If you're wanting to raise livestock, grow a garden, and live the homesteading lifestyle but just don't have enough space, here are some tips and tricks you can use so you can still do it all!
Are you trying to figure out how to have a homestead, with room for raising animals and a large garden, without having to buy a larger property?
Learn how to utilize the space you already have to further your homestead journey and successfully have livestock and a garden, or, even if you don't have enough space on your property, options to still raise livestock and garden.
In this podcast (episode #292), I'm interviewing Casey, a member of the Pioneering Today Academy, who is struggling with the size of her homestead. She's ready to raise livestock as well as have a larger garden space but doesn't want to move from her suburban home.
Listen in for all my tips on ways she can accomplish her goals…
In this podcast episode:
- Utilizing property that you don't live on to accomplish your goals.
- Growing a distance garden and tips for maintaining it.
- How to keep wildlife away from gardens and fruit trees.
- Weighing growing your own crops or investing in a CSA membership.
- Looking into a community-run garden.
- Considering the cost of putting infrastructure into a property to garden or raise livestock.
- Utilize community property or leasing property to raise livestock.
- Tips on raising cattle and sourcing hay.
- How to “train” your cattle to come when you call them.
- Join the Pioneering Today Academy (if registration isn't currently open, you'll receive an email once we open the doors again!)
- Small Space Vegetable Gardening – Urban Gardening Tips
- Urban Farming: 80 Fruit Trees on 1/3 Acre with Vegetables
- Urban Homesteading – Tips for Small Space Self-Sufficiency
- The Best Vegetables for Small Spaces
- Container Gardening for Vegetables – Everything You Need to Know
- Homesteading for Beginners – 9 Transition Tips from City Life
- Keeping a Family Milk Cow – 8 Things You Need to Know
- 10 Tips on Raising Chickens for Meat
- Breeding Chickens Naturally: Selective Breeding for Eggs & Chicks
- Using Chickens in the Garden – 13 Things You Need to Know for Success
- 5 Tips to Raising Livestock for Food
Melissa K. Norris: Welcome to episode number 292. Today's episode is one I'm super excited to share with you. I feel like I say that every single episode. However, it's always true. But today's episode you are going to love, especially if you are trying to figure out ways to have a homestead, including livestock or maybe larger space to grow a garden, without having to necessarily move or buy a larger piece of property. Now, maybe buying that property is a goal of yours for the future, something you're saving for, but right now you want to make sure that you are using the amount of space that you have, or you feel like you're beginning to outgrow that space, but you don't want to let it stop you. Then you are really, really going to enjoy this episode, because I dive into ways that you can successfully have a livestock and/or garden, maybe both, even if you don't have enough space on your own property.
Melissa K. Norris: Today is the next part in our series where I am basically doing a consult with a member of the Pioneering Today Academy. This is a brand new series that we're trying out. You guys responded so well to the first part of the series and said it was very, very helpful, so we have got some more coming your way, including this episode. This episode is with Casey. If you are interested in becoming a member of the academy, there will be links in the show notes. You can go to melissaknorris.com/pta. If we are open for new enrollment, you will see and have the option to join. If we're not open, then you will see where it says join the wait list. You just pop in your email, and then you will be notified when we are open for new members again.
Melissa K. Norris: But this is a great episode. I do want to preface it though, because I do give real life examples of ways of people that I personally know who don't have property or acreage and still have success with having livestock. One of the people that I mention is my brother. I want to be very, very clear with the tips that I give and the example I was giving, which was my brother, is his cattle are taken care of excellently. He has an amazing herd. His herd is in great shape. It's actually who we have purchased some of our cattle from, as we're looking to improve the confirmation of our herd, and the stock of our herd, and that type of thing.
Melissa K. Norris: I don't feel that I said anything that would imply that he didn't, but I just want to be very, very clear, because it's using a method where you are not actually with your livestock. They are not on your property. But that his animals are taken very well care of, and he does an excellent job with his cattle. I just wanted to make sure that I put that out there before you listen in. You know, it's always so funny when you do share things publicly. You get some interesting feedback. I feel like I want to preface things right from the get-go, so that there is absolutely no doubt or any confusion in that area.
