Sustainable Sheep

by Copicut Staff June 11, 2017

 

It’s funny how things expand over time. When Vince and I decided to farm we originally planned for chickens, but over the course of the first season we added turkeys and game hens. Then due to a request from a 5-year-old Emmett we added a few pigs, and now our pig population has grown to over 80 pigs per season. Ducks were yet another request from Emmett (for pet purposes only of course) but last week 25 Peking meat ducklings arrived and although I swore I would never attempt to process ducks, suffice to say: We will have duck available in July!  

For those who have been following our spring season on the blog you may remember that Emma has joined our farm staff; she is with us for the summer from Arizona. The 4H club was a big part of her childhood and there she gained experience and knowledge of raising and caring for sheep.  After plenty of research and much deliberation Vince and I decided a flock of sheep would complement our farm systems perfectly. Emma and Vince have spent many a spring afternoon hashing out the pros and cons of different breeds but they settled on African Dorper sheep, twelve to be exact.

The acquisition of sheep was possible only because of the completion of the permanent fencing project we undertook earlier in the spring with the proceeds from our Farm Share Members. By fencing the whole pasture, we can provide better security for all the animals as well as allowing the chickens and turkeys more space to forage.  Sheep are natural lawn mowers so while we feed and house them, they will keep the grass in the pasture clean and neat.  But this is about more than looking good! The chickens can’t forage in tall grass so until now we’ve had to mow the pasture with our old orange tractor to keep it at their preferred height before we could rotate the chickens in. The inclusion of sheep will create what is known as a “multi-species rotational grazing” system, made popular by Joel Salatin (you may have read about him in  Michael Pollan's The Omnivores Dilemma).  Salatin advocates using pastures to their fullest potential by optimizing livestock to maintain preferred grass heights. This is a fancy way of saying that the sheep go into tall grass and nibble it down to ideal chicken height. And all along both species are fertilizing the pasture to ensure green, nutrient rich grass for years to come.

Ok, so those are the practical reasons but I’d be lying if I didn't say that we've all fallen in love with the sheep! Vince is already claiming that we need at least 50 more, and one afternoon last week I found Matt just lounging around in the sheep pasture chatting with them.  It has been a lot of fun watching them settle into the farm and they have really added character to our days.

Vince and I are always grateful when we get to expand our farm and it’s a privilege to be able to provide for our animals and land in the best way we know how. We are also grateful that we’re able to expand organically as a business and in the direction of increased sustainability. No longer are we wasting gas mowing the pastures. Now the tall grass is being turned into a healthy food source for yet another species of livestock.  Make no mistake about it, this project would not have been possible without the support of our Farm Share Members. Our sheep flock is a perfect example of Community Supported Agriculture at its best! This is what can happen when farmers work directly with their community and there is an open line of communication and support between them.

Its not too late to help us finish our spring project and expand our sheep flock even further. Please consider visiting our Farm Share page and becoming a member today! 



Copicut Staff
Copicut Staff

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