(Host) Summer has arrived, and the cows are grazing on the green grass that Vermont’s climate and soils produce in such quantities. Commentator Ron Krupp says that some farmers are taking advantage of this abundance.
(Krupp) The Flack Family Farm in North Fairfield is a diversified operation in the hills of northwest Vermont, close to the home of our former President Chester A. Arthur. The cow herd includes 28 head of American milking Devons, including calves, heifers, bulls, and steers, along with Gloucester Old Spot pigs, sheep, turkeys, horses, chickens, and a large cabbage patch for making sauerkraut.
According to Doug Flack and his daughter, Sarah, the cows are hardy, gentle, intelligent, have the highest butterfat content of any cow they know, and require no grain. That’s right: no grain. Cows have a natural evolutionary preference for grass over grains. Grazing livestock helps keep the animals healthy and is good for the environment, as well as producing nutritious food.
What makes the Flack Family Farm unique is the use of a grass management system, which prevents over-grazing and allows the animals plenty of pasture, using a series of movable fences.
Recent advances in fencing technology make this type of grazing management much easier. One of the keys is not to follow set rotations, but to graze according to plant growth rates. If one pasture grows faster than the others, graze it more often. Don’t let animals into an area until it has grown back to 6 inches, and don’t let animals stay in one area for more than three days.
The Flack Farm is at the forefront of an agricultural grassland movement that is slowly gaining strength in small pockets of the United States and Canada. This movement has turned away from the modern industrial feedlot system, where animals are fed a diet of grains and other concentrated feed, often with the use of hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.
The flavor of grass-fed animals is capturing the attention of chefs on both coasts and consumers in the Green Mountains. Grass-fed meat has a different nutritional makeup, with more omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acids and other good fats.
The grassland movement has been gaining numbers in Vermont for the past twenty years, and in the mid-90s farmers created the Vermont Grass Farmers Association, which is a source of education for farmers and information for consumers. Royal Larocque of Randolph is in the process of setting up a slaughterhouse and meat store, which will feature local grass fed beef.
This new farming method may help keep our food dollars at home, which in turn could help save some of our family farms and ag-related businesses — and ultimately protect the environment.
This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.