Melissa K. Norris: We are going to dive straight into this episode and this consult with Casey. For any additional links, or show notes, or any of those things, different resources, of course you can always go to the blog post that accompanies the episodes on my website. To access this one it'll be at melissaknorris.com/292, because this is episode number 292. Again, melissaknorris.com/292. Okay. Let's get to it.
Melissa K. Norris: Well, hey, Casey. I am so excited to get to chat with you today on the podcast. For everybody listening in, one, please do introduce yourself, and then your biggest struggle that you're having right now with your guys' homestead.
Casey: Great. Well, thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to be able to talk to you in person or firsthand I guess. My name is Casey. I live in Northern Utah. I'm a member of the Pioneering Today Academy. I have been for a couple years now at least. It's really just been a journey for us. We've started out really small and gradually grown. We're still definitely just ... I live in a fairly rural area, but we just live in a regular neighborhood, so trying to do what we can in our community and in our small area, but trying to decide at this point if we need to relocate or possibly lease or purchase a different piece of property to expand. That's kind of where we're at right now. We're just trying to kind of see what our options are.
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. I love this. I think a lot of people reach this point, too. In fact, my husband and I ... this is going to sound funny I know to some of you, because we have almost 15 acres, but we're in the same spot. We're like do we look to buy more property, or do we look to downsize or not expand with what we're doing and just staying here? You're definitely not alone. I think that every homesteader, the further down you get, you'll come to a new point, too, where you'll kind of have to go through this. I think this is really great. Now, your current house and home is ... how, like your yard space, how large is that right now?
Casey: Our primary residence where we live is really only about a third of an acre. It's not huge. It's not tiny, but it's not huge. I currently have room on the side of my property. I have chickens, just laying hens. I have about 10 or so. That's been great. We just have a coop on the side of our house, and our kids are really involved with that process, cleaning it out and caring for the chickens. Then I also have raised beds in the backyard. That's where I grow everything that I can fit in there. I have a few fruit trees. I have a peach tree, a nectarine tree, and an apricot tree. Then I also have raspberries and then the raised beds where I grow my summer garden and then things like garlic. I planted garlic in that this year, and things like that. I think we're doing a lot with what we have. I have room to add some more beds if I really wanted to, but it would sacrifice kind of a lot of the backyard space I have for my kids. So, that's where we're talking about considering doing something with another piece of property or something, maybe even leasing some property down the street.
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. Got you. With the 10 laying hens that you have and you're thinking about possibly wanting to increase your chickens. Correct?
Casey: Yeah. I would like to do something where my kids could have a heavy hand in. I have the knowledge to care for chickens, and so that's kind of what we're comfortable with right. I would be interested in adding other livestock further down the road, but again, I would have to have the room for those, and it would have to be accessible enough to where I could get over there daily. That's the other thing that we're trying to sort of navigate.
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. With the other ... Now, you guys also do have another piece of property, but it's not really close by. Right?
Casey: Correct. We have another piece of property. It's an hour north of where I live. It's about four and a half acres with a home on it. We purchased it about two and a half years ago as a this is eventually where we want to end up kind of thing. We've remodeled it. We've worked on the property. We've tore out a lot of trees, cleared out an area, but it's just not really feeling like that's where we're supposed to be. We're at a point now where we need to decide, is this really realistic for us to ...?
Casey: We do have this other property up north. It is about an hour from my home. It's four and a half acres, and it has a home on it that we've been remodeling. We love the idea of having animals there or having more of a garden or other activities that we're interested in on that property, but it does feel a little too far away to be up there regularly, on a daily basis obviously, with it being an hour. That's kind of where we're stuck, trying to figure out what we can do now, if we need to maybe sell that and consider something closer to us, or really what our options are.
