For Sale: Used SunshineUsed sunshine, huh? What the heck am I talking about?
Our farm philosophy is fairly simple: Use plants to capture solar energy. Use livestock to turn human-inedible plants into tasty, nutrient dense, dairy & meat products. Really, the stars of this system are the microbes that exist both in the soil and produce nitrogen, and in the cows' rumens (stomachs) that turn plant fibers into protein.
Beyond this basic philosophy are a million logistical details that influence how the process is completed. Our management focuses on minimizing inputs onto the farm as much as possible. For the cows, that's only salt and minerals including selenium, which our soil in the Northeast is deficient in. We do need to harvest a good portion of our acres for winter feeding because of the layout of our farm, so there are inputs required to do that.
Pigs are not ruminants; they have a simple stomach that functions the same as yours and mine. They don't have the benefit of rumen bacteria and therefore need more essential amino acids supplied in their diet. Their diet includes grain which is an input to our farm; we include excess milk & whey from our dairy which reduces the amount of grain required.
Time on the tractor gives me a chance to catch up on podcasts, and lately I've been binge listening to "Working Cows", a podcast focused on all things related to regenerative farming & ranching with livestock. I believe it was Steve Kenyon in episode 95 that said farmers and ranchers are one of two things: used sunshine salesmen, or earth miners.
If you're not taking full advantage of soil and rumen biology, you're either depleting soil nutrient reserves or need to add nutrients in the form of fertilizers, most of which are petroleum derived. We'd prefer to manage our soils, grass, and livestock in ways that allow us to focus on being used sunshine salesmen! We think you can taste the difference, as well as reaping the health benefits of nutrient dense foods!
This year, online ordering & shipment has become commonplace for nearly everyone. You can order just about anything and have it delivered to your doorstep within a few days.
This week, a highly anticipated delivery arrived, but not in an Amazon box. You know you’re a farmer when the most exciting delivery in months arrives in a container like this:
This is a special shipping container charged with liquid nitrogen and used to ship frozen bull semen. It keeps the semen safely frozen at -320⁰ F. UPS drops it in our driveway, we transfer the semen to our liquid nitrogen storage tank, and then the shipper is returned & reused.
We’ve worked hard to reduce purchased inputs in our business, but semen is one of the necessities. Every cow needs to deliver a calf in order to start producing milk. Ideally, they have a calf once a year. And each of these pregnancies requires a semen source. We choose to not keep any bulls on the farm, mostly due to the safety risk, but also because we want to choose the best genetics available to improve our herd.
There are not a lot of other Brown Swiss herds, at least not compared to Holsteins or Jerseys (the two most popular breeds). By purchasing frozen semen, we can utilize bulls from the best herds in the US and Europe, from which we could not feasibly purchase a live bull.
So, about three times a year, this farmer spends a lot of time pouring over catalogs and selecting the best matches for our ladies, just like a fantasy football team. Yep, bulls have stats just like pro athletes. Some are all around all-stars, while others excel in certain traits that we might want to focus on improving.
Most of our semen is ordered from one Wisconsin-based distributer specializing in Brown Swiss, who has been shipping directly to our farm for years. If you’re curious, check them out at brownswiss.com!
This week’s delivery included bulls with names like Spark, Kade, Powerball, Juke & Kingsman. Within a year we will have their calves running around, and in about 3 years their daughters will be producing the milk in your cheese. One small delivery will have a longterm impact on our farm!
There really is no limit to what can be delivered to your door!
I'm half of the Crosswinds farmer duo bringing you farm fresh cheeses, beef, and pork from the heart of the Finger Lakes! Stay tuned for our daily adventures growing a family & a farm, and food for your table. We welcome your questions & comments, but please keep them respectful! For the latest updates, please follow Crosswinds Farm & Creamery on Facebook or Instagram!