Harvesting sunlight: that’s what we do. At a “grazing school” we recently attended, one of the presenters said, “There are very few free lunches in this world….The sun is one of them.” One of the things we knew and had reinforced is that fresh green is different from dried green. The longer we can utilize pasture through planning what forages are available when and using them properly. I have two cases in point.
The best pork starts with a good breed and is enhanced with proper raising. That involves several things, but one of them is pasturing. Fresh green grass adds flavor to muscle. The animals love it–it provides nutrition they crave. We’ve also observed that pigs fed corn diets without grass have a lot of gas and are less docile. When we make sure they have roots to dig for and green grass, they are more content, pushing less on the fences and fighting less. The pigs tend to graze the grass off first, then start to dig for the roots. We do have sugar beets (mangolds) planted into the winter fields this year, and it’ll be interesting to see how they go for them compared to the turnips. You can see the grass in this fellow’s mouth. He’s feasting on rye grass, which is a very high protein, high moisture grass.
This is the little tractor that houses some of our heritage chickens. I’m running it in the front yard where the grass is poorer. I was interested to see what it would do for the lawn. The tractor is going back down the hill after going down and up already. The area at the bottom of the hill is where it turned. Hmmm…… Not only does the fresh chlorophyl make all the difference in the chickens, the chickens make a big difference in the ground that feeds the grass!
We watched a movie this weekend called Food Matters. One of the points made was that soil is much more complex than the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium that ferilizers feed it. There are about 56 nutrients required by healthy soil. That’s one reason that compost is a great soil builder–it’s a complex soil food. That’s also another reason for pasturing–animals are harvesting and replenishing at the same time. We have one pasture that was looking rather beat up. The goats had been on it two falls and had overgrazed it, but also generously fertilized it. Goat manure is rich and breaks down quickly–it’s soil fast food. This summer we’ve run the chicken tractors over it twice. The grass and clover are thick now, and richly dark green.
Grass–the free lunch that improves with use!