November 27, 2022

From the Pastures: Ups and downs

Hello from Graze-N-Grow. By the time you are reading this our pasture broilers will be in the freezer after our friend Tommy at Brummel Poultry Processing does the “dirty job.” I’ve helped there a couple times and it’s too much lifting for this old body. It’s lift out of crates to the killing cones, then lift out of those to the scalder, then lift again to the plucker, then again to the processing room.

We should have enough birds now to see us through the year, I hope. We use a portable hoop house that we pull ahead each evening to fresh grass that the sheep had grazed earlier. Of all the species of meat animals we raise here, chickens are my least favorite. Maybe it’s because they don’t stay around long enough for us to get acquainted.

With ample rain the pastures are doing well, but it’s been a challenge for those in the hay business. I’m just letting the cattle trample the more mature pastures instead of baling them. It might come in handy to give the soil some armor this summer if it turns hot and dry.

The corn and beans are all up now except for 10 acres of beans going on sod I plowed up after grazing. As soon as it dries up, that will finish the planting season. Oh, and I will plant a few more rows of organic sweet corn to finish out the field. Most of the beans have been tine weeded once and the corn twice and as soon as it dries out the rotary hoe will get a workout followed by a couple cultivations at least. It’s a lot different than our grazing enterprise, but I like the diversity and organic prices have gone up a lot. I guess I could say that about everything.

I picked up a flock of sheep about 100 miles southeast of us a few days ago because the owner was going to Mexico on family matters and had no one to take care of them. They are the first ewes I’ve bought since we got into the hair sheep business in 2005. They will have a separate pasture for quarantine purposes, but seem almost identical to my flock except for a few woolly ones.

As a bonus, he threw in a guard dog about a year old. He is behaving quite well for just being a pup as usually they get rambunctious and chase the sheep at times, at least the ones I’ve had. So far, he gets along with the other dogs I’ve introduced him to. I don’t want any dogfights if I can avoid them. With his medium-long black and white hair coat and noticeably broad muzzle he seems to match the description of a breed I had never heard of before from Bulgaria called Karakachan. If he does his job, I don’t care much about his pedigree.

The calls are starting to come now from our holiday lamb customers and I have to tell them that supplies are limited since we sold off over 200 breeding ewes last November. Since that holiday is usually 10 days earlier each year due to the lunar calendar, it gets more challenging for them to find male lambs over 6 months old to meet their requirements. It’s going to be difficult saying “sold out” to some of our long time customers, but if any of you have some, let me know and you will never have a better sale than that day.

As all farmers know, every day has it’s ups and downs, but isn’t it still the greatest life there is? Enjoy your day. Happy trails.

Jim Draper

Jim Draper

Sheffield, Ill.