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Kevin MacBearach

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since May 04, 2012
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Beavercreek, Oregon
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Recent posts by Kevin MacBearach

Just to clarify, I'm not growing any crops. I'm growing grass for my two dairy cows and five sheep.  I was not thinking of spreading fresh manure onto the pasture but finished compost. I just want to know what the best way to apply it. And how effective it could be.
7 years ago
I've been gathering up all my animal manures, wood chips, and food scraps and using chickens to turn the compost inside my chicken run, with pretty good results. Now I want to use this stuff to improve my pasture. Do I just walk around the pasture while tossing it in every direction? Is it just that simply? Is it okay to spread it around anytime of the year, or should I do it in early spring?
7 years ago
I've been thinking about this after watching Geoff Lawton's "Chicken Tractor on Steroids" video. If it works for chickens, why wouldn't it work for pigs? Geoff's method is to have piles in different stages of maturation that are a mix of food scrapes (what we would just normally throw to our pigs), fresh cow, or horse manure (what our pigs might come into contact with on the pasture and eat), and hay, or woody materials (what would be little, or no interest to our pigs).

My idea would be that this could be a way of - 1. Stretching out the volume of the food scrapes by mixing it with green and brown compost materials. 2. Increasing nutrient density of food scrapes and other brown/green materials through fermentation, appearance of bugs and grubs, and general breakdown of what would otherwise be non-digestible materials.

Reason I'm toying with these ideas is because I just don't see pigs as a very sustainable option for the small homesteader. The "pigs on pasture" scenario, while looks nice in the early stages, ultimately looks to me as a way to turn a grass field into a motor-cross track. Plus, we're bring on huge volumes of a food scrape inputs onto the farm. It would be nice to have pigs tied into the other systems on the farm such as cows, poultry, and gardens, instead of tied into restaurant and grocery store compost dumpsters, and the feed store.

Appreciate any and all feedback.

8 years ago
I've been thinking of using material normally used to make compost (fresh manures and hay/woody materials) and mix various food scrapes, veggie/fruits, grain, dairy. etc., in it to create a diverse food product for pigs to eat. If this method works for chickens, why would it not work for pigs?
8 years ago
Is it any particular breed of calf that you're selling? Dairy, meat, or a cross? Do you have a bull, or do AI? Our last calf born here was a brown swiss/guernsey cross. I'm really regretting selling her after along one week of working with her and the mom. I should have gave it more time to see if I could have set up a system of milk sharing and just milked once a day for the first three months. I still have more milk than I can sell, so I should have kept the calf and sold her down the road a bit for more money. Now I'm losing money, and working harder.....

The people who bought her from me are doing just that, buying calfs and selling them either bred, or close to it. I think they're making decent money doing this on the side.

I ordered Adam's book on Amazon. But it's going to be hard to make any big changes at this point unless I sell these cows and buy new ones, or wait till July to breed my one cow that's newly freshened. It might be more economical to find and buy a new cow that's due in April. But it could be tricky to find such a cow. Especially one that's a heritage breed.
8 years ago
Keeping the calf from the mom for an hour after milking seems like a good idea. I've had a lot of trouble with cows letting down while the calf is around, or nearby.

And I've decided to start a once a day milking schedule. Not doing it now since I've got a different situation at the moment with a newly freshened cow and no calf around. But I want to implement it as soon as I can, along with letting the cows dry up for the winter months. Mainly because It's just taking up too much time and I've had more milk than I can sell at the moment. I do need to figure out a few more ideas for farm incomes to rely on when this happens.

I don't think I could get $1000 - 1500 for a weaned calf here in Oregon. I have been getting $400 for a week old calf pretty easy. I there a reason a 3 month old weaned calf is so valuable where you are? If it was feasible, I would raise a calf till it could be bred, but trying to keep a calf away from it's mom that long would be almost impossible for me.
8 years ago
I'm certainly open to make changes with how I do the milk business. The problem is, I have one cow (brown swiss) that just calved one month ago, so I would have to wait to breed her for at least 8 months to get her on a seasonal breeding schedule. My other cow (guernsey) seem to have an infertility issue so we might be eating her. So I would have to find a cow to buy that's due to calve in, or around July. I don't know if that's tricky to find or not, having never done it.

The other part is learning how to keep and raise the calf by doing milk sharing with the mother during the crucial spring and summer months.

So if I can get through those two hurdles, I might be ok.
8 years ago
I hope you guys don't think I'm trying to be a jerk. I'm just looking for answers to situations I'm dealing with ultimately. I do think about what you and Adam are saying, and I'm not on here just giving my opinion for nothing. Like you guys, I'm up every morning at 6:00 dealing with animals (and kids!) barely without a break till nighttime. Do I like to have to milk twice a day, no. Do I like to milk year round, no. Do I like to have to sell the calves a week after they're born, no. And do I like to have to supplement with grain, definitely not! So if I come off a little testy, I'm sorry.
8 years ago
Not a problem. It's actually 2 acres of pasture that they're on. I'm able to graze them the same amount of time that anyone in Oregon with 10--20 acres can during the spring and summer when the grass is fast growing. Most of of the time I'm mowing the pasture be cause 2 cows can't keep up with the growing grass.

Again, I can't narrow down the client base like that, mainly because we're almost an hour outside of Portland and it's everything I can do to market my product to get people to make the drive. Even the herd-share drop off I do closer to town is a more a drive for some. I get your analogy with "year round corn" but it's true that what you're doing with the winter lay off is not something found in traditional dairies, or farms. People always were able to extend milking through winter, and for thousands of years it didn't seem to be a problem for them, or the cows. So my question is, who's example are you following? Or are you using the seasons as a guide?

According to the "AI guy," who does all the dairy cows in this part of Oregon, some of the heritage breeds are trickier than Jerseys and Holsteins. And Guernseys (I'm phasing out of that breed now because of this) are notorious for not getting bred. My cows are very easy to detect when in heat and I've had him come out early in the heat, late in it, back to back, multiple samples going in at once, etc.. And currently I have one cow that's he's been inseminating for 8 consecutive cycles. Now how is that going to fit into a seasonally in tuned milking schedule? It's not. This very question came up at a series of raw-milk workshops at a micro-dairy here in Oregon given by Tim Wightman . When asked about trying to coordinate the breeding in order to calve in the spring, Tim said that you "breed cows, when you can breed them." Basically there's such amount of uncertainty with getting the pregnancy to take, that people have found that it's best to get the cow pregnant when the opportunity arises. And if we look at history, it seems people who had dairy cows thought the same thing.
8 years ago