e49. Regenerative Farming and Livestock Management at Greenacres Foundation with Leevi Stump

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Leevi Stump, Livestock Manager at Greenacres Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio. We discussed the regenerative farming practices they use at Greenacres, including raising a variety of livestock such as grass-fed and finished beef and sheep, pasture-raised chickens and turkeys, and heritage pigs. We explored the benefits of using smaller breed genetics like Aberdeen Angus for grass-fed and finished cattle operations, as well as the importance of rotational grazing and avoiding herbicides and pesticides for overall soil health and ecology. We also delved into the management and integration of various livestock species on the farm, such as integrating sheep into the cattle herd, creating a “flerd,” and the potential benefits of parasite control and protection from predators. Additionally, we discussed the process of raising meat birds on pasture, ensuring their health and wellbeing through the use of chicken tractors and diverse diets. We also touched on their turkey operation, focusing on the broad-breasted bronze breed, and the growth of their pig enterprise. Finally, we explored the use of pigs on the farm to disrupt and root up invasive honeysuckle in wooded areas, improving the overall quality of the land for other livestock species. We also highlighted various resources and books related to grazing and regenerative farming, emphasizing the importance of time management, creating a game plan, and having a supportive team in the farming industry. Join me as I learn more about Greenacres and their incredible work in regenerative farming practices and livestock management.

Books/Resources Mentioned:


These transcriptions are automatically generated. Please excuse any errors in the text.

Leevi, we wanna welcome you to The Grazing Grass Podcast. We’re excited for us for you to join us today. Awesome. It’s it’s great to be here. It’s great opportunity. Thank you, Leevi. Leevi, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? And what you’re doing there? Yeah. Not a problem. You know, my name’s Leevi. I’m the livestock manager here at Green Acres Foundation that’s located in Cincinnati, Ohio. We have a couple other properties that we’ve purchased over the past few years, but a little bit about myself.

I did not grow up in farming whatsoever went to college in the hopes to go, pre vet as much most young kids had aspirations to be. I did not grow up in a rural area. There was agriculture around me, but I was not involved in the tiniest of bits. I was playing sports year round. You know, I was living in town, this and that, but I just loved animals, wanted to go pre vet, and I went to a Wilmington College, and first semester realized that That type of schooling was not for me. That that work had a a lot of work, a lot of years, heavily invested, a lot of knowledge, but I I took a couple agriculture courses as an intro and just really wanted to get involved more of understanding where my food came from, which was something I’ve always had act for is just knowing where my food came from. So I I kind of stuck with it and got a degree in agriculture with the concentration in animal science from Lewington College. Had a five month internship up in Dayton, that all would auto bond. And that kinda really solidified my interest of caring for animals. Farm animals specifically. And after that five month internship, I was fortunate to find an opportunity to start out as a farm hand. Here, a green acre foundation. And now I was back in May of twenty seventeen, and I’ve kinda just worked through the ranks. And now I’m the livestock manager here green acres and the rest is just history and it’s been a blessing so far and I hope that continues to to bless me and and my wife and my family and everything that we’re doing here. So it’s it’s great. Very good. And, you know, a lot of people get to college with one thing in mind and then end up with something else. Yeah. I I’ve been there myself. Yeah. Okay. So tell us what you’re doing at Green Acres. Yeah. No. That’s a great question. I think it’s always always a good start to go back and look at how green acres started. Mhmm.

Over thirty years ago, our founders, the Lake Lewis and Louise Nipper, created green acres as a way to give back to our community and just share the wonderful opportunities that that we have here. They taught us to respect to conserve our natural environments through good stewardship and generative farming practices. They instilled in us the appreciation in music and fine arts and just to value our our history. It’s great. Missus Nipper was really into the fine arts, and mister Nipper was really into agriculture. And together, they created a great opportunity to get the best of both worlds. And through that, they established many different types of education that we we do here. We have music education, arts education, agriculture education, environmental education, water water quality education, just providing many opportunities for tens and thousands of students to come to green acres and provide an authentic field trip to to see something that they’d never seen before. And it’s it’s great that we’re able to do that here. And in in addition to that, we are a production farm, and that’s kinda where I come into play in addition to the the education.

We have a full livestock team here. We raise just about every type of livestock animal that you can think of. We one hundred percent grass fed and finished beef and sheep. We raised about forty two hundred meat chickens a year on pasture. We raised five hundred turkeys on past year for Thanksgiving. We raised about thirty four head of harps throughout the year. So just just about anything you can think of on on a generative farm we we raise. Sounds like you have enough there to keep you busy. Year round. Yes. Now, they started the farm.

I’m I’m glad to answer the website about seventy years ago. And they were from the beginning very interested in Regency practices and conservation? Yes. That that is part of our mission here at Green Acres. It is to preserve our land. I I think one one of the quotes that we use often here is we do not inherit the Earth from our grandparents. We borrow it from our grandchildren, and that is from chief Seattle. It’s it’s one of the things that we we pride ourselves in here is that we’re setting up what we do here for future generations. We we want to leave our legacy behind and improve the land for the future, not just in the present and now. And that’s what regenerative farming is about. Yeah. So very important. And I think it’s wonderful you guys are getting kids out. There. We need more of that exposing children to agriculture. We’re moving further away from it, but it it’s just so important.

