Home Organic Farming Hidden Hole Farm – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

Hidden Hole Farm – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

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Hidden Hole Farm – Natural Farming Analysis Basis

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Concord in Farming: The Built-in Strategy at Hidden Hole Farm

Arlen Beery has been farming the identical piece of land at Hidden Hole Farm in Dayton, Virginia, for thirty years. He was considered one of a number of farmers that OFRF spoke to in a collection of interviews about Built-in Crop-Livestock Programs, the apply of elevating livestock and crops on the identical farm, overlapping on the identical floor in methods that may profit the animals and the vegetation, in addition to the entire farm ecosystem. “In all my years the crops and livestock have each been right here,” he stated, when requested which got here first. “The livestock wanted forage and winter feed,” he stated. “For us each got here collectively.” His residence farm is 117 acres, and he additionally rents one other 200 close by. Hidden Hole Farm primarily raises dairy cattle, and sells natural grass-fed milk by Natural Valley, a wholesale milk cooperative. Additionally they elevate about 1000 laying hens, produce greens, hay, and corn, and sometimes promote some beef.

Though the crops and livestock have each been there from the start, they haven’t at all times been as built-in as they’re now. “Years in the past once we began we weren’t grazing,” Arlen stated. “We might harvest all of the crops we have been rising and bale or chop the crop and retailer it for the cattle to eat in additional of a confinement kind setting, the place cows went to the feed bunk [a type of feeding trough] to get their feed.” In 2003 Arlen started the transition to natural manufacturing, turning into licensed in 2006. “We moved into grazing at the moment,” he defined, “as a result of it’s a nationwide natural program ruling, it’s a requirement.”

There have been a number of issues that impressed them to make the shift to natural manufacturing. One of many key causes was to minimize the impact of market swings within the worth of fertilizer. They’ve additionally observed a profit in that it buffers them in opposition to the ups and downs within the grain market.

As a result of the natural mannequin doesn’t rely upon artificial fertilizers and chemical substances Arlen’s annual manufacturing prices are extra predictable. He feeds much less grain now that he’s rotationally grazing his cows on pasture, so swings within the grain market additionally don’t have an effect on his finances as a lot. One other motivation for going natural was the well being and wellbeing of the farm, the soil biology, and the household, together with younger youngsters who dwell on the farm. “We have been eager to get to a extra pure manner of farming,” Arlen stated.

Since turning into licensed natural and starting to place their animals on pasture, Arlen has developed a multi-year rotation for his farm to maintain his pastures and animals wholesome. For seven years, the land is in pasture, and the eighth 12 months in an annual crop (sudan or millet). Beginning in the summertime earlier than the annual crops might be grown in an space, Arlen places chickens on that pasture intensely. They then “out winter” the cattle, holding them on that very same piece of pasture by the winter. “In spring there might be plenty of manure left there from cattle and chickens,” Arlen defined. “The sod is skinny from livestock being on it. Then we do some tillage, and plant sudan/millet as an annual summer season crop.” After about 35 days they’re able to begin grazing the cattle in that space once more, and may return to graze the sudan/millet each month over the summer season. In September, after about three grazings, they pull the sudan/millet out and plant the realm again into perennial pasture, and preserve the animals off it for the primary winter so it could actually get established. After they replant a pasture they embrace triticale as a “nurse crop.” Triticale grows shortly, so it’s the very first thing the animals can graze once they’re put again on the pasture within the spring. They’re able to begin grazing there in mid March, which is sooner than different pastures that don’t have the triticale current.

Arlen has his farm divided into paddocks about 5 acres in dimension. They’re sometimes transferring about 90 cattle, and rotate them roughly each two days. “The best way I farm at present, a very powerful factor is having a fringe fence round the entire farm that’s safe,” Arlen stated. “It’s so much cheaper to let the cows in than to run hay gear over that floor. That’s one thing I’d advocate to anybody pursuing these methods of farming, to have a powerful safe perimeter fence so you’ll be able to flash graze when wanted.” At Hidden Hole the safe perimeter fence permits them to let cows into an space every time they should, to allow them to have cows clip a pasture, or terminate a canopy crop.

Whereas Arlen says that the yields on his crops haven’t modified a lot since integrating, there are another advantages that he has noticed. “The well being of cattle and chickens is so much improved,” he stated. “Particularly for the dairy cows, they don’t seem to be pushed as arduous… so that they’re not making an attempt to supply extra milk than they have been naturally designed to.” Arlen has noticed that his cows now have an extended lifespan and higher total well being as a result of they’re not on a excessive power weight loss plan of grains that ruminant animals haven’t advanced to eat. Chickens comply with cattle round within the rotation on Arlen’s pastures and are efficient in serving to to regulate the parasite load and fly larvae that comply with the cattle. Chickens naturally scratch round and assist to distribute the cow manure throughout the fields, which supplies well being advantages for the chickens as properly. “Getting the clover and alfalfa within the fields, in addition to crickets and worms, it’s helpful to them,” Arlen defined, mentioning that it additionally makes a more healthy egg for the patron.

Hidden Hole Farm has additionally seen enhancements in soil well being since integrating the livestock onto the cropping floor.  “Soil natural matter has elevated quicker than another mannequin of farming that I do know of,” Arlen stated. “The soil well being actually hums.” Because the cows depart patties on the fields, dung beetles burrow into the bottom and distribute that manure, transporting vitamins down into the soil. Earthworm exercise additionally will increase the soil biology, and the pathways left behind by the dung beetles and the earthworms assist in water infiltration and retention.

“The grazing of cattle is an fascinating studying curve,” Arlen stated. “Cattle have to learn to graze, and farmers have to learn to handle grazing animals. Studying your cattle, studying your farm, studying your surroundings, your dry occasions, rainfall, winter, how moist climate impacts how one can graze, how a lot injury you do… Takes time to grasp that.” From Arlen’s expertise, that course of takes three years, and typically longer. He identified that it’s not simply the farmers who’ve to regulate to the method of rotational grazing. Cows additionally have to study to graze, in the event that they haven’t been raised that manner. From Arlen’s observations it takes a cow rising up as a calf on a grazing mannequin earlier than they study to be good grazers and are capable of preserve good physique situation. “There’s no manner that you would be able to begin out as a brand new inexperienced grazing farmer and be capable to do [it] good at first. There’s no manner to enter a farm and do it by the textbook.”

Thankfully there are farmers like Arlen who’re prepared to share their experiences of the challenges and the benefits of integrating their crop and livestock manufacturing to assist educate and encourage different farmers to make the leap. Surveys of natural farmers have proven that farmer-to-farmer studying is likely one of the most most popular strategies to obtain info, so the willingness of farmers like Arlen to share their expertise is paramount. Though it takes time to study the nuances of how land, livestock, and crops work collectively, and to develop the built-in programs, Hidden Hole Farm is a superb instance of the long run advantages that crop-livestock integration can have on animal, crop, and soil well being.

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