Herd at Work

J Dylan Kennedy, Farm Manager

The latest news on the farm is pretty big for us. Our resident cattle herd has finally made the jump out of the limited pasture available to them for years, and into the areas on the north side of the Village where infrastructure work to accommodate them has been taking place since summer. It’s time to share some more details about why they’re moving and what they’ll be doing.

The cattle are now fully engaged as part of our Village@Work, just as you’ve seen with pigs and ducks in our garden for the last few years. The cows are now a regenerative landscape crew, whose job is to improve fertility and biodiversity on our property in the long term. They do that just by doing what they like to do, and it’s our job to put them in situations where what they like to do is beneficial to our land. That might not make that total sense yet, but hopefully some pictures of the herd and their new surroundings will help highlight the changes they are initiating here.

For the time being the cattle are mostly occupying a tree line that separates two different areas of grass, one a hay field turned pasture, and the other of native grasses. In late February Ben Leffew, our Preserve Manager, will be burning much of the grasses to promote their growth. We can also use cattle to do so. In the pictures you’ll notice our cows love to lay down in the thick dry grasses that were recently standing, it’s just like fresh straw to them. Other than laying the grasses down, they also deposit manure and step dry material into the soil with their hooves. The end result is similar to that of a burn, in that it makes space for the next season’s grasses to flourish, but is also different.

By bringing the grass stubble in contact with the soil, and adding nutrients and microbial stimulants through manure, the leftover grasses from 2018 will break down biologically, further feeding the topsoil and contributing to the overall health of the land. As the seasons progress and conditions change, so will the situations we put the cattle in, but each time, we will be putting them in a position to make a positive impact on the health of our farm.

Stay tuned for more farm updates, there’s always something happening around here!

Billy Rankin