Over a decade ago, Winston and Teresa Pike brought their family back to the 140-acre farm where Winston grew up to begin a farming operation of their own.
Since then, the Pikes’ business has grown from a small family farm with fewer than ten pasture-fed beef cattle to a thriving operation with over 100 head of beef cattle, as well as dairy cows, hogs, meat chickens, egg laying chickens and turkeys – not to mention a variety of vegetables. The farm sells its organic products to restaurants, a co-op and online, and has a CSA (community-supported agriculture, a kind of farm subscription service).
The Pikes have always been interested in sustainable agriculture. And over the last two years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has been assisting them with managing their farm in a way that benefits the land, the animals and the farmers.
To implement a rotational grazing system, the Pikes added three watering facilities to the farm—which involved the burying of nearly 3,000 feet of pipeline.
The Pikes follow a management-intensive grazing system that breaks larger fields into smaller units called paddocks. Animals are moved frequently at high stocking rates to protect the soil and plants from the effects of overgrazing.
Daniel explains the benefits: “You can see the difference between our pastures and neighboring ones. Our grass is greener because it’s never over-grazed.”
There are other benefits to the rotation, too. For example, hogs graze the forest areas in the fall to eat the acorns. The hogs also stamp out thorns and thistle, allowing grass to grow quickly. The grass also benefits from the hogs’ waste, which provides nutrients to the soil. A field that was full of raspberry bushes and thorn bushes a few years ago is now a grassy field with the help of the sun, hooves and manure.
The Pikes have fenced off streams and woodlands to protect them from damage from livestock, and they planted a variety of plants that provide nutrients to grazing livestock. They’ve also improved their forests by selectively removing brush and trees to free desirable trees from competition, improve wildlife food and habitat and create additional grazing opportunities for the hogs.
And they aren’t done yet. Over the next few years, the Pikes will add more fencing, two stream crossings for the livestock, 10 additional watering facilities and the installation of a seasonal high tunnel that will extend the growing season.
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