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. An hour away is a long way to go every day, but it depends on what you have on that property versus if you actually need to go every day. Of course if you had a garden there, a garden is something you don't have to go every day. It's very different than livestock. You could definitely put soaker hoses or sprinklers, whatever you would need as far as watering needs, because usually, especially in the summer months, that's kind of the biggest thing with a garden that needs to be done. You could put those on a timer. With it being an hour away, it's definitely not something that's very feasible that you're going to want to have to commute to every day, because that's basically just going to make it like a day job.
Melissa K. Norris: There are some options though if you did want to keep that property and use it. That would definitely be an area that you could increase with your vegetable garden and even with some of your fruit trees and that type of a thing on the property, because usually, especially in the summer months, at least for us, the thing that we need daily maintenance is going to be watering. You could either do soaker hoses or a sprinkler and put them on an automatic timer, or you could just go ... I know you're in Utah, so you're usually a little bit ... not a little bit, a lot drier than I am here in the Pacific Northwest, so I'm anticipating that that's probably in the summer one of the biggest concerns is making sure everything has adequate water. Is that-
Casey: Absolutely. Yeah. It's really just a matter of keeping those things. When we bought the property, it had about 20 apple trees on it. They just really were not cared for, so we've pruned them and cared for them, trying to see if we can salvage them. But water has always been the biggest issue, because we are also on a well up there. So, just always wanting to make sure that the sprinklers are running properly, but also having an eye on those things, I always get nervous not being up there running water just to make sure that we're being mindful and nothing's breaking or having any issues. That is the other variable with it.
Melissa K. Norris: Oh. I totally understand that. We are on a private well, too, but living here in the Pacific Northwest we've never been in danger really of it ever running dry, because water is something we have in abundance here. But I would definitely think about soaker hoses. You could put those on a timer, because really with a soaker hose, I mean, even if say the automatic timer did fail, you're using such a small quantity of water that it would be something that wouldn't be as catastrophic per se as if it was a full on sprinkler and it was going for a long time. Is there anybody that lives close to the property that you know that could do just a quick check in if there was a time where you guys couldn't get there?
Casey: Yes. We do have a neighbor that's fairly close to us that we have a good relationship with that I think would be willing to just check on those things. My biggest concern with having a garden up there honestly is the animals. It's a much more rural area. It's a very small town, and we're up on a hill. There's a lot of wildlife there, so tons of deer. We really have no homes at all behind us for as far as you can see and just a couple scattered below, but again, up kind of on a ridge. It's incredibly beautiful, but we have had issues in the past with keeping animals out, so keeping animals out of the fruit trees. I'll come up there and see the deer have really gone to town on my cherries or on my apples. We would definitely need to invest in some type of infrastructure to prevent that from just being demolished honestly.
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. That makes sense. Then it comes down to, and this is probably where you're at right now, is the cost that it would take to put in the infrastructure, so that they wouldn't decimate it, and then the time, and the soaker hoses, which aren't really ... soaker hoses aren't super expensive, and the automatic waterer for that crop versus is it worth that investment and time for what you would be getting out of there, or is it better to find maybe a local CSA or a local source for that extra vegetables that you would be wanting to have and kind of weighing those against each others. That kind of what we've done a lot oftentimes with things like corn and different things like that, when it would take a lot and we didn't have the beds prepared. It's kind of like, gosh, is it worth it? Or I can buy this cheap enough from a local source that I know uses good growing practices. Which one is my best option? Yeah. I think with all of that, especially with the vegetables, being able to put them up there, that would be something that you would consider.
Melissa K. Norris: Now, with the livestock though ... And that could be something, too. If you have neighbors that are closer to your home that is in town, on your guys' third acre, would be looking at a community garden type aspect, if there's anything like that available, or if you have neighbors that have the space, but don't necessarily aren't using it. Talk to them about perhaps doing a small garden in there and then doing kind of a crop share type of thing. Those are all options for keeping it closer to home, but it does require obviously relationships with other people, and so you're going to have to kind of navigate that aspect.
