Today was the first day it actually felt like summer. Then, it rained and there was a thunderstorm so my enjoyment was quickly over. This weather is weird, I’m sure you agree. I didn’t go swimming until mid July because it was just too cold and rainy. I’d rather take a hot bath.
The sun was shining for over a week and we are all much happier. I have more energy to do things all day and I can actually weed the garden with satisfaction rather than watch the pulled weeds sprout back up in no time. The goats are happier, too. Their coats are getting shiny and they may be producing a little more milk. Animals, including humans, are very connected to the weather.
Finally farmers are able to hay their fields, weed in between rows, and hope the rain holds off long enough so tomato plants don’t rot entirely. At Rawson Brook Farm, we started to brush hog the pastures, expose our tomatoes to the elements, and watch the plants soak up the sun.
“Why are we mowing the fields? Don’t the goats graze on them?” I ask Susan.
One part of goat dairying is that our goats actually don’t graze like cows. They are more of foragers and would rather reach up for their food than down to the ground. In order to keep their milk production high, we feed them a very nutritious combination of alfalfa, hay, and grain. Since they have their food brought to them, they really don’t need to graze. If they were hungry, of course they would be out in the pasture, but they are very well taken care of by us. Their meals are provided so that their milk sustains the cheese-making business.
As Susan and I are greasing up the brush hog (big mower implement on tractor), she tells me, “Once again, this if proof that there is never one right to way to do anything.”
It’s so true. While rotational grazing works well for some dairy cow farms, the goats would not produce enough milk. One time we fenced them out in the pasture and they grazed for a bit, some laid down to rest, and then they waited by the fence until we let them back over to their barn.
When I think in terms of sustainability, I should not overlook small business models. At the scale we are producing goat cheese, it would not be possible to have the goats grazing in the pasture because the business would have no income. I have come to accept that sustainability is extremely confusing, complex, and constantly changing. When I studied sustainable agriculture in college, it became ingrained in me that rotational grazing and organic feed is the best possible way to raise livestock. Now I am learning that everything depends on hundreds of factors and there is never one equation we must all follow to be “sustainable.”