While we are predominantly focused on our Nigerian Dwarf goats, we couldn’t do what we do at Scalawag Farm without the help of our other farm “employees.” We depend on our cows, pigs, and flock of ducks and chickens for a number of purposes!
Anyone who visits Scalawag Farm will probably end up encountering the cows in one way or another; their presence is hard to miss. Currently we have three Hereford cows, all related. Most senior among them is RedCow. We first met RedCow, a.k.a. Reddest, when we became apprentices at Guini Ridge Farm in Union, Maine. Our foremost fascination when we started that apprenticeship was the giant, Buddha-like bovine that was RedCow. Never in a hurry, but much quicker than you might think, we have both become extremely attached to this sweet mama. Although her more mischievous days are behind her, we still make it a point to spoil RedCow, whether it be with some apples or carrots, some cuddles, or sneaking her some hay before her daughters come bounding over.
Which brings us, now, to JosieCow. Josie was born to RedCow during our first apprenticeship, August of 2016. When our apprenticeship ended and we moved to our current location full-time, we knew the land needed to have some cows on it. We had only gotten to know the young Josie for a few months, so we were elated when our mentor farmer offered to sell us the herd of cows we had worked with at his farm. We did some fundraising, and luckily were able to acquire RedCow and Josie, as well as a set of Belted Galloway cows who have since moved on to other farms.
Josie exhibits all the best qualities of her mother, and then some. While for the longest time, Reddest was the biggest bovine around, lately Josie has surpassed her. Don’t let that fool you, though, because when Josie gets excited, she can Moo-ve! She’s also not afraid to call out to us to let us know that she’s running low on hay or water, a trait she definitely shares with her sister.
That’s JuanitaCow! Juanita was born to RedCow here at Scalawag Farm in October 2017. While she had a pretty mischievous youth, she seems to be settling down a bit as she matures, and is fast on her relatives’ heels in terms of size, although it’s clear she is still the baby in the trio.
Our cows are our chief lawnmowers and fertilizers. When we were first starting out, we wanted to find the most sustainable way to deal with some of the more damaged land on the property. Cows are excellent at clipping a pasture down quite short, all the while depositing their manure throughout the area, resulting in a slow-but-steady return of fertility to any areas they spend a good amount of time on. This meant we didn’t have to run heavy mowing equipment over bumpy, rutted land, and then depend on adding fertilizer or manure from off the farm.
Next stop down in size from the cows would be our pigs. Although we have had a wide variety of types of pigs on the farm, we are quite partial to American Guinea Hogs. While a lot of farmers choose fast-growing breeds to raise in the brief warm season here in Maine, we have found the AGHs to be very hardy, easily able to over-winter with an appropriate shelter. They take more along the line of 12-18 months to reach “market” weight, but we have chiefly raised them for their excellent landscaping abilities, secondary to their excellent meat, prized for its tasty fat which they acquire extremely easily. The Guinea Hogs are responsible for preparing the ground for pretty much every one of the gardens we still use. Not only do they clear, but their rooting action actually turns the soil over a bit without damaging it, and with careful management, Guinea Hog owners possess probably the most sustainable tiller/plow combination around!
Finally is our vibrant, colorful flock of chickens and Muscovy ducks. We rely on the flock for their delicious eggs from both species, as well as for their abilities dealing with insect pests, and the chickens also help in the spreading of cow manure in the pastures. When you visit Scalawag Farm, they will likely be the first animal you see – the ducks are known to fly up to the top of the house around dusk, surveying “their” farm before turning in for the night.