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  • Writer's pictureJosh Pearson

Cow Sorting

Happy fourth of July!

I think Josh and I are the only two people in the County who are happy with a rainy fourth today, and I'm sorry if your holiday plans are ruined, truly I am, but we are excited for this rain. Before I get into why, I'll give you the update on our products and future plans.


We have been to the Bayfield Farmers Market the past two Saturdays, bringing our pork and a limited amount of lamb. It's so much fun to be socializing at 8:30 before the caffeine has kicked in, trying to string together coherent sentences when I am SO not a morning person. Josh thinks mornings are fun. By about ten am I'm enjoying it and we've had a lot of great feedback. It seems like some of our customers find it easier to stop down to the market, versus come out to the store, and the market gives us the opportunity to talk to our friends and customers which is great. After ten am it's even better.


We also get asked a lot about eggs. I know that our egg supply is a royal bummer right now because of how low it's been and I wish I could say we will have more soon, but it's going to remain sporadic and low this summer for a few different reasons. Some big and some small. The most annoying reason is that what few eggs I do get every day, half are eaten by a cannibal chicken before I can collect them. My five year old egg collector is also a bit of a liability, so for now, stop out for pork and if we have eggs, grab those too!


This Spring we sold half hogs. The reason we sold pork in these larger quantities in part, is due to the fact that we don't have a lot of freezer space. In order to have freezer space 24/7 we would need a walk-in or similar, but since we only need freezer space a handful of times each year, we do what we can with our chest freezers and try to downsize the amount of products we have to store. Hence, half or whole product sales. This doesn't mean we don't still have plans to do retail cuts or put together boxes, it's just sort of our triage system to have a quantity we can handle at the farm. If you want to see more pork box options in smaller quantities, let us know!


We still have a limited amount of halves available if you want to stock up on pork that way, and there is a ton of it in the farm store. As for lamb, we have a limited amount of ground lamb, and leg of lamb, until this Fall when we will send the lambs to market.


In other farm news, Josh has completed the first full rotation of grazing on our pastures. This means that the cows/sheep have grazed each area once, and now we have to let each paddock rest at least 30 days. This much needed rain will ensure that the second round of grasses comes in full. The rest period is hard when you have cows and it's part of the reason that some farmers' grass never recovers after being grazed the first time. We can't just go back to the first pasture after running out, so what do you do when you're out of grass? We move to the neighbors!


Yesterday was cow moving day. Josh and I don't have a ton of experience with sorting or hauling cattle so it's not a smooth process. We started around eleven am and finished at almost 6pm. We don't have a chute that can gently force them in one direction so we rely on moveable cattle panels which are big and awkward, but adjustable, and we tie plastic bags to the end of a long horse whip to gently pressure them forward. The plastic bags look unfriendly but don't hurt them or freak them out very much. We survived without anyone getting kicked or trampled, but I still managed to get pretty banged up. If you see me hobbling around this week, don't be surprised.


When you trailer cows, you need a good floor covering so they don't fall down during the trip. Cows tend to get nervous and get the poops, which essentially turns the trailer into a nice slip N slide. Pregnant cows are especially fragile and we try not to move them at all until after they've had their calves, and the calves are big enough to travel. Our trailer only fits four adults at a time comfortably, and the calves shouldn't be loaded with too many adults or they could get trampled.

Unfortunately when you're working with a pretty homemade system, you just take whichever animals load into the trailer and go. Using lots of straw or shavings to keep them from sliding, we made 7 very careful trips back and forth.


The final trip was for a single calf who escaped capture a few times. In the end we were chasing him around our twenty acre field. This is when I managed to step in a hole and twist an ankle. It's embarrassing to say I survived the cows, but couldn't handle a quick sprint after a calf. Anyway, we got him in the trailer and brought him to the neighbor's pasture to unload. I was worried because he wasn't with his mom and the grass was so tall there that he couldn't see over the tops. We let him out and watched as he smelled his way through the field, heading straight in the direction of his herd. We followed behind just in case, making sure all of the calves were paired up with mom before calling it a day.


It's pretty magical seeing the bond that these animals have with each other. Each time we unloaded a few cows, even though they couldn't see beyond a few feet through the tall grass, they could find each other in minutes and celebrated with loud "moos" each time they were joined by their friends. When the littlest guy was finally reunited with mom, she celebrated and let out a series of high pitched calls to say how happy she was and announce his return. Once they were all together, they did a lap around the fence to establish their new boundaries and settled in. It wasn't a minute after we finished, that the rain started to fall. Talk about good timing.


Now in our seventh year of raising animals and growing food on some level, we are learning that it's important to balance the work with the fun. We started farming because the animals literally brought the property back to life. We keep farming because there is always room for improvement, and also because we think everyone deserves to know what it means to have good food from healthy, happy animals. Even more so, to understand the difference between farm raised, and the competition's factory raised animals.


The differences are vast. It's not just quality, or prices. It's building soil, or depleting it. It's welcoming blue birds to a pasture, or covering their homes in concrete. It's building habitat, and raising farm animals in that environment, instead of fighting mother nature. The support our customers give by buying products, brings life back to the farm. When you stop to buy eggs or just to give the farm dog a pat, remember that your support of small farms is why we are here, and the Bluebirds are grateful.


You can now see our cows in the fields at the intersection of Little Sand Bay rd and County K! They will remain there until they've exhausted the pasture space and it's time to head back to our farm. Stay tuned to see how Sarge does when it's his turn to load into the trailer and see his lady friends.


Happy rainy 4th of July!

Esme, Josh, Nori and the Bluebirds




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