Farm Filosophies

We have 6 Programs and our philosophies regarding each are detailed below - Rotational Grazing, Crops, Shorthorn Cows, Katahdin Sheep, Chickens and Horses.

Rotational Grazing: All of our animals are part of the rotational grazing program, and approach of using intensive grazing on small plots of pasture for short periods of time, on a rotational basis for more effective use of the grass resources.
  • Animals are moved frequently, thus reducing the tendency they have to congregate in "pleasing" locations which results in killing the grass and leaving dirt/mud patches
  • Ecologically friendly by keeping erosion to a minimum
  • Highly efficient use of grass by confining the stock (for 2-3 days) to a smaller area so they eat more of the grass at any given time, wasting less
  • Grazing Cows (preferring longer grass), with Sheep (eating closer to the ground and some browsing) for more efficient use of the grass
  • After grazing period, pasture can be cleared of fence and completely cut with equipment to save time
  • Less fence trimming required, reduces manual labor and still keeps the farm looking neat
  • Reduces noxious weed growth due to grazing and cutting prior to the weeds going to seed
  • Manure is distributed by the animals and further spread during the cutting process
  • Larger animals provide safety for the smaller animals

Crops: We are practicing re-generative agriculture which means leaving the ground in better shape each year. We accomplish this by primarily using manure for fertilizer, but selectively using other fertilizers such as high calcium lime, soft rock phosphates and potassium sulfates (rather than harsher commercial fertilizers) as needed to keep the soil in ideal condition. Optimally the soil should be balanced for the best plant and animal growth. In addition, we strive to increase the level of organic matter in the soil, and balance the minerals so that no harm comes to the worms, beneficial bacteria and microbes in the soil.
  • Primarily we raise grass and harvest grass for hay
  • Use selected plant growth for fixing the soil appropriately such as seeding with clover to fix nitrogen.
  • Planting open pollinated corn because it uses the soil minerals more effectively than hybrid corns, it has higher protein content, and the cost is lower since we can produce our own seed for the following year. Colored, open pollinated corn is used to liven up the picking of the ears – which we normally do by hand. The animals seem to prefer the colored, open pollinated corn as well, eating it preferentially to the hybrid corn.

Shorthorn Cows:
  • One of the oldest breeds of cattle known in the world
  • Shorthorn cattle originated in the Tees River valley in North East England in the late 1700’s
  • Evolving from the Teeswater and Durham cattle, Shorthorns were originally a dual purpose beef and dairy breed.
  • The first documented importation of Shorthorn cattle into North America was in 1783. Shorthorns became favorites of the American Pioneers because of their ability to produce milk, meat and power.
  • Shorthorns have evolved over time and in 1948 became separated into two distinct breeds, the Dairy Shorthorn and the Beef Shorthorn
  • Beef Shorthorns have an ability to efficiently convert their forage into tender, marbled beef, and are an ideal choice of breed for intensive grazing and organic farming systems.
  • Shorthorns have distinctive coloring and are either red, red and white, white, or roan. The Shorthorn roan color, when it occurs, is a particularly close mixture of red and white found in no other breed of cattle.
  • We have all of our cattle genetically tested using the GeneSTAR® Tenderness test. This test uses the cow’s DNA to identify which animals are more likely to produce tender beef.
  • GeneSTAR® testing along with American Shorthorn Association calculated EPD’s are what we use to make herd stock decisions. These types of data help to make data driven decisions about which cows we keep, and how we breed them to make improvements in the overall herd quality.
  • Our herd goals currently are:
    • birth live calves
    • breed good mothering ability and docile temperaments
    • frame size of 4-5 (which is a standard way to measure a cow - medium) so they are more compact and fatten more efficiently on grass

