We have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season. One thing is that we aren't milking cows during this ice storm. In the past, we've hooked up the generator when the power was out and gotten the cows milked even in weather like this. The worst part of it is the danger, to us and to the cows, of trying to walk on the ice. It's not so bad out in the pastures where the blades of grass are coated, but once the cows have to travel along the paths and into the holding pen, it's really treacherous. So this weekend, the cows have plenty of hay and can just stay put out in the pasture--and we can spend more time indoors! We're liking this seasonal milking better all the time!
We did our last milking of the season on Monday, so now we are able to focus on some other projects while the cows are on maternity leave. Ron will continues to study and experiment with a variety of permaculture projects and garden plans.
He'll continue to work on building hugelkulturs (mound gardens), learning to grow mushrooms, and experimenting with a variety of methods for starting fruit trees. Eventually, we'd like to see this farm produce even more "calories per acre" than it does now. There's a lot of potential here, but it takes a lot of time and labor.
Of course, the cows still need daily care. Here they are following Ron to a fresh pasture of standing hay.
Grasses are fading and milk production is waning. After several years of moving this direction, we will officially make the transition to becoming a seasonal dairy this week. All of the cows are now bred to calve in the spring, so the entire herd will be on "maternity leave" for the winter. This will allow us to make better use of the forages available during the growing season. Cows need a lot more grass when they are producing milk than when they are dry, so it only makes sense for a grass fed dairy to milk cows when the most forage is available. Of course, cows and calves still need to eat whether they are milking or not, so they will continue to rotate through the farm to eat cool season grasses, such as rye, and standing hay. We will supplement with alfalfa hay, too.
So, come this weekend, for the first time in about a quarter century, there will be no cows entering the barn at Crain Dairy. But, no worries, they'll be back in the spring. And we have stocked up on lots of raw milk cheeses and ricotta and we'll still have our grass fed beef and kitchen products available year round.