Leevi, let’s talk a little bit about your livestock there. We’ll start with your beef cattle. Can you tell us a little bit more about your beef cattle? Yeah. We have registered black Angus. We have a cow calf operation as well as a feeder finisher operation. We really focus on our genetics and or herd. In in looking at genetics, you think, you know, pre industrial times before there were feed lots and stuff, it is how how were animals raised what type of genetics were there. So we look at, you know, the wide genetics, the low line genetics.

Some people often refer to Aberdeen Angus. It’s the the smaller breed genetics that are kinda built to be grazing grass and to to finish on grass. I think one of the the analogies I like to use, you know, for others to understand is you don’t see a giraffe in Africa grazing on the ground. So why do we have, you know, sixteen hundred to two thousand pound animals that are extremely tall that you’re used seeing in a feedlot trying to finish on grass. So having those smaller stout, we like to look at the the sixty forty forty percent legs, sixty percent body that are are meant to be grazing on grass. And and we’ve noticed over the years that it it it definitely pays its dividends to to have animals like that on past due because, a, you’re able to finish more animals. And in the same amount of time that it would to take a sixteen hundred pound animal, you can have two thousand pound animals at the same time. So you’re looking at stocking density, animal impact, you’re able to to have more animals and finish more animals versus having larger animals that that take a little bit longer to to finish out just which is wonderful for what we’re doing.

Let’s talk about your your cow herd first, and then we’ll get back tofinishing on grass because I do wanna talk about that. With your cow herd, what practices are you using with them? That’s a great question. We are one hundred percent Grass fed and finished. We are rotating our animals around constantly. So when it comes to to herbicide and pesticide use, we we do not use any of that. We try to manage our cattle by rotating fruit to help break up any of those parasite cycles, fly cycles, and and things of that nature and provide supplemental mineral for them to kind of help compensate with that. So they’re getting what they need from forging grass and then what they’re not getting from grass, they’re getting from our mineral, a free choice mineral that we provide. The the reason that we don’t use herbicides and pesticides is is looking at generative forming is we don’t want to have those type of inputs into our herd because that’s, hey, money that we’re spending on stuff like that. And b, you’re looking at beneficial insects and soil healthier. You’re affecting that whole ecology. So we try to find ways to mitigate that through rotational grazing, and that’s that’s how we we maintain all of that.

And how often are you mopping your cows? All of our all of our herds for the most part are are moved on a daily basis from from one section to the next. So we are typically a a twenty four hour paddock rotation from one to the next. Depending on the time of year, you know, a war if we have a cal calipers, that has a lot of young calves on the ground. We try not to move them as often. When I say as often, it’s from one day to to three to four days. Because we’re also looking at grass and soil. And if if you leave cattle in in the same area longer than four days, when that grass starts to regrow, they become what I like to call those, a, at grazers, they they like to pick and choose versus moving them through a, to to get the impact, to get the manure distribution, and we’re not allowing them to be selective grazers because at that point when they become selective grazers, they’re gonna eat the quality stuff. And when you do that repeatedly, what happens? And I’m sure you know of grazing your own animals is that the less desirable forages then decide to take over. So it’s a constant battle of the the give and take of of impact and how how to move animals through pasture to ensure that you’re leaving quality forages to compete but you’re also dampening the weed pressure and less the jire beforeages. So it’s, you know, there’s a million ways to do the same thing, and I know a lot of farmers you know, I I’ve heard leave a third, heat a third, trample a third. I’ve heard eat half, leave half. So there there’s many ways to do it. But it it really ultimately the deciding factor is how your operation works and what fits your system and and how you’re managing that’s kind of what we base a lot of our work around here.

When you said multiple herds, are you grazing your grass or your yearlings with your cowherd? No. We have a our cow calf operation, so we have a fall and spring cabin group both separate. We leave our calves on for seven to eight months or our window is more six to eight months and we’ll lean and then we have a a separate herd after we wean. They become our our feeder finisher herd. So we have we keep them separate. We have a cow calf and a feeder finisher herd. And one thing you mentioned there that was unexpected to me, you have a false capping herd as well. That is correct. Yeah.

A lot of people go go back and forth on, you know, what is the right time to to have animals spray your fall. And I’ve heard many different people say many different things. You know, this is the reason why they have a full cabin group. This is the reason why we have spring gaving group. You know, one of the things I think it’s Jim Garish is he he looks at, you know, what animals do in nature. And look at deer and and buffalo and mice and a lot of them are are fall calving. And it seems to work out out pretty well for them and you know, we we’ve had a fallen spring cabin crew for the past couple of years, and we haven’t really seen much of a difference of which one is better and what which one’s worse. And I I think a lot of that boils down to management too and what type of forages you have in the time of year that you see calves hitting the ground.

But one of the reasons that we tend to have a fall on calving season group is it gives us a little bit more variability throughout the year to have animals finished on grass. So we’re we’re widening the opportunity to to finish animals throughout the year and not kinda just focus on a a certain time of the year. And we’re also building our herd as well. So this herd we’ve had here for about five years now, and we’re looking at genetics and those animals that we have, we got some really great heffers that we kept this this past year for the first time that were first time heffers, has some great calves. Looking at their genetics, docility, performance in afest Q dominant past year because we’re in thefest Q bell. If I failed to mention that already, how well their weaning weights are, their birth weights. So we we look at all of those and they’re all deciding factors on whether we keep animals and or keep them for market.

