Farming is a challenging occupation, whether you farm 10 acres or 10,000. But for some Amish farmers, they’re meeting the challenge by using innovative farming ideas. Using various modern methods of animal husbandry and crop rotation, they’ve managed to make a living while minimizing the impact on the environment.
Dairy farmers, for example, provide milk for our local cheese houses. The process of feeding and harvesting forage for dairy cows is always expensive and labor-intensive. One way to minimize labor and use of chemicals is through a method called “intensive grazing”. This involves dividing a large pasture into many small parts and letting the animals do the “harvesting”. The cattle are grazed in each small lot for a day or so, then moved to another lot.
Instead of grazing their preferred grasses, cattle will graze all the grasses in the small paddock. When the lots are rotated, it allows the grasses in each lot time to recover. The new young grasses are more nutritious for the cows and allows them to produce more milk. Weeds are controlled naturally by the cattle so mowing or chemical control is less important.
Intensive grazing is also less stressful for the animals. Cattle will naturally spend a good part of the day grazing and resting when on pasture. Less stress means a more contented healthy animal, which contributes to less veterinarian calls and, of course, more milk production. It’s a healthy rotation for both the animals and the land.
Some local farmers have taken this grazing method a step further and have opted to feed their cows a strict grass-only diet. Because of this, some of the local cheese producers have created “grass-fed” cheeses using milk from grass-only herds. If you’d like to try this cheese, you can find Guggisberg Grass-fed Baby Swiss Cheese at Dutch Valley Market in Sugarcreek, Ohio. It’s a nice alternative for health-conscious people who are looking for natural foods.