Melissa K. Norris: Again, is it going to be worth it to do it this way? It may if it's someone that you know really well, and it would maybe kind of introduce them into gardening. You guys could kind of obviously share some of the crop. Some people, depending upon what you negotiate I suppose, they might not want very much of the crop, but they're like, "Oh, yeah. I'd love to see a garden that's being put to use," and you can use it and stuff. Would that be something that you think would be an option, depending on how well you know your neighbors around you?
Casey: Sure. Yeah. I definitely think that that could be an option. As far as something like gardening that really does not require a whole lot of supervision, other than just the care, then I definitely think that that's something we can consider and find out maybe there's some others in my area who are looking to sort of do a similar thing. Yeah. I think that that would be awesome and something to consider. What about animals?
Melissa K. Norris: Yes. Animals, this is where, depending on what-
Casey: I'm a novice I think on keeping other animals really besides chickens, so if we were wanting to do something like just a couple of cows to provide our beef. Right now I just purchase from a local farm, a friend of mine that raises all grass fed, really great beef. We just buy it from her every year. But if we were to expand something like that, how much, realistically, how much supervision and how close do we need to be in order to have animals like that?
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. This is a great question. I'm super excited about this, because this is something that I have a lot of experience in when it comes to the cattle and keeping them on areas that is not your home. Part of it is going to depend upon honestly your personality, which may sound like, what? But it is your comfort level of not being able to see that livestock right outside your back door and knowing that you don't have eyes on them type supervision all the time. That being said, cattle, in our experience and my opinion I should say, I find cattle the easiest of the livestock, because they don't require that every day care that we find that the pigs do and the chickens do.
Melissa K. Norris: With the cows, this is all going to depend upon of course how good your fencing is, because that's really the main thing with the cows. If it is a piece of property that has really good fencing and you're familiar with the cows ... When you first get them or when you purchase them from someone, depending on how old they are ... I will say with the cows that you definitely want to do more than one. They're a herd animal. Honestly, for the amount of work that it's going to take you to put in the fencing and all of that ... provided that you have enough acreage, which is you have four and a half acres, you definitely would have enough to do two cows, but if you only have one cow, they don't feel safe.
Melissa K. Norris: If there's other cows nearby, they're going to want to be with the herd. You're going to have more of a likelihood that they're going to try to escape, but they're just going to be a happier animal all the way around and feel a lot safer if they at least have a partner, so that they're in a little, tiny herd, because it's just two. They're in that herd environment. Really as far cost goes, because then you guys could sell that other beef, and then you would be making some of your money back, depending on the price of beef and how much you have to put in to begin with, kind of providing your beef for free or helping to mitigate some of that cost.
Melissa K. Norris: When you first get the animal, you're really going to want to watch them to see their personality. This is where not purchasing from an auction, but maybe being able to purchase from a local farmer, like perhaps your friend that you're already buying beef from. If they don't sell any of their extra calves, if they're only doing them as beef, they may know somebody else. But that way you can get a handle on watching the animal and knowing is it a fence crawler? Is this a really nervous animal? Because any animal when you first bring it into a new environment's going to be a little nervous. It's going to take them a little bit to settle down. That way, if you can talk to the farmer and hopefully have a relationship, and it's an honest farmer, will tell you, because you don't want a cow that's really a nervous or flighty type animal, because they're going to be much more likely to crawl through fences or to get panicked and to go through a fence, et cetera. If you have one that's like that, then even if the other one's not, they can influence them to a degree.
Melissa K. Norris: But that being said, if you've got a good fencing in ... and we don't run hot wire for our cows, mainly because we just have too much property, and our power goes out, and we like to just put in a fence, and we do use barbed wire for cattle. Once that fence is in and that type of thing, then really with the cows, as long as they have water, which you can get automatic waterers and get large enough tubs that you know that they're not going to go through that in one day, or then the automatic waterer will kick in to fill it up, especially if it's not where you're being able to be there every single day. Again, when you're first putting these systems in, it's always great, like you said, you do have a neighbor who could just check the water to make sure that automatic waterer is working or that they're not going through it too fast. Obviously you wouldn't ever want them to run out of water. It's even more important than feed.
