Categories
Farm Happenings

Compost Containment Area

Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant by the Adirondack Council, to enhance the environmental benefits provided by our farm. The funds were used to partially cover the cost of constructing a cement compost containment area, basically a bunk in which we can compost our bedding, manure, and garden waste. Having the compost contained means that we’re much less likely to have run-off after rainstorms, that could leach into the nearby stream and wetlands.

“Sustainably managed farmlands are working landscapes that protect wildlife, open space, and water quality, while playing a part in mitigating climate change. Supporting Adirondack farms benefits the environment as well as our economy and our communities, with jobs and healthy food,” – William C. Janeway, Adirondack Council Executive Director

Before and after composting. We use a lot of waste hay as bedding, because our Angora goats can’t lay on wood shavings.

Composting is really important to our farm because it allows us to take advantage of nutrient cycling. What once was a pile of goat poop, will eventually become nutrient rich soil, that we can use in our garden or sell to other gardeners in the area. Composting is also how many farms, including ours, dispose of animals when they die. (Not that that happens often!) There’s an old saying that “if you have livestock, you’re gonna have dead stock”. That’s just the reality of farming. 

We are very fortunate to have had our proposal funded by Adirondack Council, and to have had some help with completing the project! If you’re curious about the process, here’s a video of Brandon and his father setting the mafia blocks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCihxf1M16w&t=147s

Categories
Recipes

Butternut Squash with Pecans

Butternut squash is a favorite fall side dish in our household, and good thing, because right now we have a ton of them! (There are some available at the farmstand.) The following recipe is one that our family makes every year as part of our Thanksgiving celebration. It’s easily made in advance and kept warm in a crockpot for serving later in the day. This recipe was passed down from my Great Great Aunt Dotty to my Grammy, who was kind enough to send me a picture of the recipe card to share with you all.

Recipe card in my great grandfather’s handwriting.

Start by peeling a medium sized butternut squash, and removing the seeds. You can also use acorn or hubbard squash, if you prefer! Cut the squash into large cubes, and boil until fork tender. Drain and mash until smooth.

Add in 1/3 cup of melted margarine or butter (I prefer butter), 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Stir lightly. Transfer into a greased 8″ x 8″ casserole dish.

Combine 1/2 cup of coarsely chopped pecans with 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Spread over top of the squash.

Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

Categories
Issues in Agriculture

Small Farms, Big Impact

I’d like to preface this by saying that I support ALL farms. Big farms, small farms, first generation farms, seventh generation farms, conventional farms, organic farms; they’re all helping to combat food insecurity in their own ways, and they all deserve recognition for their contributions! However, we consumers are often put in a position where we have to choose which type of farm we want to support with our food dollars. When given the choice, I would encourage you to choose to purchase from small farms. Here’s why: small farms have big economic impacts.

Support for small farms translates to support for entire communities. A dollar in the pocket of a small dairy farmer may be spent at the hardware store up the road, the local feed mill, or the tractor dealership in the neighboring town. That dollar stays in the regional economy, helping local businesses to thrive. Large farms tend to be vertically integrated, meaning that they handle their own supply or distribution stages, and thus aren’t dependent on other businesses to meet those needs. Vertical integration is great in theory, as it allows the farms to control their costs and leads to increased efficiency. Vertical integration can also spell disaster for rural communities. For example, a hundred small farms purchasing their grain from the local feed mill will keep the feed mill profitable, but if most of those hundred small farms are acquired by one large farm that produces its own grain, the feed mill will have to close its doors. The few small farms that remain will be left without a feed supplier and may end up closing their doors as well.

Another impact that small farms have on their communities is employment opportunity. Small farms employ more people per acre than do large, industrialized farms. (Fortuna) More job opportunities in rural communities lead to lower poverty rates, lower unemployment rates, and fewer people moving away in search of gainful employment. Technically, small farms are less efficient than large farms because the costs of labor and other inputs are higher per unit of product, but this doesn’t mean that small farms are inefficient by any means. The efficiency difference is marginal in most cases. This may mean that we consumers pay a little bit more for products from small farms, but that’s ok with me. 

I’m not saying that large farms are “the bad guys”. On the contrary, I applaud them for successfully growing their businesses. What I am saying is that many small farms can be a force for good in rural communities, and that collectively, their impact is greater than that of a few large farms. Because of this, the small farms win my food dollars every time, and you should consider giving them yours, too!

