"You have a zoo?!"
And yes, yes, I do but there is a reason for it. Much of today's agriculture is monoculture. Focusing mostly on the growth of one species of plant or animal. Which works phenomenally well but tends to have downfalls. If you take a drive through the country side rows and rows of corn or soybeans cover the landscape, hayfields with gorgeous stands of alfalfa. This type of farming has evolved over the years much due to demand and in large scale this is very successful. But comes with a cost in soil depletion as well as lack of disease and parasite resistance. Though recently, there has been a huge growth in planting cover crops, to help give a little diversity to the land. Which is great and I love seeing it but in the case of small farmers our best avenue is to diversify even more.
This is why I have a zoo. Although, I don't grow much in the means of crops other than my garden which has all the staple plants and some oddballs, like tobacco and artichokes. Diversifying the animals here allows me to help push the soil into what I need it to be to build carbon and grow great pastures. Chickens and hogs are great for tillage and working up compacted ground while spreading fertilizer. This is why I use portable chicken tractors to condense the birds and yet move them about each day to give them fresh earth to scratch and new grass to clip. The Red Wattle pigs are easier on a pasture and produce well, being in that setting. Our Hampshire pigs will be raised differently but offered lots of table scraps and garden leftovers. This helping to produce the end product of delicious pork that ends up on your plate. Cattle graze the fields and what the cattle don't eat the sheep and goats will browse through and eat. Each animal has its place and purpose, except maybe the peafowl. They are more for the aesthetic features than any sort of practicality, but they eat bugs, so I guess they contribute somewhat. Every one of them helps complete the circle, and to be successful as a small farm being able to offer multiple options to customers is our best asset. So next time you hear me say I have a zoo, there's a reason for it. Plus, its growing as we come into lambing, kidding and farrowing season.
Hi, I am Mandy Onesti originally the author/blogger of Ponytails and Cow Trails. Which I had started to bring people closer to the life on the homestead. Running two websites, a house full of kids and a small farm, made me decide to conjoin my websites. I have a lifelong background in Agriculture and have worked on everything from rotational grazing organic farms to large scale dairy farms. I now run a small herd of beef cattle and strive for a sustainable lifestyle. Thank you for joining me.