Thursday, July 28, 2011

Salad Bar Grazing

Baby and Delia have been with us for one month.  We are getting to know each other quite well - and Baby is a very friendly and extremely playful cow ( a bit disconcerting when she starts leaping around like a frisky lamb!) .  They expect a treat or titbit whenever we visit, and come running towards us at the sight of the pink trug - usually containing some hay and barley, or chopped apple or carrot.  They are a lovely pair and have attracted several complimentary comments from neighbouring crofters.

Since they have been with us, they have eaten almost 3/4s of an acre of good grass.  we have been very taken with Joel Salatin's approach to raising cattle, and grassland management -  allowing the cattle to behave naturally - as they would in the wild.  So in essence that means imitating the wild herds which would roam over the land grazing an area, fertilising it, and then moving on - allowing the grass to recover before they return the following year. This is achieved by using electric fencing, and moving the cattle every day to a new strip of grass, or salad bar, as he calls it.

We have been trying out this system on our smallholding.  We have just over 3 acres at present, but have access to the common hill grazings around the township too.  Our plan is to let Delia and Baby graze off this one acre field, and then put them on the common grazings until October.  We are currently cutting our back two acre field for hay, and we will let that grow up again to allow them to graze as long as possible once they come back down.

The girls love having their new salad bar every day, and tuck right in. It seems to be a simple and effective system, so far,  but we will see how it goes.  Ideally we should let the hens on to the ground, following the cows - and that may happen next year if we increase our flock.

 We have decided not to milk these ladies.  Delia is ten years old, and has never been milked before, and Baby is a Dexter/Belted Galloway cross, so not a  milk cow.  What we will do is to breed from both, using a Dexter male, and hopefully one of their daughters - probably Delia's, will be our milker.  How to achieve this state of affairs has caused many roundabout discussions, furrowed brows and questioning of neighbouring cattlemen.  There are no Dexter bulls on the Western Isles - so a long trip in a trailer, and a 3 hour ferry ride is not our favoured option.  AI, though not ideal, seems, at the moment,  to be the most practical solution to get us started on the Delia dynasty.  We shall see...

But for now, we keep moving that fence, strip by strip, learning everyday.

And hopefully we'll have a few skills to pass on one day.


  1. Lovely pictures. And I love Belted Galloways; they are very few and far between on the east coast :) xx

  2. Gorgeous piccies - still loving your journey xxxx

  3. Wow that grass looks so green! Gorgeous! Your girls are lovely and look very happy! Love the photos. Looks like your son-in-law could use one of those carrier!
    Hope you have been having a wonderful visit!

  4. The girls are looking great!

    I've seen two Belted Galloways lately (my doctor's office is in the middle of a farm) and they have two along with half a dozen llamas in one area.

    I love them!

  5. The girls are just beautiful and look so happy!
    "Back in the day", my husband's family had to AI their cow Suzy and everything worked out so they could have a milking cow. Good luck. xx

  6. blimey! well i know naught about cows but i'm glad everything seems to be going well for you. i admire your hard work and willingness to take on new challenges. good for you! i enjoyed the "salad bar" reference ... that was good fun.

  7. I love how you guys are willing to take on new things virtually week by week. Nothing seems to phase you. What an example to pass on to all those around you, along with the knowledge you have gained.

    Good luck in your decisions re expanding your herd.

  8. sounds like you might be interested in a talk with Mrs R and husband (Rob R !) on Running the same grazing system, and have Dexters too I think,
    is their website.

  9. Your cows are lovely, exciting to think about babies x

  10. Jacqui you're going to have a ton of skills to pass on, that's for sure.

    Sounds like a good grazing system you've got there. When the chooks get on it after the cows, the ground will have had the best feed you could imagine.

  11. Those two cows look rather content - pampered perhaps!? Looks like they'll have a grand life with you all. The salad-bar approach is very useful. We have old friends with a 9 acre smallholding in Cornwall who have used that approach for many years to great effect. AI was generally the preferred method employed by our Swedish neighbours who ran a dairy herd. They reckoned it almost guaranteed the stock and allowed them to choose a donor on the basis of available statistics thereby helping with herd selection etc over the longer time. Good luck whetever route you choose, and I agree with others, the Belted Galloway X is a fine beast.

  12. I love everything about this :) Your happy girls are a delight. What a great set of skills you have to pass on to the next's so comforting that there are many families returning to this treasured and incredibly important way of life. It is a joy to visit you and your beautiful home. xx

  13. Rotational grazing is the way to go. It really helps you manage the grass very efficiently. And the girls will never be standing in mud!

  14. I love the idea of a playful cow (like the cow that jumped over the moon?) and of your "moveable feast". I very much admire your relaxed approach to all you're learning and doing. I'm sure the four-leggeds appreciate your positivity, and respond accordingly.

  15. oh my goodness they are too adorable! I love reading your stories, your life seems like a dream adventure.

    much love,

  16. so pleased the girls have settled in and according to friend grass feed is the most natural diet she also says there's research that grass fed beef has less saturated fat than beef which has been fed concentrates

    Good luck with the AI have you joined the dexter club lots of knowledge to tap into there?

  17. Thank you for your comments. We are now memebrs of the Dexter society, so will be taking advantage of that. it is a very exciting time here, and it is good to share it with you. The girls will be going up the hill at the end of the week, so watch out for us madly chasing them over the village - no - it will be fine. xx


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