Rotational grazing … sort of

As I write this, the goats and Spot (Jersey calf) are out in the front pasture, Gwen (Jersey cow) is in the side yard and Porky and Petunia (pigs) are loose in the goat pasture.  I’m keeping a close eye on the pigs to make sure that they are not damaging the goat pasture by rooting, but for the most part, they’ve spent their time rooting through the cow manure, eating the grain that she didn’t digest.  Pretty gross, huh?  But that’s a pig thing.

The goats are pissed and want back into their pasture (their shelter really) where they will lay around and be lazy dairy goats, but tough.  They can stay out for a few more hours.

Much of the pigs’ diet consists of milk and whey.  I’m making cheese every day, often twice a day so there’s lots of whey for them to consume.  Both of my cheese pots were in use this morning so the three gallons of milk that I got from the goats is set aside for the pigs.  I’ll put them up in their pen when I bring in the goats and calf.  Whey-fed pork is supposed to be particularly delicious.  The well-known ham Prosciutto di Parma is made from hogs raised on whey that comes from the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese making process.  Our former pig, Petunia, received some whey, but at the time we got her, the goats were slacking off in their production so she didn’t receive as much as these pigs are.  In addition to the three gallons of goat milk they’ll get this morning, I have two gallons of whey sitting in the kitchen to feed them later and two batches of cheese to drain later today.  These pigs are getting a lot of whey.

Yesterday, I spent a good deal of time in the garden weeding.  I originally installed wire along the edge of the garden fence to keep the chickens out, but I discovered some insect damage to the plants and decided to take the wire down and let the chickens in.  Sure, they’ll eat some of the tomatoes, but the good that they’ll do far outweighs the few tomatoes they’ll eat.  I will need to utilize the hoops on my raised beds (photos soon!) to install netting to keep them out of newly planted beds.  Once the vegetables are well established, their scratching shouldn’t do much damage.  I put all the weeds and grass that I took out of the garden into a tote and fed that to the pigs last night.

When it comes time to put the animals up, the trick is going to be separating the calf from the goats and (more importantly) making sure he doesn’t make a break for Gwen.  Over the weekend, we tried to put Spot back into the goat pasture, but as soon as he got in there, he bee-lined it to Gwen’s udder.  She’s dry now, but his suckling might bring her back into milk, which I don’t want; he would definitely would injure her teats with his aggressive suckling.  Poor Spot has to live in the chicken pasture for the next few months.  Of course, if I can do this rotational grazing routine every morning, he would get some time out on grass.

I put Gwen out into the yard for the first time yesterday.  If she’s out in the front pasture, she wanders down the driveway grazing on the short grass and eventually ends up too close to the road.  At least in the yard, she can graze to her heart’s content and not be near the road.

Damn, we need to do something about the horses and the ten acres that is almost fenced in down back.  It’s a waste for the two horses.  We have another roll of fence to install, maybe this weekend, and it will take almost one more to finish it.  Then, we might cross fence the pasture, maybe using the ElectroNet so that we can utilize that pasture for the goats and cows.  I hate that we are already feeding hay.

Maybe the rain we are getting this week will help.  So far, I think we’ve only received about an inch, which isn’t much, but it’s been a slow, steady rain which is better than the torrential downpours that they are getting in Charlotte and other areas.

Speaking of Charlotte, a job came up this morning for which I am very well qualified for so I applied for it.  Damn, I don’t want to go back to driving back and forth to Charlotte, but I may have no choice.  I believe I have ten weeks or less remaining on unemployment and there are no good job prospects in this area.  I know an attorney that works at this firm so maybe that will be an in.  Of course, if I end up having to drive to Charlotte, the farming will have to be scaled down quite a bit.  I can relatively easily do that with the goats.  I still have two does with kids on them and two more that are already starting to slack off in production.  I could put both of them on to once a day milking and leave the kids on the other two does.  That would leave just three that I’d have to milk twice a day.

The future seems pretty scary right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of months.  Of course, this isn’t anything new, I knew that I was reaching the end of unemployment and I’ve been aggressively job searching the whole time, but there simply isn’t much out there, especially in this neck of the woods.  I’ve resorted to applying (again) at grocery stores and the like, but who knows what, if anything, will come of that.  A Mellow Mushroom restaurant is opening in Hickory and they are having a job fair this weekend which I plan to attend.  I’d love to get a job in the kitchen as a prep cook.  I think I’d enjoy that, but without a background as a prep cook, who knows if they’d even consider me.

I guess whatever happens is what’s meant to be.  So far, my lay off in 2008 has opened a whole lot of doors, all of them very exciting and fulfilling.  Hopefully, that’s how it will continue.  I miss my job at the law firm in Charlotte, I really liked that job; but I like farming too.

Until later …