And, you know, when you’re growing and have a feeder finish or herd and a cow calf herd, I I always joke about it. It’s difficult, you know, to try to finish animals in a, you know, a twenty four month period in having an operation of a cow calf in feeder finisher because the the best growing ones, the best steers or the best bulls and the best heffers are growing great, but those are animals that you wanna keep back to keep in the herd, so you keep that genetic line going. So we’re we’re in those growing pains, if you will. Of having those animals have creating that environment. Eventually, once once we get that herd set, you know, it’s we’re gonna have the best of both worlds of being able to finish out animals in that, you know, eighteen to twenty two months on grass fed and finish operation and also be able to keep back the best heifers and bulls to to continue that genetic line. Yeah. And that all makes sense.

Know with the discussion fall versus spring? That’s the discussion my dad and I have all the time. His herd is fall calving and my herd spring heavy. You’re a little bit north of us, but you’re still within that fast q belt. Do you do any cool season annuals or anything to extend your grazing season? Oh, absolutely. We we plan cool season annuals in addition to warm season annuals to get through that summer slump.

Being in the Fescu bell, you know, We’re in an area that we have, you know, infected rescue that can be very less palatable for a cattle and can cause efficacy toxicity. So we try to mitigate that by planting warm season annuals, and that that works out really well for us. But in the spring and fall, we we definitely plant, you know, annual rye. We we broadcast some some clovers in the wintertime with some frosty eating and working with our our research team. We’re always finding ways to to be better to provide quality forges for our our cattle and all of our our enterprises in addition to creating quality soil to establish good perennials. That’s not just Fescue. We’re looking at establishing perennial rye, timothy, Orchard grass. We’ve been investigating the the past year or so of trying to plant novel rescue to compete with our our NFL infected rescue to help improve our pastures that way that that it’s better for our animals because, you know, you read online, you read many articles talking about fashion. It’s it’s a great forage. But at the same time, it loses billions of dollars in in the beef industry mostly due to it it’s vasoconstricting abilities of festoon toxicity and average daily gains and getting cattle ready to to be finished on.

On grass. It it hinders the process. And we’re we’re always investigating ways to to hinder that. And to to mitigate that and be able to finish animals on a n f s q bell in twenty two months or so. So is your target date for finishing twenty two to twenty four months or about that range? That’s about that range. Exactly. I I think last time I looked at the national average is, you know, twenty eight plus on a grass fed and finished operation. You know, the past two years, was it twenty twenty, twenty twenty one, our our average age going to market was anywhere from twenty four and a half to twenty five months. And we had some some really good animals going that year and we take those numbers and each year look at how can we improve that.

And the best way to improve that is, a, looking at genetics and then be looking at pasture management. So we’re we’re always focusing on those two because they work they work together. You can’t have one and not the other. Because you can have the best genetics in the world, but if you’re not grazing quality forges or looking at soil health, you’re not gonna get anywhere and then vice versa. So we’re we’re fortunate here. We have we have a great crew in the livestock team and we have a great research team that work in tandem of looking at soil health and looking at or forages and always continue to ask of how we can do better. Because if you’re not asking that question, you’re only gonna be mediocre.

So what are your some of your your goals or things you’re trying to do to improve it? A lot of the things when it comes to pastures is we’re looking at getting more perennial forages established. Cool season forages. Just to explain, we’re looking at getting, you know, some more timothy, novel fescue, orchard grass, And then another thing that we’re doing of looking at improving soil health in our forages is one of the questions that asked a lot is talking about drought and how people plan for that.

And here, we’re fortunate in in Ohio where we’re at. That’s not too much of a problem, but it is slowly but surely starting to move this this way. So we’re looking at getting native warm season grasses established. And that’s where our our research team really comes into play. We’ve done some studies with University of Tennessee of getting ten acres one of our other farms established in native warm season grasses. And that’s been going on for about three years now, and we’ve been seeing some really good results. So now we’re focusing on some of our pastures at our other farms that are a little bit in poor health that could use some word and those seem to be the the best areas of focus to get native warm seasons established. So we got about twenty acres almost here at our Indian Hill location in Cincinnati that we’re looking to to revamp and get native warm season established like a big blue stem, little blue stem, Indian grass. I think that that’s a great start for us to being tolerant also to be able to get through that summer slump to to continue to have quality forges for a grass fed and finished operation.

Oh, yes. Including habitat. And that’s that’s one of the the big reasons too is talking about, you know, back in the day, the the Buffalo Grays and the Prairies and the Habitat how that was maintained. So we’re we’re taking all of that in stride with with the work that we’re doing. It’s not just for the animals that we raise and maintain ourselves, but it’s also looking at the environment, the ecology, and the habitat that surrounds to make sure that all of that’s working in tandem. And that’s that’s one of the big focuses of of generative farming. Yes.

