As November comes to a close, we will finish harvesting all of our chickens for our winter inventory. Our chickens are “pasture raised,” which means they live outside all of their lives. Part of the benefit here is that they receive s significant portion of their diet from the bugs, seeds, and grass they eat on pasture (the rest of their diet is non-gmo grain mixture). However, when the snow flies and ground freezes it is difficult for the birds to receive this nourishment. Furthermore, they spend lots of energy staying warm and they don’t gain wait.
As a result, all of our poultry is harvested by the first of December. Other livestock, however, is more hardy. Below is a photo of some of our hogs last winter dining on turnips as the snow begins to fly. The hogs live outside all year long. They have a hut (like a giant doghouse) that they will pile into and keep each other warm. Think snuggling pigs. During the day they enjoy going outside and rooting around. We plant the turnips so that they have something to root up in the winter. For the hogs, the turnips are food. For us, they are helping to turn the soil and work their manure into the soil. It’s a win win for pasture management.
Beef cattle are also quite hardy. While we try to finish most of our beef in the fall (for the same reason as the chickens, they spend a lot of energy staying warm), the beef can live outside all winter and even calve in the cold. They enjoy high energy hay blends in the winter to help them put on weight.
While there are windbreaks built to allow the cattle some protection from the elements, they tend to enjoy being out in the middle of the field despite the temperature. Last year we had one cow freshen (drop her calf) in the middle of February. We felt so bad for the little calf but he did just fine and he should be finishing out nicely by next summer.
This month we are busy harvesting Berkshire hogs and Angus beef to stock up for our winter shares. The butcher, Galen at Newswangers, has been working overtime to accommodate all our livestock (and our customer’s insatiable demand for bacon!) This is all in the midst of deer season when he is already busy processing hunters’ deer. When it rains it pours!