For the Love of Cows
If you’ve ever visited Heartwood and wandered out to our main pasture with me, you may have gotten more “cow love” than you’d bargained for. I am, admittedly, a bit over the moon about the potent role that livestock can play in regenerating soil and restoring a vibrant and healthy farm ecology. Maybe its because cattle tend to get so much environmental flak that I especially like to sing their praises.
“It’s not the cow, it’s the how”… Focusing on the reciprocal relationships between these ruminating creatures, the deep-rooted, carbon-pumping plants they eat, and the living soil at the centre of it all changes everything. I love this learning journey, mediated by the daily tasks of moving cattle-fencing between the contour-inspired, curving hedgerows of fruit and nut trees we’ve planted into our pastureland.
Throughout the fall, several dozen Heartwood friends and supporters got introduced to our little herd of cattle with our “Cider with the Cows” experience. I got a lot of joy out of sharing the “cow love” with folks who seemed delighted by the opportunity to interact with our cattle, and not only humoured me as I told the story of their role in land regeneration, but often brought engaging questions and comments to the conversation. Thank you all for your enthusiasm… and for those who missed out, “Cider with the Cows” will almost certainly be back when the grass greens up again next spring!
Now that it’s November, the rhythm of cow life is changing. The forage plants are going dormant, the cows are getting some hay along with their grazing, and tonight’s sub-zero temperature triggered the draining of the pasture waterlines to make sure they don’t freeze and split. I have to plan ahead for this time of year: sourcing hay, buying or borrowing a bull so we’ll have calves again next year, and readying the barnyard to shelter the whole Heartwood menagerie during the worst of winter weather. And because we raise some of our cattle for grass-fed beef, I had to book appointments with our over-taxed local butcher many months ago. Fall is harvest season, and last week, I took two of our beef cattle to be butchered. I’ve gotten used to the routines of moving the herd back to the barn to sort and load some of the cattle, driving the truck and trailer to the abattoir, maneuvering the cumbersome rig to the chute to unload -- but it rarely goes totally smoothly, and it is always, appropriately, a difficult task on many levels.
But I know that every living creature participates in the cycle of life and death, and while eating beef is not for everyone, I have come to deeply appreciate the connection between what we choose to eat, and the impact of those choices in supporting regeneration. We are committed to raising our animals conscientiously, sizing our herd based on the capacity of our land, and when we add animals to our herd, we work with farmers who are also practicing regenerative grazing. We feel good about offering our grass-fed beef to our community of appreciative eaters, and are taking orders now for our mixed boxes, ground beef, and hamburger patties (while supplies last!).
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