When you think about your grass finished, versus your cal cap, what are some management practices you’re doing different in those two cases? A lot of the times, our cal calf operation is We we got a pretty solid herd, and their nutritional requirements are a little bit different than a growing animal that we’re trying to take the market. So we’ve we’ve kind of dabbled with with different scenarios and how we manage our cattle. We’ve Jim Garish visited our farm back in twenty nineteen, and one of the things that we trialed was a leader follow. And we led with our feeder finisher herd because you know, the feeder finisher herd, you know, you wanna take the the top two inches. That’s where the most nutrition is and those forges. So we we hit that and moved on. And then right behind, we follow with our Cal CAF Group has our what we like to call our maintenance group. So their their requirements weren’t as strong as the the feeder finisher. So we were able to get the best of both worlds of having quality forges for our feeder finisher to have, you know, two to three pound ADG and then come through with our our cow calf to still get the the second, third bite that’s still nutritious, just not as quality as the first bite to to me their demand of milk production and just maintaining their weight whether they had a calf on them or not. That seemed to work out pretty well for us. Especially in the spring time to stay on top of the spring flush because the spring flush around here is, you know, one day you don’t have grass in the next next day you have more than you can handle. So trying to to find ways to to handle that and that’s that’s one of the things that we’ve done in the past and that seemed to work out really well for us.

Another question I have for you on your grass finish beep, are you finishing just the stairs and heifers you’re not keeping for your herd? Or And and are you finishing all of them, or do you have a preference? That is correct. As of right now, all of the Sears that we have for sure going to market. As far as our heffers, that’s something that, you know, as as our herd grows, we’re looking into their genetics more and it is are those to the next that we wanna keep? And if they’re not, we we keep them in our feet or finish or heard because we’re also looking at if we look at selling heffers, if we weren’t going to keep them, why would we wanna sell them to others? Because we we wanna ensure that we’re providing other heifers, other cows that we have to other farms if we provide to sell a a market and a quality animal for them as well. You know, I we’ve we’ve been fortunate from the farms that we’ve worked with in the past of getting quality genetics and animals. And we’ve weeded through that with, you know, looking at birthing weights, winning weights, how well they performed with a calf and without a calf. And if those are if they don’t meet those requirements for us, they’re gonna go into our feeder market versus our our hepar market or a cow market to sell our genetics to other other farms. Yeah. That that makes great sense to me. Perfect sense.

And in in addition to that, one of one of the things that we’re looking at more is the low line genetics, I think you’re familiar with, like, with Aberdeen, the smaller style. So we we actually, in the past, done some embryo transfer work. And we got six bulls. Said Lodge of Wise, he’s he’s a well known bull back in the day and along with Copeland of Hawaii, which are low line angus, a genetics. We got those animals this past December that we got six bulls of one hepar. And obviously, the the hepar stayed in our program. And we we have six bulls. We intend to keep one or two of them as they grow to see how they perform. But with those genetics, we’re also looking at getting them sold and that’s something we’re working with our marketing team is to to sell those those pools to other farms that are interested in generative farming a grass fed and finished operation of the smaller genetics, but have have that prime, have that marbling quality weights that that you wanna see in a grasping finished operation. Yes. Very good.

And moving on, do you run your sheep with your cattle or are they managed separately? I I love that you asked that question. That is something that we’ve been working on and talking about for the past several years now. And in this past year, we purchased in fifty more U Lam’s And just about two months ago, we integrated and created our first Fluid. And we we are excited about you know, the trials and tribulations that may arise from that. But all the studies and work that we’ve done leading towards has been good and it was at the point of it is why haven’t we tried it yet. So we we finally got the sheep integrated with with one of our Calcast groups We kept them separate for a while just as a a training process to get them used to Polywire lines, getting them trained to us, We we like to use alfalfa pellets to to train them to get them to move.

And once we got that established and got them to start moving, we integrated them with our flirt and it so far it’s been great. You know, one of the things I’ve read and heard from many people is you can have one u per cow and it not affect your grazing plant. And so far, I I can say that we are we are seeing that. Our our rotations have not changed. Our cattle seem to to be grazing a little bit differently than the sheep. And then also, you look at the benefits of having a flirt together is the symbiotic relationship of the parasite loads. You know, they they say parasites that are detrimental to cattle die in the rumin of the sheep and vice versa. So so we’re hoping to create those type of relationships with our fluids, and that will also help mitigate, you know, having to use dewormers or or worry about parasite loads because they’re working together to break up that cycle. Because our goal with our animals is to intervene as at least possible. Because if we’re if we’re having to intervene and worm or maintain and and care for animals in this in that sense, you’re losing money. You’re you’re losing gains. And overall, it’s it’s just not good for yourself or that flirt. So we we take all of that in in Strider of what we’re doing to make sure that we’re making the right practice decisions.

And with your flirt, Are you running some livestock guardian animals with them as well? We are not. That is, you know, that is something that we have been asked a lot about in the past. And one of the things about two years ago, we were raising Turkey’s on pasture And in one night, we we had some coyote pressure and lost a good chunk of of our turkeys due to that that coyote pressure. And at that time, we had tubules that weren’t in with our cow cow herd for for breeding or anything. So the question was, is Is there such thing as a guardian bull? So we we put them in. And after we put them in, we had zero issues with with any of that type of pressure. So we’re thinking with with their size and just their presence and the posture, it kinda eliminates any concern of our sheep or our poultry or anything to be susceptible to that type of pressure.

I have the luxury of of living on-site and getting to see some of this stuff firsthand. And in this past winter, we had about eighteen years in in their lambs with one of our bulls over wintering and a pasture right next to my house. And one evening, I was looking out my window. And I saw two coyotes standing in the pasture in which the sheep were in. So as always, I I put on my look boots and ran out in the field thinking that I was gonna be able to do something. And by the time that I got out there, every single one of the sheep was standing behind the bull, and that bull was standing up looking in the direction at the coyotes were. And that just goes to show the relationship that those animals have with each other. And that if you just give them the opportunity, it it flourishes on its own, and it’s it’s amazing to to see that happen from not wanting to interact with each other, to relying on each other for safety. And it’s it’s amazing to see those opportunities and and things just happen.

