took them in exchange for providing our friends at Claravale with some yummy pork in a month or so. We got the calves to help mow the grass, instead of paying the hay guy to mow and bale it for us. You see, our chickens don't like the grass much taller than 8 inches or so, and the cutting & baling of hay takes nutrients away from our farm. Therefore we got one of nature's perfect lawnmowers- the cow. We much prefer cattle to sheep for lawnmowing, because they can't get out of our electric fence very easily, nor do they bother trying. The sheep on the other hand, practice a cruel, sadistic method of using the youngest or weakest lamb to take the shock of the fence while the rest of them push themselves out. Also, the wool of the sheep, to some degree, insulates them from the electric shock, so even with up to 5 strands of fence, we still can hardly contain them.
I was listening to an interesting NPR talk the other day about the new Time article on the food system (which, by the way, I thought was a good introduction to the problems of the food system for the layperson, despite a few errors that it had). They featured a gentleman from the National Cattleman's Beef Association, the president of the National Farmer's Union, Bryan Walsh- the writer of the article, and Joel Salatin- an innovative rancher in Virginia. Joel was talking about stacking and multi-species diversity that I think, frankly, went over the heads of most urban/suburban NPR listeners. Nonetheless, I was happy he mentioned it on national radio. We all need to understand that small farms can be and in general are more efficient per unit of land. Instead of raising one source of protein across 20 acres, we are raising 4 (eggs, pork, beef, lamb). Instead of concentrating them on one small area such that their manure & odor becomes a problem, we move them around constantly to spread their impact and naturally spread their manure around the land. In this way we don't have to use any purchased fertilizer to grow great grass- it happens on its own as a function of animals eating grass & grain and depositing their manure all around the field, which fertilizes the grass.
It's funny- many people and many farmers see what we do as radical, as alternative, as fringe. But really what we are doing is what any smart business does and what many a conservative would espouse- we use nature to save us money and resources, we turn waste into food and thus into money, and we don't use any government resources to do it- all tenets of conservatism. To top that off, we sequester carbon with our grass & minimum tillage practices, we strive to use as much local feedstuffs as possible, we market all of our meat & eggs within 75 miles of the farm, and we don't have nutrient or sediment run-off, therefore we are environmentalists in action. Additionally, we pay & treat our workers well, donate lots of food, & mentor many new & aspiring farmers- socialists in action! We are living proof of environmentalism, conservatism, and socialism in action. Mix in a little of our anti-war and socialist tendecies when it comes to goverment taking care of basic human rights, libertarian beliefs that government should not regulate us into oblivion (especially without our INPUT), and you end up with who we are: earth-loving, food-producing, fair, empathetic and compassionate people with a slice of reason and intellect. What about you- where do you lean?