One of the hardest things about farming with animals is the death you encounter on a regular basis. I have been sheltered from death really. Most of us don’t experience it regularly, if you are my age perhaps your grandparents, pets every once in awhile, the person at church or friend. But on a farm it is constant. There are the relatively easy loses, the cats that disappear overnight, or the chickens that get carried away by a fox or hawk.
But there are more difficult ones. The pony that miscarried in a cold spell, the goat buckling that we weren’t able to keep hydrated after a bout of illness.
Then there are the animals that we depend on for income, for the ability to make this farm sustainable. In some ways those loses are the hardest, not only is it the animal you lost but precious time and money also. I try to focus on the positive in this blog and don’t often talk about death. There were are jerseys. We bought 5 in September 2014 thinking we would have plenty of time before the cold weather came. But even though they were in our existing barn 3 of the 5 died before the end of the winter.
There was also our Berkshire hogs. We bought the parents that same summer as the cows. They were babies back then. So after waiting for them to become an adult and give us the first babies we were so excited for that first batch. But they were born a bit early and during a thunderstorm. We had built a specially designed house for the mothers and had them in separate pens. But while the mother was inside she didn’t enter the house all the way and birthed her babies into a storm. We lost 80% of the babies. That was a tough pill.
We have been wracking our brain to try and come up with a solution to our baby animal problems. We want to raise the babies from birth because in order to be organic you have to ensure their feed and treatment from birth. But at this rate waiting for the animals to pay for themselves is like running in quick sand while we are dealing with this kind of loss. Plus we have the start up loan for the farm and a tractor loan–all necessary equipment but really tying our hands.
Then we found out about this amazing organization called barnraiser. They have backing from some amazing organizations and help organizing crowdfunding campaigns for companies and organizations that promote “good food and healthy living.” Through them we have launched a campaign to help us build a birth barn for our animals.
Here is our information from their website. If you would like to support us go to birth barn.
We are a diverse, family run farm. All our animals have names and we love giving them hands on care and attention. We really want to be able to give our pigs, goats, and cows a warm, dry, safe and comfortable place to give birth. In Rush City, Minnesota the weather can get pretty intense at all times of the year and we really want to be able to protect our mamas and babies from the elements.
We grow all our own hay and have vegetables and fruit from our CSA. The animals love to get the scraps. We discovered our hogs love the left over watermelon and pumpkins are great natural dewormers for the chickens and goats.
We never planned on being farmers but love the connection it gives us to the land. Even more fun is caring for the animals. Before moving to our permanent home we rented crop land and couldn’t wait to find the property that would allow us to add animals. However winter cold and summer storms have been really hard on our animals.
Our dream is to be able to offer them an insulated building, one with heat and electricity and running water. A barn where they is no mud, all the food and water dishes are clean and they can just worry about caring for their babies and the babies can just enjoy life, mama’s attention and growing.
Our initial goal of $5000 would allow us to purchase a pole building kit. If we reach this goal we would like to stretch to
$7000–we could put a heated concrete floor in. It would be easy to clean and WARM.
$9000–we would be able to put a water pump, and septic in.
$11000–we could insulate the building and purchase a heater
$15000–we would be birth ready with adjustable stalls, bedding, lamps, vents to control condensation and so much more.
This project would greatly increase the health and productivity of our animals and decrease our mortality rate. Our animals would be much more vigorous and much less stressed.
Raising animals that are happy, safe and comfortable is one of the best way to encourage a healthy food system. Food from these animals is much more nutritious the waste is managed much more effectively and there is much less negative impact on the environment.
Small scale farms that produce much of their own feed, care for their own animals and strive to grow their food in the most humane way possible bring farming to another level. Instead of focusing on top dollar it is about what is best for the people, animals and environment involved.