Do you notice those animals hanging out together? Or are they just in the same area? And due to the the closeness of the bold are going over for that protection? As of right now with our flirt, it’s such a a young relationship so far that when they’re grazing, their their intermix. But when it comes to to laying down and and settling down for the night, they’re separate. But in the past, when we integrated our all of our weathers with our our bulls. If you you visit our Instagram page, we our Ram is with our bulls and their their photos of them just laying down with each other. Lakes sprawled out all over each other just just chilling and having a good time. So it’s a little bit of both, but we’ve we’ve seen a lot more co needling over the past two months with the the newly established flirt. So you just gotta give it time and the the more time they become more comfortable with each other and and so far that’s that’s definitely shown. Very interesting.

I remember reading a research article where they bonded wing ulams with open heifers or and they they were talking about certain amount of time with them before those heparks were eighteen months old and those lambs were newly weaned and they would bond and stay together. And when they put him with the the flock, you know, the flock kind of moves by consensus and that leader you And for them to stay with the cattle most of the time, they had to have a majority of the sheep had to have been bonded with those cattle, which is very interesting. And I did try one year doing something like that, but I didn’t have great success, but that’s probably more on me than what everyone else does. However, since then, I don’t run my cattle and sheep together. My sheep kinda have their mind of their own. But one hindrance I have to that are my livestock guardian dogs because they they tolerate the cows, but they’re not real big fans of them. Which I’m I’m hoping that gets better over time, but that’s just the issue I’ve had. Yeah. And one of the reasons that we we haven’t considered and looked more into the guardian dogs is just because we’re also an educational farm. And bringing in tens and thousands of students, you know, we we are concerned of, you know, the what the role of a guardian dog is So we we try to utilize all of our enterprises working together to to help mitigate those those type of predation issues. And and so far it’s worked out pretty well for us. Very good. Very good.

You also grass finish your lambs at what age do you finish them? Our sheep operation is on the rise. You know, the the past couple years we we bonded in some feeder lambs to finish out. But this year, well, in the past few years, we we buy ten Khitan used. And then this past year, we bought in fifty just a commercial flock of across between Khitan and Dorber with a little bit of Romanov and Polypay. We really like the hair type sheep, especially in our type of operation. That means no shearing. They shed out on their own, so that’s that’s less work for the livestock team to worry about. And as we continue to grow, you know, we went from ten sheep to to sixty rather quickly and then, you know, she have a tendency to have twins. So if we’re looking at that, we’re also increasing next year another hundred and six two percent from ten to fifty to potentially a hundred and fifty. We wanna try to look at how we can improve efficiencies and not spend too much time and effort and work. So looking at the hair type, sheep has really helped. And there’s also a lot of studies out there that say hair type sheep are somehow a little bit more not not as susceptible to to parasite loads and perform better in a grass fed and finished operation. So so those are things that we account for when when we’re growing our operation.

But our goal is to have our our sheep go to market around eight to ten months. You know, we like to keep them as lands. And right now, we we have a pretty good market. We’re nowhere where we need to be in our our sheep market. You know, we got people all the time asking. When we’re gonna have lamb available. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re really increasing our our lamb operation or sheep operation. But Our goal is to have animals, our sheep ready, eight to ten months around Easter time, to take the market. We we have a pretty big market for for Easter your lamb. So you’re lambing those in midsummer? More like, yeah, about mid spring where we are expected our our first lamb and of April or early May. Oh, okay. That’ll that’ll put us around, you know, the day to ten under under twelve months. Oh, yes. You gotta allow some time for processing and stuff. Yes. So that that those are all things that that we we account for in we we found it better to be landing kind of late spring when forages are booming versus, you know, about mid summer, especially in the fast few belt when you’re you’re looking at this utoxicity and making sure that we’re meeting nutritional demands for our animals to improve average daily gains and to make sure that they’re they’re keeping their condition and having quality milk for the lambs to grow. Very good, Leevi.

We talked about kind of the You might even say the big two when we talk about regenty bag, cattle and and sheep, but you all have a few more species there. Let’s go through those just a little bit and find out what you’re doing and how you’re doing that, and we can start with those pasture poultry. Awesome. Yeah. We raised about forty two hundred meat birds primarily cornish cross, which is the most common meat bird that that you’ll get, whether it’s from your local producer or, you know, going to to Kroger or Meyer or whatever other big big store chain you have in your area.

One of the things that we do with our our meat birds is is raise them pulling pasture. The first three to four weeks, I should say, they they are raised indoors in a brooding system just to ensure they’re feathering out nice, they’re meeting their their heat requirements, a feed requirements, before we move them out on pasture. And then week four, week three, week four, we move them out on the pasture, and then they’re out on pasture, the remainder of of their span on on the farm. And the way that we manage that is is we have some awesome fabricators on hand. I always like to say If you dream it, they can build it. And so far, that’s been true.

During COVID, we we had a lot of concern of meat shortages. And and the quickest turnaround in meat protein was to increase broiler production. So we went from raising eighteen hundred meat birds to forty two hundred overnight. In the way that we were able to do that, it is having our staff on hand to livestock team in addition to our our stay crew in their fabricators of of building our chicken tractors that we can utilize in our pasture to to maintain the amount of animals that we had. Our our chicken tractors are about eleven and a half fly eighteen feet, so we can raise about a hundred hundred and twenty five broilers per tractor pretty comfortably and we move them each day to a fresh patch of of forage.