Works Referenced

Fortuna, Carolyn. “Economic and Social Impact of Family Farms – and Their Loss.” The Inspired Economist, 26 Apr. 2019, inspiredeconomist.com/2017/01/12/economic-social-impact-family-farms-loss/#:~:text=Economic%20instability%3A%20Areas%20having%20more,is%20spent%20in%20the%20community. 

Categories
Farm Happenings

Quonset Hut Finishing Touches

La pièce de résistance, the sliding door!

We are ALMOST done with the quonset hut build! Since my last update, we sheeted the end walls, installed the sliding door, set up the pens inside, and built a heated washroom (complete with a slop sink, stainless steel countertop, and lots of shelving). We still have a couple of small projects to complete this spring before we can officially declare the project done: we need to paint the end walls and install vents to promote good respiratory health for our goats.

Framing the sliding door.

One lesson that we’ve learned throughout the building process: don’t forget to budget for hardware! We have spent well over a thousand dollars on miscellaneous hardware over the course of this project. The track and wheels to mount the sliding door alone were a few hundred dollars.

Cracks between base plate segments.

We’re still glad that we bought the base plates from DuroSpan. They were a game changer for us. However, because the base plates come in approximately 10’ sections, there are cracks between them that allow water to come in. As soon as it’s warm enough, we’ll seal these gaps with Flex Seal. Here’s to hoping that will be a final solution!

Cutting off the excess cement.

We have to admit that we made a mistake when we poured our cement pad. We poured a 31’ x 51’ pad for a 30’ x 50’ structure. At the time, we thought that we were playing it safe by making the pad larger than it needed to be, but this prevents the water from draining off of the base plates properly. Brandon has been hard at work cutting the excess cement away. We won’t make the same mistake in the future…

Categories
Issues in Agriculture

Separation of Dams and Offspring

Did you know that in addition to working on the farm, working off the farm, and wrangling a wild 2 year old, I somehow find the time to go to grad school? (I know, I can’t believe it either.) I am pursuing my Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Environment, which is something that I get really excited about! Recently I wrote this brief paper for my Agricultural Advocacy course. The assignment was to develop an advocacy plan based on an animal welfare issue. I wanted to share it here on our blog because it explains why we separate our goat kids from their mothers at birth and raise them as “bottle babies”.

Written Response #2: Separation of Dams and Offspring

     Throughout my career in the dairy industry, one question I’ve often been asked is “why do you take the babies away from their mothers when they’re so young?” When I worked with Holstein cattle, my answer was always that it was to protect the calves from being injured. Cows can be very rough on calves for a variety of reasons. An experiment conducted by California dairyman Mark McAfee revealed that only about 30% of his cows exhibited exceptional mothering ability; the other 70% neglected their calves, allowing them to be stepped on by other cows or attacked by coyotes. (Law, 2018) It is often thought that the selection pressure that has been placed on other attributes, such as milk production and confirmation, have led to maternal instincts being essentially “bred out” of dairy animals. 

Now that I work exclusively with goats, who tend to make excellent mothers, that question has become harder to answer. However, in order to be a good advocate for my industry, I need to be prepared with clear, consistent responses that are backed by science. On my family’s farm, we separate the kids from their mothers at birth. I have three reasons for doing this: to protect the newborn from illness, to ensure that the newborn receives adequate nutrition, and to promote the udder health of the dam.

    When calves (and kids) are born, they have no active immune system. (Nash, 2017) They are fragile and particularly susceptible to any pathogens that may exist in their environment. I believe that the biggest threat to my herd is coccidiosis, or diarrhea caused by an environmental protozoan called coccidia. Coccidia are always present in adult goats and sheep, who pass oocytes through their feces. (Metzger, 2018) On other farms, caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE), caseous lymphadenitis (CL), and Johne’s disease may be of concern. Contact between kids and infected dams is thought to be the main cause of CAE transmission. (“Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Part Two”) All three of these major goat diseases have the potential to be passed through milk. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) advises that kids should receive colostrum from does that have been tested free from disease, and that milk should be pasteurized if contamination is possible. (“Johne’s Disease”, 2015) 

The kid’s consumption of adequate amounts of colostrum and milk during its first few days of life are key to its survival. As previously stated, young ruminants are born without an active immune system. They depend upon passive transfer of immune antibodies through colostrum. Timing of colostrum feeding is critical, as the newborn is only able to absorb the immunoglobulins during the first day of life. (Selk, 2020) Kids need to be fed at least 10% of their body weight in colostrum within 24 hours of birth. (Bentley) It is impossible to ascertain that these standards are being met if the kid is left to nurse from the dam. Additionally, weaker kids may find it difficult to nurse if the dam and siblings are active. Rearing youngstock artificially allows for all of their nutritional needs to be met and for their growth to be carefully monitored. 

