The caller spoke with a slight twang, perhaps a Southern accent? “How much would a truckload of composted cow manure cost? I need it for my lawn”, he asked. He liked the price I quoted and then asked where we were located. The caller didn't seem to recognize Loudon, and when I asked his location he said, “Boulder...Colorado!” After a few laughs about a 2000-mile delivery charge, we hung up.
Manure is a recurring consequence on any livestock farm. If handled responsibly, it's future soil and composted cow manure is gold for gardeners. Cattle are manure factories; 80% of what they eat returns to the earth as dung. Managing those cow chips is an essential factor in farming. Summer management is effortless. The cows graze, drink water, pee and poo. When using rotational grazing methods, this natural fertilizer is spread evenly on fields to nourish the grass the cows eat.
The management challenge occurs in Winter when the cattle are fed hay because there is no grass to graze. We provide hay in feeders as well as on the ground, and in the Feed Bunker. During the Winter we relocate the hay feeders around the pasture and as the feeders move, so does the manure. It’s the same with feeding hay on the ground. If a particular patch of a field needs extra nutrients, we'll plop a round bale (800 pounds) on the ground, and the next day the hay will be gone leaving bits of uneaten feed and manure to fertilize the bare spot.
Managing the Feed Bunker takes more effort. The cattle stand on a concrete pad outside the bunker and reach in to eat hay. Muck builds up where they loaf and has to be removed. Fortunately, several years ago, USDA (United States Dept. of Agriculture) via the EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentive Program) provided cost-share funds to build a manure pit behind the Feed Bunker. Periodically, we use the “Bobcat” or tractor to scrape the accumulated cow plops into the pit.
In Spring we provide composted manure for gardens and lawns. Sometimes folks take it away in their pickup trucks. Sometimes we make arrangements for dump truck delivery. While we've transported to Gilmanton and Concord, we have never trekked to Colorado, and I'm guessing we never will. Thought they had cows in Colorado!
Meanwhile, the six-little-piggy drama continues. Just under a week after I moved them to the pig house, they stopped eating so I moved them into what I call “intensive care”; also known as the farmhouse hallway. The hallway is tiled (for easy cleaning) and heated so now I can conveniently feed them five or six times a day. After several feedings of electrolytes, they all recovered and will live in the house until they are eating solid food. Of course, the hallway is now a pig pen… literally… so I hope they learn how to eat pig food soon!
You are invited to stop by and see these six-little-squigglies as they grow into three hundred-pound hogs. On Saturday you can visit with the piglets, currently eight-pounds each, and our nine new calves as well as Angus The Rabbit, and House Pig Tazzy, who loves visitors....especially if you feed her carrots.