So in addition to foraging on pasture, we do stuff met with grain just to make sure that they’re meeting their nutritional requirements and getting good gains before they go to market. I mean, it’s a little bit more work and more tedious being out in pasture because there’s more moving parts when you look at water feed moving the equipment. But overall, it’s it’s better for for us workers. I’m not having to be in a building that is is enclosed, worrying about ventilation, ammonia buildup, or any of those nasty airborne illnesses and diseases that can happen from an enclosed building. And then it’s also great for the birds, because Allen Passure, we’re allowing our birds to be birds. Move around forage, eat bugs, scratch through the soils, the grasses, eat fresh clover. And it it’s just overall better for them and it’s also great for pasture because then they’re applying their nitrogen dense manure straight into our pasture for us. So it’s it’s a win win all around for us, and it it’s a great enterprise to see it all all work in tandem of of having multi species grazing you know, multi species grazing isn’t just sheep and cattle. You know, you you put in the poultry and all the air benefits into that passion, how all of that creates quality soil health and that promotes better forges and all around better quality of life for the ecology and the animals that you’re raising.

I was looking through your Instagram feed. I was hoping to see your chicken tractor. I don’t see one there. And it and I was doing it kinda quickly, so I may have just missed it. Mhmm. But you are able to move that by hand each day. The the ones that we have are we do not bid by hand we we do have gators in a type of UTV to move them. But we are are fortunate of the way that we raise them is Other farms can do exactly the same thing as far as moving animals around. Is it John Suskabitch has a gray chicken tractor plan to be able to move by hand. Joel Salatin’s chicken tractor plan and great to move by hand.

It’s it’s cool to to see other farms and how they adapt to essentially do the exact same thing that we do and or we’re doing the exact same thing that they’re doing just a little bit different. So it it’s cool that everything that we are doing here can be done at scale, whether it’s large or small, and are able to adapt to fit everybody else’s systems. And that’s that’s really the biggest goal that we’re trying to to promote his. Yeah. We may be able to do things differently and have more equipment to do things, but it can be done. And that’s that’s where we’re here to help educate how they can be done and show that it can be done. So that’s it’s just one of the cool things, especially in farming. It’s just there’s so many different ways to to do the same thing. And that’s improving soil, improving your forages, improving the ecology, improving everything. And it it doesn’t matter if you have equipment or just your hands, it can still be done. So true with that as we we experience on the different episodes of this podcast. People are using no same underlying practices and theories, but they’re doing it in their own way, which is so wonderful to highlight and see how everyone’s doing it.

Turkey’s. You all also do turkeys. Tell us just a little bit about your turkey operation. We do. Our our turkeys are also pasture raised turkeys. Same as our meat chickens. We raised in the first few weeks in our brooder just to make sure they’re meeting their nutritional demands, heat demands, and requirements. And feather out nicely to to be able to handle the environment of being out on pasture. Turkey’s are a lot more finicky than than me birds or really any of our our pasture raised animals. Turkey’s are a unique breed, especially in a in a pasture raised setting. But we raise our turkeys for for Thanksgiving. That that is our market.

We get our turkeys the first week of August in their own property for sixteen to seventeen weeks before they’re finished out. We we raise them indoors for the first couple weeks of their life, and then then we move them into those chicken tractors that I was talking about briefly before for another couple weeks just to help make sure that they’re growing well and protected by any aerial predators or ground protect predators their enclosure. And after, you know, they they gain a little bit of weight in a pretty good size, they’re less susceptible to that aerial predation, and that’s when we release them on to pasture, and we utilize a premier one fencing, the poultry poultry netting, and it works out pretty well for us we we give them they have about twenty thousand square feet of area to Rome at all times, but about every day to day and a half we give them access to a fresh ten thousand square foot. So we’re constantly moving them through through our pastures to to have their impact and also provide quality for just through them as we’re moving through past years. And that again is where we utilize our our guardian bulls out in pasture to help mitigate any of that ground ground pressure that you may see and and up here where we’re at, most of our our ground production we see is is actually more through raccoons than it is coyotes or fox. So we’ve been working out ways to to work around that. And then our aerial predation is where we’re at. We got a pretty heavy wrap population, a lot of redtail hawks, red shoulder hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and then night time list, we got quite a few gray horned owls around here that at times can pick off one of our turkeys here and there for for a late night snack. But we’ve been fortunate with our our rotation and and waiting till they’re in an appropriate size to help mitigate that to to really for for the most part eliminate any of that aerial predation.

What weight are you finishing your turkeys at? Oh, man, that is a that is wonderful question. Our our biggest goal and it seems like our our consumers and myself is eighteen to twenty pound range. It’s kind of the perfect size for a resting turkey to fit in the oven or to a deep fryer or smoke. If you get too much bigger than that, it it it gets a little bit bit tricky because a lot of leftovers. But I I would say our our range for sure is about the eighteen to twenty pound in we do a straight run, so we we get a combination of of hand and jakes. So our our weights always depend because, you know, you know, hens grow a little bit slower than than the males do. But one of the ways that we we try to make that we’re in line with how we’re feeding our our birds is we periodically we’ll just randomly grab fifteen to twenty turkeys weigh them and kinda take the average of that. To kind of see where we’re at and and do we need to provide more feed? Do we need to lessen feed to make sure that we’re getting the wets that we’re we’re shooting for going into to Thanksgiving time. Yes. And what breed or variety are you using for your turkeys?