    While there isn’t an abundance of evidence to support a causal relationship between dam-raising kids and mastitis infection in dairy does, my experience has proven a correlation. Does nursing multiple offspring are among the goats most commonly affected by mastitis. (Schoenian, 2017) Pasteurella haemolytica, a pathogen causing chronic mastitis, may be spread to the teat from the mouth of a kid that has pneumonia. (Metzner, 2008) Kids frequently cause injury to the udder as well. In the words of experienced goat rancher Suzanne Gasparotto, “kids are hard on udders and teats; they bump, hit, and sometimes bite when trying to access milk.” (Gasparotto, 2013) To lower the chances that my does’ udders will be compromised, I prefer to milk them twice daily using sterilized equipment, and then bottle-feed the milk to the kids, rather than allowing the kids to nurse.

    Being truthful and outlining the more compelling reasons behind my position is how I intend to advocate for my industry. As a business owner, I am well aware of the importance of public perception. I make a point of sharing facts about livestock and animal care practices via social media, my farm’s website, and by engaging in discussions with the public at farmer’s markets and other events. In the near future, I plan to host farm tours, so that I can educate people about the issues surrounding animal agriculture and create a positive experience that they will hopefully remember and share with others.

Works Cited

Bentley, J. (2018). Colostrum Management for the Dairy Goat Kid. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Part Two: Preventing and Controlling CAE. Ontario Goat. (0AD). https://ontariogoat.ca/goat-gazette/caprine-arthritis-encephalitis-part-two-preventing-and-controlling-cae/.

Gasparotto, S. W. (2013, April 11). Udders and Teats. Meat Goat Mania. http://tennesseemeatgoats.com/MeatGoatMania/April2013/index.html.

Johne’s Disease – American Dairy Goat Association. ADGA. (2015, May 17). Law, T. (2018, August 13). Why some dairy cows make bad mothershttps://ethicalfoods.com/mothering-instinct/.

Metzger, M. (2018, November 19). Preventing coccidiosis in goats and sheep. MSU Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/preventing_coccidiosis_in_goats_and_sheep.

Metzner, D. M. (2008). Udder diseases. http://www.rinderskript.net/skripten/klw-4.html.

Nash, J. (2017, September 19). Why are Dairy Calves Separated from their Mothers? Milk Means More. https://www.milkmeansmore.org/dairy-calves-separated-mothers/.

Schoenian, S. (2017, April 14). Mastitis is Udder Madness. Lancaster Farming. https://www.lancasterfarming.com/news/southern_edition/mastitis-is-udder-madness/article_2e6176dc-5941-5ab0-97a0-933ef4569d32.html.

Selk, G. (2020, December 15). Most Passive Immunity Occurs in the First Six Hours. Drovers. https://www.drovers.com/news/beef-production/most-passive-immunity-occurs-first-six-hours.

Categories
Farm Happenings

Logging Plans

When we first bought our 26 acre property, we had planned to have the entire parcel logged to make pasture for our goats. We postponed logging until winter to mitigate our environmental impact, but as winter drew closer, we started to reconsider…

When it comes to goats, 26 acres is a LOT of land! One acre can support 6-8 goats, provided that there is good quality forage. Clearing all 26 acres would mean that we could potentially carry over 200 goats, which we have no intention of doing. We envision our herd growing to 30-40 goats, but no larger. There’s no denying that large farms are efficient, but sometimes they lack adequate person to livestock ratios, and health issues go unnoticed, or the staff are too overwhelmed to address them. We never want to put ourselves in a position where we have so many animals that we can’t interact with each and every one of them on a daily basis.

So what do goats have to do with logging? Goats prevent regrowth. If we don’t have enough goats to stay ahead of the regrowth, the land won’t remain clear. We aren’t prepared to brush hog that many acres of rough terrain. Not to mention, having stumps removed is very expensive.

Because we don’t feel that we could keep up with maintaining 26 cleared acres, we have decided not to proceed with having the property logged by a logging company. Instead, we will slowly work toward clearing the lower portion of the land ourselves, processing the trees into firewood. We’ve already begun cutting where we plan to build our chicken coop. By spring, things should look noticeably different at our farm, although it may take us a few years to get everything cleared the way we want.

