Critters

These are our critters:

What We Raise

Several small flocks of laying hens, of many breeds (and with many colored eggs!).

Chickens, for meat, either Cornish Cross or Freedom Ranger/similar.

A small flock of laying ducks, mostly Pekins and Rouens, for eggs.

Ducks, for meat, either Pekin or Rouen.

Geese, for entertainment, hissing, and meat (when there’s too much hissing).

Agatha and Juniper, our milk goats.

Bukka and Etta, the Maremma Livestock Guardian Dogs.

Pigs, both Berkshires and Old Spot/Mulefoot hybrids for pork. Berkshire pigs are common on many small farms; they do well on pasture, make good mamas, and produce top quality pork. Old Spots and Mulefoots have found happy homes all around Santa Cruz county, as they do well in our climate, and provide superior pork when raised on pasture.

Raising Practices, Ideology, Love.

We raise all of our animals on pasture for as long as is possible. This is good for them; it is good for us; with careful management and an eye towards the long-term, it is good for our land.

Our pigs and laying hens are raised in small herds/flocks together in several management-intensive pasture units on our land. This allows us to spread manure throughout our fields, thus fertilizing our pasture and orchards with minimal external inputs while maintaining a high quality of life for our animals. In the winter, we run pigs and chickens through mature areas of our apple orchard.

This short period of exposure followed by a longer rest helps maintain pasture quality, and lets us highlight areas for selective reseeding and irrigation where necessary. The pig to chicken model of pasture management also mimics in small part natural cycles of land use on savannahs, and keeps pastures cleaner of parasites and manure, and thus healthier for our animals over longer periods of time between fallowing. Where we have mature apple trees, we are able to run pigs and chickens through them in the orchards off season, reducing pest loads in the orchard, turning soil, spreading “fertilizer” and reducing weed competition.

Our broilers are raised in Salatin-style chicken tractors which are moved once or twice daily, depending on the chickens’ age and size. In the tractors, the chickens are safe from predators, have shade, water and fresh pasture each day, and are free to move around and do what chickens do. With some seasonal variance, all our chickens go outside at three-four weeks of age, when they are big enough to withstand the often chilly weather on our coastal farm.

Our ducks and geese are completely free ranging. They have a couple houses which move around the property, but they are allowed to wander more or less wherever they want. We don’t raise enough for them to have serious affects on the pasture, and they are decent weeders of strawberries, onions, squash and mature leafy greens like Kale or Cabbage. It’s also just pretty enjoyable to see them walk around in duck convoys, quacking at the top of their lungs. Waterfowl- probably the best poultry.

We are licensed with Santa Cruz county under the federal and state exemptions to process poultry onsite, so we slaughter our chickens and ducks here. We take great care to do this quickly, professionally, and cleanly, not just to provide a good product, but to provide a good death for our animals.

Non-lethal predator control is taken care of by means of electric fencing and perimeter fencing, strong coops or houses, restriction of pasture access at night, and by Bukka and Etta, our Maremma livestock guardian dogs. There are many coyotes, bobcats, possums, skunks, raccoons, hawks, owls and stray-dogs that would love to have the occasional chicken snack, so the dogs certainly have their work cut out for them.

Our animals are the beloved, beating heart of our farm. It is our hope and expectation of ourselves that we treat them with love and respect, and honor the entirety of their lives by caring for them, keeping them healthy and well-fed, giving them what they need to live happy, full animal lives, and ultimately bringing them to an end that fits that purpose.

Organic Status

Our poultry operations (laying hens and all meat birds) are certified organic. This means no antibiotics, no hormones, ONLY organic feed, and a standard of living that allows for natural behaviors and maximizes animal health. Our pigs are not certified organic; they are pasture raised, and are raised without the use of systemic antibiotics or any hormones. Their diet is primarily organic.

While it has never come up, if faced with having to make the decision between administering a limited dose of targeted antibiotics to a pig in order to save it’s life, or keeping that pig off antibiotics and risking its protracted suffering or death, we will always choose to save the pig and minimize its suffering. This is an ethical issue for us, and while we will never administer prophylactic doses of antibiotics on a systemic basis, we will always choose to take care of our animals in the most responsible way possible, up to and including antibiotic use where necessary.

Diet

The only commercial grain mixes we feed our animals are certified organic mixes from Modesto Milling and Associated Feed. These typically contain some amount of organic soy and corn; eliminating these two ingredients reduces how many eggs are laid and how fast animals grow, thus increasing costs to both us and you. There are no GMOs in organic feed. This is currently the only way to guarantee an absence of GMOs in mass market purchased feedstocks. In addition, all our animals are periodically fed waste produce or cleared vegetables from our fields, which are certified organic.

The pigs are fed a diet of organic grains, spent brewing grains from a local micro-brewery, organic veggie slop, organic pumpkins, organic apples and organic strawberries, as well as pasture based forage, and whey from our small goat herd.

Availability

Eggs are available at all of our farmers markets, through our CSA, and at the High Ground Organics farmstand. Eggs are limited and will sell out early at all farmers markets, so we recommend checking in with us within the first hour or two of each market.

Chickens are sold fresh as whole birds at our farmers markets and through our CSA, and are processed several times a week, each week, from early spring through mid-winter. They typically weigh around 3.5-4.5 pounds, although some are larger and some smaller.

Pork is available in limited cuts at our farmers market locations, or as pre-sold halves or whole animals. Buying a whole or half animal is the best way to purchase meat. It allows you control over what cuts you get, what is done with them, and gives you a lower average price for the whole animal. Halves and wholes are sold by hanging weight, so a prime cut that would normally cost a lot of money costs the same as a less widely used cut. Buying a whole or half is also an exceptional way for a couple of families to pool resources and save money by buying in bulk together. Pre-sales are listed as they become available, but please do not hesitate to contact us at any time for pricing or general availability.