Last year, we switched and went to broad breasted bronze in In in past years, we’ve done a contrasted white. It’s been it’s pretty common. It’s kind of what we’ve always done. In the past, we used to raise about four hundred turkeys, about three hundred broad breasted white, and a hundred broad breasted bronze. And anecdotally, through the growing season, it was it always seemed that the broad breasted browns were more hardy. They filled out better. They looked better. They weren’t as susceptible to to predation or any type of ailments. And I I think I believe it was twenty twenty, twenty nineteen, twenty twenty, we had our our an outbreak of aracibilist. Which really affects a a turkey floc, and and we saw that hit our broad breasted whites pretty hard.

So the next year we trialed and just did a couple more broad breasted bronze. And granted, we did a lot less, but every single one of those broad breasted bronze that we had went to market. And a a good chunk of the broad breasted white that we had. We we had we saw some mortality and and saw some more aerosyphilis happened. So at the end of that year, the team kinda sat down in in tops through everything, and it it seemed we were all on the same page that, you know, next year, we’re gonna try broad breasted bronze. So we trialed that. Not only did we trial that, but we also increased from four hundred turkeys to five hundred and twenty five. And it was hands down the best season that we had for a turkey season and had over five hundred turkeys go to the processor and had some quality weights. So our anecdotal evidence was right on path was just stating that the broad breasted bronze were more hardy and fit for a pasture raised setting. So moving forward, that is the breed that we’re working with.

And one one of the the downfalls of raising broad breasted bronze is you know, they’re bronze, so their pin feathers are a little bit darker. And when you take them to the process, you’re not every one of those pin feathers is removed. So where a a broad breasted white they got the white pin feathers so they’re not as visible when you’re you’re processing or prepping your turkey for Thanksgiving. So that’s that’s one of the the cool things of being an educational farm too is educating our consumers of understanding why there’s black pin feathers and where they came from and just educating them that it’s the breed of animal, but the the quality of animal and the turkey that you’re eating is no different than what if it was a broad breasted white. Very good. Very good.

Let’s talk real quickly about pigs. I think y’all do pigs. So just tell us a little bit about how that looks on your old farm. Yeah. Absolutely. That’s that’s another enterprise that has been growing over the past few years. When I when I first started here a little over five years ago, and we were raising about fourteen head throughout the year.

And one of being an educational farm and working with researchers is we were putting them in in wooded areas where we’re at, we have a lot of invasive honeysuckle. So one of the questions was, were pigs able to kinda dis erupt and and root up that immature HoneySuckle to to set it back. The answer is yes that they were, especially the immature stuff, but the the mature honeysuckle was still there. So it it essentially they opened up the canopy a little bit, but then we had to go in mechanically and remove that mature HoneySuckle to kind of open up the canopy floor. So taking that information putting in in, you know, dense areas that, you know, cattle or sheep are gonna be all that great or excel at is putting them in to help disrupt that soil, open up that canopy, and then we go in, remove multi floor rows, honeysuckle, or any other invasive and then be able to broadcast or plant cool season forges and essentially create a a silver pasture in areas that were pretty dense book.

Before. That’s kind of been our approach now is looking at our pastures where we have what are what are areas in our pastures that we don’t get quality impact from our sheep or cattle is putting pigs in those areas to help disrupt that area in and see what happens after that and then to be able to go through and clean up any multi floor rows or ramble or anything like around the trees help open that canopy up more to create quality forages to establish in those areas. And that’s been an ongoing process for the past going on two years now. So we’re still in the trialing process. But right now, we’re seeing some of the results that we were hoping to see and hopefully we can continue moving forward with that and utilize them in in ways that we can’t utilize sheep and cow. Sounds like a great utilization of of pigs in their natural abilities. And I know that was just really quick on pigs. I’m looking at the time and I’m always concerned and not wanting nip, so go too low. So we’re going to wrap up and move to our famous for questions. Same four questions we ask of all of our guests.

Leevi, what is your favorite, grazing grass related book or resource? I, you know, have been listening to your podcast and hear that all the time. And I could talk about so many. But a few of the ones that I I’d like to hit are definitely I I believe, I think, one of the recent podcasts you had with a gentleman named Callahan was talking about the the talking cow podcast. I love listening to that one. That’s just a a good filler podcast to be listening to and you’re out in the field doing this and that. Oh, yeah.

But when it comes to to book resources, I I have several to name. They’re they’re right here to my right. I think that they’re just quality resources especially in in regenerative farming and or just like starting your your own homestead or getting started. And I’ll just go through that list and, you know, kick the hay habit by Jim Garish is a is a good read of understanding pasture management and how how to help be able to mitigate feeding hay in the wintertime. Gay Brown, who’s big in the regenerative farting realm dirt to soil. It’s a it’s a great book. Another one is it from is it Allen Williams before you have a cow? That was one of the first books I read when I got into forming. Sarah Flack has a book called The Art and Science at Grazing, where I really first got interested and intrigued in rotational grazing and grazing animals. That was the first book purchase that I had, and it’s been great. And she also has quite a few videos and resources on YouTube.

