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Got some goats, sheep, and llamas onto Crooked River Farm this week. After the cows have grazed the pasture, the goats and sheep will eat a lot of what the cows don’t, increasing yield per acre, decreasing the “weed” load, further benefiting the pasture, and further increasing the yield per acre.  Virtuous cycle – at least that’s the theory.


The llama’s are there as “guard animals” – they are supposed to protect the flock of sheep and goats.  Again, that’s the theory. I once got a llama and a donkey to protect the sheep flock I had for about 25 years.  The donkey harassed the llama to death (literally) and proceeded to terrorize the sheep until we moved him to another paddock and ultimately, to another owner/farm. So far the llamas seem to be behaving themselves and doing their duty protecting the goats and sheep. Will be watching them all closely.  In theory, theory and practice are one and the same – in practice they are not….

I’ve got 150 acres of grass now that needs to be taken care of properly.  Never had that much grass before, so last winter I read a stack of books about grass, from the history of grass to college textbooks on grass. The one that impressed me the most was a rare book from the 1950’s by a French guy named Andre Voisin, who pioneered a technique of grazing animals in what is now called Management Intensive Grazing, and other names.  Through his techniques, he was able to greatly improve his pastures and raise three times as many animals per acre on his land than his neighbors.  I was absolutely hooked – this is what I needed to do.  Once the house was finished and I moved out to the new farm, at least.

And then out of the blue another farmer, Guille Yearwood, called me and asked if I wanted to lease the farm to expand his grass-fed beef operation.  In the course of discussion, it turned out that he had read all the same books, and he was a follower of Voisin!  We clicked immediately.  While not the long-term plan, I agreed to lease the pastures to him for the first year while we got to know each other better and decide on long-term plans.  We fenced about half the farm this spring, and started grazing the cows about a month ago.


Guille owns and operates Ellett Valley Beef Company, which is an already successful grass-fed beef operation.  He raises primarily Devon cattle, which was the first cow imported to the Americas in 1623, and was the favored breed of George Washington.  A “heritage breed” that dates back thousands of years, it fell out of favor for the past several decades, as cows more adaptable to “factory farming” took over.  But with the new interest in more healthy and moral alternatives, the Devon has experienced a huge resurgence due to it’s ability to fully finish solely on grass.  No feedlots, no antibiotics, no inhumane and questionable practices.  Through their entire lives, the cows get to be cows.  And the resulting meat is a far healthier alternative.  It’s a good thing.


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