Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Another Good Question...

Sorry its been so long... the farm is getting busier by the day and we have started working a little after supper, so my time at the computer is getting more and more limited.  Here is the blog I promised Kim.

The other day Kim commented on my post about raw milk.  In that comment she asked what seems to be a common question among visitors here at the farm.  Here is her comment:

I have been looking for a source of raw milk to make butter, cheese etc. Many of the farmers around here do not sell it. At polyface to they grain anything? Are the chickens, pigs, cows exclusively on pasture?  -Kim


As for not finding and source of raw milk thats too bad.  I would wager a bet that the reason why many of the farmers around you do not sell it is because it is highly illegal in most states.  Kim may already know this but the government has decided to protect you from the life giving, nutrient rich, immune boosting, great tasting, super safe, local, unpasteurized, unhomogenized, drink of God, RAW MILK.  Thats right, you can go to jail, they can seize your product and equipment, and they can shut you down from making food for your wonderful and knowledgeable customers.  In some states its actually illegal to press a glass of raw milk to your lips and drink it, let alone sell it. 


To address the grain question...

Here on Polyface, the philosophy is to allow animals to express themselves to the fullest.  We look at what an animal is designed to do and go from there.  Here is a breakdown of that thought process for cattle, pigs, and chickens.


Cattle are herbivores and ruminants.  They are designed to eat plant material (mostly grasses) and with the help of millions of microorganisms break it down into digestible materials.  They are not designed to eat massive quantities of corn (or any grain for that matter) or meat products or chicken manure (yes that's what I said and some people feed it to cattle).  They may get the occasional mouthful of a seed head, but not lbs and lbs of grain.  (If you are interested in why its bad for cattle to eat grain, ask and I'll blog and link about it.)  So here on Polyface, our cattle are grazed exclusively on pasture.  

Pigs and Chickens

Pigs and Chickens are omnivores just like you and I.  They were designed to eat all types of food: plant and animal.  Most people think of grain when the question "What do pigs and chickens eat?" pops into their head.  Unfortunately this is not the right train of thought.  They eat so much more than just grains.  If you are one of these people, next time you should think "They eat: grain, grass (and other plants), roots, bugs, flesh (scavenged or killed), nuts, and anything else you may eat.  So here on Polyface we allow these animals to collects what they need from the pasture and then supplement them with a grain based ration. 


Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Good post. I'm fortunate enough to live in PA, where raw milk sales are grudgingly tolerated by the state. I LOVE this stuff! After buying a little raw milk, I've now begun drinking entire glasses of milk, instead of just adding a little to my tea each morning. Incredible stuff. And believe it or not, it's cheaper than the organic milk I can get at the store. Plus, it's local.

Just a minor response to the concept of grazing animals of all sorts. Any "herbivore" animal that eats leaves off of trees, or plants off the ground is also consuming insects or spiders and their eggs. Of course, by volume, these things may make up a tiny portion of the diet of the animal (though not necessarily for chickens). But insects and spiders happen to be high in protein and absolutely PACKED with all sorts of natural chemicals - many of them developed for defense against predators. Those chemical compounds do end up in the meat or eggs of the animals that eat them. This is why a wild fish, or a wild deer tastes so much better than conventionally produced meat.

Pastured domesticated animals get those insects in their diet too. It's not only the grass, but also a diverse insect population that contributes flavor to pastured products. Oddly enough, I learned about this not through the beyond organic or slow food movement, but almost twenty years ago in culinary school. Even then, the master chefs knew that wild diets produced better flavor in animals.


Jedidja said...

Would love to read your explanation of why its bad for cattle to eat grain (even if I own all of Joel's books :))

Really enjoying your blog -- please keep updating it as much as you can :) I can imagine being an apprentice at Polyface is a full-time job, but for those of us who can't make it we must live vicariously through you!

Grady Phelan said...

Jedidja, I'll try and write my reasons down on here soon... my explanation may be a little dumbed down, but I'll give it a go.

Anonymous said...

Hey Grady,
I'm....well....a greenhorn...but I'm learning. I've had my Jersey's heifers for 4 days!!!!! :D Way too much fun! They came from a commercial dairy farm. But these farmers really love their animals. They did get out to pasture some. I'm trying to break them in (2 yr bred heifer and 7 month heifer) tying them up in the corral and walking them in the pasture. I've got to train them with the electric fence, so they aren't getting out in pasture yet. So, in the mean time, they have been given lots of grain and silage at the dairy farm and I'm giving them a little with hay. They've cleaned up ALL the grass in the corral. They go hog wild over the grain. Kicking up their heels and dancing like cows!

There seems to be so many opinions on this topic. All grass. Grass and a little grain. Lots of grain and grass. Some say they need it for condition, esp when bred and when they freshen. It's all very confusing to a newbie!

Since grains are in the grass family, what is the difference? They are all grasses. I'm not feeding any corn since I don't have a close source of non GMO corn. Right now I'm giving some crimped barley, crimped oats and beetbulp with molasses. The calf is gettting a calf ration...although I won't buy it again, but will try to mix my own if I continue grains.

Sorry for rambling. I'd love to see a post on this topic also, even if you think it's dumbed down. I too own all of Joel's books! Sometimes I just need to hear it in simple terms though. Thanks.