We like to say we are "Raising Kids and Cows on Fresh Air and Sunshine!". Read on to see what this means to us.
The beef we sell is from purebred, grass-fed black angus cattle. We raise them on pasture in the summer and hay in the winter. Their pasture is closely managed and we move the herds often. We practise "mob-grazing", where a large group of cattle graze a small area of grass for a short amount of time. This ensures efficient grazing and prevents the cows from finding their favourite plant and over-grazing it. This helps productive grasses to continue to grow in the healthy soil, and the good grasses fill in all the places where weeds would usually grow.
The cattle have free access to fresh, cool, and clean water through alleyways we have made in the fencing system.
The cattle we choose for butchering are generally heifers (a female cow who has not yet had a calf). The group of heifers is pregnancy-tested after breeding season, and the ones that did not get pregnant are kept back as butcher animals. The heifer is 2.5 years old when she is ready for butchering. All of our butcher animals are raised without the use of growth hormone implants and antibiotic medicines.
We practise low-stress livestock handling, which uses body positioning and patience to work with the cattle.
Our eggs come from free-range, heritage-breed chickens. We like keeping genetic diversity on the ranch, so our flock consists of Amerucana, Maran, Euskal Oiloas (a rare Spanish breed, sometimes called Basque), Lohman, and Wheaton breed chickens.
They live in a "hoop house", which is a frame we built and covered with a tarp. It looks like a greenhouse and it is portable. We move it every few days to ensure they have access to fresh grass. They also find bugs and roots, and enjoy scratching and "dust bathing" in the dirt. In the hoop house they have fresh water, feed, clean bedding, a roost (for sleeping) and nesting boxes (for laying eggs).
We pick eggs a couple of times a day, to ensure the eggs stay clean. We do not wash the eggs unless they are dirty. This ensures the "bloom" stays intact. The bloom is a sterile membrane which surrounds the egg to keep bacteria out. When rinsed with water, the bloom dissolves and the egg must be refrigerated so that bacteria does not enter the porous shell.
Our eggs do not need to be refrigerated, but you can still put them in the fridge if you prefer.
Meat Chickens -- please note we are not raising meat chickens this year --
We get the baby chicks from Saskatoon when they are 1 day old. They are put into cardboard boxes and we transport them home in the back of our family vehicle. Our kids love the chirping ride home!
The chicks are put into a temperature-controlled brooder house, where they have access to feed and water at all times. The temperature is adjusted every week; as the chicks grow more feathers, they need less heat from the lamps.
At 4 weeks of age, when the chick is fully feathered, we move them outside into a "chicken box" or "chicken tractor". This is an 8ft x 8ft wooden frame with wire and tin on it. The wire keeps the predators out, and the tin provides a roof and sides that give shade and shelter from wind and rain.
We move the frame two or three times a day, and give the chicks fresh feed and water in a drip line. We add Sea 90 salt and Apple Cider Vinegar to their water. This combination gives them the minerals they need and the vinegar aids their digestion.
The chicken boxes are very effective. The chickens love to eat fresh green grass and weed leaves (dandelions seem to be a favourite!) and they have plenty of room to walk around. This eliminates leg deformities and cannibalism. We think we have a bunch of happy chickens!
When the chickens are 9 weeks old, we butcher them ourselves with equipment we rent from fellow "backyard" chicken producers.
Meat Turkeys -- please note we are not raising meat turkeys this year --
The production of the turkeys is very similar to the meat chickens. They are raised in the brooder house and then they go outside once they are fully feathered. This year, they were free-ranging in our yard until they were about 10 weeks old, and then we put them in a portable fenced area so their grazing would be more effective. When the turkeys are 20 weeks old, we butcher them ourselves. Just in time for Thanksgiving!
Pastured Pork --please note we are not raising pork this year --
Our sows are a heritage breed called Large Black. They live outside in a tree row, which gives them plenty of grass to eat, shade to snooze in, and dirt to dig!
Farrowing (when the pig gives birth) time on the ranch is an exciting time. The sow makes herself a nest with straw, even taking care to top it off with fresh green grass! The birthing process is quiet and calm and we make no interventions. The piglets are not given any shots or medications.
The piglets drink milk from their mother and start to eat out of the trough when they want to. We do not wean them; the mother pig decides when she is ready for them to be done. We feed the pigs a mixture of barley and lentils that we buy from our neighbour and grind in our feed mill. They also get lots of scraps and bruised produce - apples are their favourite food!
As the piglets grow, they graze and dig for roots, and also eat grain. They are butchered here on the farm around 10 months of age. The meat is processed at a small butcher shop in Kenaston, a town closeby. Our customers say that it's the best pork they've ever had, and we agree with them!
Kalevi & Justine Lustig
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