The the Temple Grand Inn Guide to Working with farm animals. To kind of understand how animals work. I would say animal psychology is my most favorite part of farming. So Temple Granite is a big resource for me and somebody I admire a great lead when it comes to to working animals. That being said, one of the things I failed to mention is is Temple Granite visited Green Acres back in twenty sixteen. We actually have a cuddle handling facility that was built with her being around in in her guidance and Mark DC in creating the blueprints of just using cattle’s natural instincts to to move around. So it’s it’s cool to have a a state of the art facility like that designed with input from Temple Grande, and and it it’s it’s named after her a temple grand in handling facility here at Green Acres, and it’s very cool.

And then the the last one looking more into grass fed and finished beef which I think is another one that Gallahan talked about in his your last podcast that I heard was grass fed cattle. Was it from Julius? Rochelle. Sorry if I put you that name. But that’s more of like a book to flip through for for guidance and and just to to take notes and always to to refer to. I mean, then, of course, Joel Salatin has has many books in in resources out there to look at. So many, so many to choose from. There is. And and the ones you listed are excellent resources. The thing that jumped out to me was temple granded, and I actually had on my notes for the episode asking about your temple grand in facilities and see if she designed them because I saw they were named after her, which is I think just so siding, but I also think that maybe the first time we’ve we’ve had her name come up on the podcast, which is interesting. It’s very surprising. Yeah. But but a lot of times people are focused more on the grass portion of it rather than the handling of livestock, but that low stress handling book. I can’t even think of the the full title of it. I’d love and just it it’s made a tremendous impact on the weight. I’m around my cattle. And now I get everybody else to go up to the barn and leave me alone. I’ll take care of this. But, you know, I think that’s excellent resource as well as those others you listed. Absolutely.

Secondly, what tool could you not live without? I got two and one of them was pretty cliche with where I’m at and having stacked enterprises and how we do things here of education and so many different departments working together is having a team. There there’s no way that I could do what I’m doing without the support of the team behind me of being out in the field every day working together, farming is not easy. It’s difficult. It can be time consuming. It can be frustrating, upsetting tedious, meticulous, but you gotta be able to find the joy in it. And having a team that wants to be here that enjoys learning, that promotes growth, promotes opportunity, and being able to feed off of each other’s energy, which one person’s strength is another person’s weakness. There there’s no way that green acres in the livestock team would be where it’s at with having without having that type of relationship.

And then from a farming aspect, you know, some people don’t think of it as a tool, but it it’s it’s the eyeballs right here. Being out in the field and making observations and observing things. The I think two i’s out in the field every day is probably the most important tool that you can have in your toolbox. Yeah. Making those observations and reflecting on them. I think that’s a great select or great choice there. The team aspect is is one that like oh, for myself, I guess I could say I I have a team and that my dad and I do this very closely together.

And then I get to talk to all the wonderful people on the podcast, but a lot of people people don’t have that. Maybe they have a mentor which is really important to get into. If you’re getting started, someone who’s been there to tell you. That’s one of the reasons I started to grazing grass community trying to establish sasily. We have some like minded people out there that we can talk to and gain feedback from. I think you’re extremely lucky there, Leevi, with that team you have and the amazing resources you have. Absolutely. When you were getting started, what do you wish you knew? Or what would you tell someone that was just getting started? That is a a fantastic question, and I I ask myself that quite often. And I I would say for my myself is understanding the importance of time management.

Time management is extremely important and crucial to any operation, you know, and it doesn’t have to just be with farming. It could be with your your day to day job, or your home life, or qualifies for every every part of your life. And I found that to be be very crucial. And then for the day to day stuff with with farming is is having a game plan, creating a grazing plan of you know, what trials and tribulations may arise through the growing season. What variables can dictate whether you’re gonna move animals in this field or next. So always thinking about the next step ahead in in having a game plan, I I think, is is very, very crucial. Excellent advice.

I just recently had a conversation with a coworker at my OptiPharm job and she was talking about the things she was doing to prepare for advancement. And I gave her some suggestions of some resources and none of them were related to the field directly. But it’s more about productivity, time management, making sure you’re you know, that true north and then some other things. But I think that time is so important because with farming, you could fill up twenty four seven three six five, but you’ve gotta have some balance there. Yeah. And just being able to think those things through and, you know, what is what I’m worried about today? Can’t wait till tomorrow. And if the answer is yes, enjoy the rest of your evening because that work’s gonna be there tomorrow. As long as the animals are happy and healthy, you you also you also gotta be happy and healthy. And if you’re working yourself to the bone, it it can be very taxating on yourself mentally and physically. So it it’s very important to not only worry about your animals, but worry about yourself. And a lot of that boils down to time management.

Yes. I’m gonna add one thing on there, Leevi. And whoever else is in your household. Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And lastly, Leevi, where can others find out more about green acres on you? Oh, that’s Great. We have a website, Green Acres Foundation. If you just Google Green Acres, it’s one of the first things that pops up. We also have a YouTube page that is slowly growing that has quite a few videos that that show the diversity and opportunities that Green Acres has here from gardening to livestock, to all the types of education. And then we also have Instagram and Facebook page that you guys can check out. Very good. And we’ll put those links in our show notes for everyone to access. Leevi, we really appreciate you coming on and sharing with us today. Thank you. I think it’s been a very valuable episode and our listeners will really enjoy it. Awesome. But thanks for the opportunity. It was great.

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