Before I had started farming I used to think about writing in a notebook or generally documenting my first steps so that I could look back and know what I had done and how to make it better. But once I started I was so busy and so worried I was forgetting something else that I definitely didn’t remember to properly document my path. I got lucky that Bootstrap stepped in to make me take notice, to help me summarize my experiments for better or worse, to formulate opinions about my progress.
It was a great way to step back this year and feel like a small part of a whole farm and a whole bunch of farms (and lots of rad women!) From here, December, looking back on warm days and growing grass I have the sense that we had a good season. I think my cows are breeding back sooner, they have good condition, we rarely – if ever – have any mastitis and our somatic cell is always low. We’ve had more heifer calves than any natural law should allow and they have all been healthy.
Probably the biggest ongoing surprise to me is how little milk my cows are making. I am working on it, but I think the 40# herd averages go long with the grass-based territory. When I took over I was averaging 60# (I had more than one cow milking 80-100#!) with corn silage and a balanced grain but I told myself my goal was 50#. Over the summer we didn’t feed any silage and kept up a ration of grain, weaning it down until it had no soy and no corn or any weird protein options that come out of industrial waste processes…yuck.
Once we chopped the corn we grew this year silage was back on the menu but I am feeling much better about it and appreciate to have such a loved winter feed. We raised non-GMO seed and next year we will be able to cultivate our corn. I am on my way to a 100% grass fed dairy but I feel that now is the time to do my learning about corn and how to grow it in a way that works for me. Being free of GMO’s has made a big difference in how I perceive the corn I do feed. Organically-raised next year will feel good.
In October my friend and full-time co-farmer Dayna joined me here. Her arrival has shifted the energy at Chaseholm – the work feels more sustainable and big plans feel more possible. We are making plans for next season and for me it is fun to look back: to my more solitary beginning; through the warm and wet summer when every day was new; to now, a more relaxed feeling with its one goals and trials but the more visible and supported future with some experience behind it.
Looking back, what I really feel is thankful, thanks to my parents and my brothers, my partner, Jordan, and to Jade and Siena, to all the people in my farming community who wished me well or told me a story about their life with cows. I have really appreciated it all so much. And thanks also to my cows!
To season two and many more.
Thanks to Stonyfield, Profits for the Planet, for funding the 2013 Bootstrap blog series.