Katahdin Sheep:
  • Sheep have been domesticated by man, longer than any other animal except dogs.
  • Sheep are used primarily for meat, wool or fat (which is used to make cooking oil in some desert regions of the world).
  • What is a Katahdin Hair Sheep?
    • Michael Piel of Maine began development of the breed in the 1950’s naming the sheep for Mount Katahdin in Maine.
    • His breeding was originally a cross between a hair coated Virgin Island Sheep and a meat sheep from the island of St. Croix In the 1970’s Mr Piel’s flock was bred with Wiltshire Horn shedding sheep from England.
  • So, why Katahdin Hair Sheep?
    • Wool production after the end of government subsidies has not been economically viable for most farmers. As labor costs to shear sheep have steadily increased, and the price of wool has steadily declined resulting in more farmers leaving the wool raising industry.
    • If meat is your primary purpose for sheep, why grow wool at all. Meat is considered superior market quality and is mild in flavor.
    • In cold weather they grow a heavy, thick winter coat, but that coat then sheds in the spring when warmer weather comes. Thus they tolerate cold, heat and humidity well.
    • The breed is considered to be hardy, low maintenance, adaptable, efficient to raise in a variety of management systems including management intensive grazing.
    • Mothering capability is considered to be excellent – requiring a minimum of housing and lamb management/segregation during lambing. Lambing is done inside or on pasture as ewes usually have little trouble and are good at caring for their vigorous lambs immediately.
    • Average gestation is 145 – 148 days and lambing rates are good at 175 – 200% lamb crop each year (younger ewes rates are slightly lower). The normal breeding season for sheep is between August and January; however, they will breed out of season.
  • What is KHSI?
    • Katahdin Hair Sheep International is a breeders organization dedicated to registering and recording Katahdin sheep performance, assisting promotion/marketing and encouraging the research and development of the breed.
    • KHSI has a statement of ethics that members must adhere to which requires demonstration of a high standard for integrity, animal husbandry, orderly sheep identification, record keeping and registration of the animals. They are dedicated to the education of customers about the breed
    • Registration requirements include:
      • Animals that are the offspring of two registered parents
      • Plus animals born before 1 Jan 1998 must be classified with an "A" or "B" coat type by a certified inspector.
    • Recording can be made of animals 50% or more Katahdin, and then registration can occur for:
      • Females, with inspection, that are at least 7/8ths Katahdin blood and both parents registered.
      • Males, with inspection, that are at least 7/8ths Katahdin blood and who’s dam has been given an "A" quality coat".
    • Frank Stahl is a certified KHSI hair inspector.
  • Our herd goals currently are:
    • Live births, consistency in birth weights of 7-8 pounds and weaning weights of 100 pounds in approximately 8 months.
    • Medium weight and size sheep (ewes about 125 lbs)
    • Weaning weights of 100 pounds in approximately 8 months
    • Working with our coop partners at Misty Oaks Farm and Wade-Jean Farm we are selecting our breeding stock for parasite resistance – FEC’s of less than 5000 epg

  • Araucana (Easter Egg) Chickens
  • Buff Orpingtons
  • Gold Laced Wyandots
  • Silver Laced Wyandots
  • Barred Rocks
  • All breeds lay a Large to Jumbo heavy shelled egg
  • Eggs are brown except for the Araucana which lays any shade of egg from light green/blue to brown

Horses: We currently have a herd of 7 Percheron draft horses. Chosen primarily for their personalities, Frank uses the horses in the spring for plowing, summer for wagon rides and cultivating, and fall for picking corn. Typical years find him plowing in April about 3-4 acres to plant into open pollinated field corn. After their winter hiatus, he takes it a little easy on the horses to begin with; using them about 2 hours per day. Then as they get stronger he goes up to 4 hours a day of plowing. The 3-4 acres take about a month to plow, but because of the horses, usually he can get into the fields earlier than the farmers with tractors. One of Frank’s sayings is, ”It can be a little humbling to watch the neighbor with his 150hp tractor and 6 bottom plow, accomplish in one day what the horses and I have taken a month to do, but I still prefer the horse drawn plow.”

Toward the end of April, the Percheron Horse Association of America holds their annual plowing match in Fredricktown (about 30 miles from us) – which we almost always attend. Frank often gets compliments on the behavior of his horses, but after a month of plowing, they know what they’re doing, and they just go out there and work. They get antsy waiting for the other teams, which usually aren’t in quite as good shape. Kaya (our Australian shepherd) goes along, and stays right with the horses as they make their path back and forth across the field.

During the summer we try to give wagon rides to those guests who are interested, as it helps keep the horses busy. Frank also uses the horses to cultivate the corn (an old fashioned – organic way to kill the weeds that grow between the rows of corn). Then in the fall, he uses the horses to harvest the corn, typically cutting the entire plant, and feeding it either green or dry to the animals. Cutting corn by hand is a great way to stay fit for us and the horses.

Another interesting thing about picking the corn is the beautiful colors found in the ears. Each one, as its husks are pulled back, is like opening a Christmas present. You just never know what you’ll find. The open pollinated corn and it’s benefits are discussed above under crops. Frank says, “Why plant expensive corn, looking for really high yields, when the deer are going to eat a lot of it, and the ground really can’t support the other type of corn anyway. I save the best ears of corn because they grow optimally here in my fields.” All I know is it is fun to ride the wagon out into the fields and pick the corn, and the animals (as well as the deer) like it pretty well.

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