Categories
Farm Happenings

What’s Coming in 2021

Come springtime, this area will be fenced and

What a year 2020 was! In spite of the global pandemic, we made quite a few things happen over the last year. We’d like to take a moment to celebrate some of these accomplishments:

  • We purchased our first ever BRAND NEW tractor
  • We doubled the size of our laying flock
  • We were awarded a grant by the Food Animal Concerns Trust
  • We constructed a 30’ x 50’ quonset hut all by ourselves
  • We moved all of our hooved animals into the new barn
  • We began accepting soap orders directly through our website

We have so much to look forward to in 2021. Here are some of the exciting developments that are to come:

  • The addition of livestock guardian dogs to our farm
  • The installation of permanent fencing to provide our goats with approximately six acres of pasture
  • A brand new raised bed garden
  • A brand new chicken coop
  • The opening of a new farm-to-table restaurant in Malone that will feature some of our products 
  • Regularly scheduled farm tours
  • New products at the farmstand (our own and from our local partner farms) 
  • MORE GOATS!

We have several other projects underway but they may not be complete until 2022. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we believe we are taking our farm in the right direction and that it will all pay off in the future. Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Categories
Farm Happenings

Quonset Hut End Walls

Once we finished assembling our quonset hut, the next step was to build the end walls. We opted to build our own, rather than purchase them as part of the building kit, so that we could completely customize the size and placement of the doors and vents.

First, we screwed pressure treated boards to the cement to form a sill that we could build off of. We used our own rough cut lumber to frame the walls, doubling the boards in some places to reach the quonset hut’s 14’ peak (our sawmill only allows us to cut 10′ logs). Deciding how to secure the upper part of the wall to the curved metal structure was a bit tricky. We ended up putting roofing screws through holes that we drilled in the drip edge, which can be seen as little green dots in the photo below.

Framing the back wall.

For siding, we used upcycled roofing steel. To get the steel to match the shape of the quonset hut, we had to carefully cut each piece. Brandon would stand on a ladder on the outside holding a sheet in place, while I stood on a ladder on the inside to trace the curve of the drip edge. We then cut along the line using tin snips.

Cutting roofing steel by hand is harder than you would think!

Although you can see some light along the right side of the wall, the drip edge overlaps the cut edge of the roofing steel by a few inches, preventing water from leaking in. We will evaluate whether spray foam insulation is needed to fill these little gaps, and if necessary, we’ll tackle that project in the spring. For now we’re just focused on getting the building closed in to keep the animals out of the wind!

An almost completed back wall. We’ll be installing a man door and vents shortly.

Categories
Farm Happenings

Halfway Done With Our Quonset Hut

Since our quonset hut is now more than half assembled, I figured it was time to share an update!

We started out doing things the VERY hard way. First, we tried standing up a fully assembled arch, with the help of Brandon’s father and brother. We quickly learned that the arches have a propensity to twist. We abandoned that method before we did serious damage to the building and/or one of us. Next, we began standing up sections of arch by standing on ladders and scaffolding that we strapped into the bed of our truck to gain some additional height (I’m sure this is completely OSHA approved).

Construction wasn’t moving along as quickly as we would have liked, and it was still incredibly challenging to put up a full arch with only two people. With winter looming just a few weeks away, we decided to rent a scissor lift to get the job done.

With the scissor lift, the two of us can assemble an arch in a little over an hour. We’ve developed our own method: we stand up the side pieces (there are two pieces on each side), we bolt the side pieces in place, and then we tie the sides together with the center piece. We made a timelapse video to share on our new YouTube channel. Check it out: https://youtu.be/COXFMZD_jLI

Categories
Farm Happenings

Base Plate Installation

The biggest mistake we made when we ordered our DuroSpan steel building kit was NOT ordering the hand welded base plate along with it. I don’t know what we were thinking. The base plate may not be necessary to install the quonset hut, but it definitely makes it 1,000% easier. Had we ordered the base plate at the same time as the building, we would have saved close to $1,500 in extra freight charges and would have been able to erect the building six weeks earlier. But life is all about learning from your mistakes, right?

Once the base plate arrived, we set to work installing it. First, we laid out all of the sections so that we would know where the holes were. Then, we used a hammer drill (98 times!) to make 3” deep holes in our concrete pad. We coated the bottom of each base plate section with roofing tar to prevent water from seeping underneath the base plate. Finally, we bolted each section in place.

We applied tar to the bottom of each base plate section before bolting it into place.

While we were waiting for the base plate to arrive, we started assembling partial arches. (I strongly recommend getting a head start on this if possible; your hands will get tired after putting several together because there are SO MANY BOLTS!) Often, it’s just the two of us working on the barn, so we opted to stand it up in sections as opposed to full arches. I will be sure to post again as we begin erecting the structure.

Partially assembled quonset hut arches.

I’m sure there will be a bit of a learning curve with this next step, ha!