Melissa K. Norris: Then with your feedings systems, I know you're in Utah, so it's going to depend upon how much pasture you have through the summer months that's growing naturally, because you guys are drier there. But ideally you would have enough acreage and pasture that you wouldn't have to be feeding throughout the spring and the summer and into fall, really just those obviously cold months, when the grass goes dormant. In those instances, you still are going to want to check on your cows and your herd every ... If you've got that person that can just put eyes on them and be like, "Yeah. They look fine. They've got water, and they're eating. Everything's good," then you could just go and check on them a couple of times a week, provided they're not close to calving or something like that, depending. If you're just raising them for beef, then you won't be dealing with breeding issues and all of that, because then that requires a little bit more eyes on more frequently.
Melissa K. Norris: Then when it comes to the wintertime, you can do ... We do the big, round bales. If you just have a couple of cows and you're doing it in a large feeder, then they're not going to go through that in a couple of days. Those big, round bales we have, our herd is seven cows and we're going through one of those big, round bales about every four to five days. Provided they have water and stuff, you wouldn't have to be actually out there physically feeding them. You'd want to go up like every four days to check, that type of a thing, like I said, provided that there is a neighbor that can just kind of keep eyes on them to just let you know if there's anything ... or you want to make sure really.
Melissa K. Norris: This is something where you could either have the neighbor do it or possibly look into something like a game cam or something like a camera that you would be able to look at from home. I have no idea on the expense of those or the tech involved, but I know that it's a possible that you could look at and just be like, oh, yeah, the cows are in the field, and they're not exhibiting any odd behavior, that type of a thing. Because mainly it's if they were to get out. That's where you want to have eyes on that they've got water, that they're not looking hurt or acting sick or something like that, and that they actually are in the pasture where they're supposed to be and they're not out roaming around.
Melissa K. Norris: My brother, for example, he has never had acreage, and he has one of the largest herds actually in our [inaudible 00:22:51]. I don't even know how many cattle he has, because he has them in I think four or five different fields. Some of them are close to 50 miles away from his home. One of them is just up the road from us, so there's been a couple times when he had a calf that was a fence crawler that would get out. We just would go and put it in and let him know like, "Hey. You might want to come check fences. This one's gotten out," and that type of thing. It's having that relationship with your neighbors that if something did happen, until you could get there, that they would possibly be willing to help. But he's raised cattle like that for, oh, gosh, probably over 15 years. I'm trying to think back, like how old am I now? How long has he had the cows? But for a really long time. It is very doable with the cattle, if it's not on your property, just kind of knowing those things.
Melissa K. Norris: When you first get the cows, especially you being new to the cattle and that type of thing, in the beginning, until they're settled in and you're kind of seeing what their routine is like, how fast they're going through the feed that you have, depending on the time of year, et cetera, you probably will want to be at the property every day checking on them for the first week or so. But then you'll kind of settle into a routine and you won't have to be there every single day.
Casey: Okay. If I decided to go down that route and put some cows up there or, like I said, or even find somewhere closer by, maybe a friend's property who has some more room, but if we were going to add cows, realistically how much help or assistance, beyond what's in the academy that I've already scoured through, how much help and assistance from [inaudible 00:24:46] or outside sources realistically would I need to start with those cattle if I don't have any experience with them?
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. That's a great question. One is finding the source of where you're going to get the cows. Then it's are you going to buy them as weanlings, so they're a fairly young cow? Of course, most people, you're wanting them as beef animals, so most people look to get a steer, which is a male cow that has been castrated. Then a heifer is an unbred female cow, which is what we call cows. I know I'm sounding quite technical, but I always get-
Casey: No. That's great.
Melissa K. Norris: I get called out on this. I'm like, yes, I know the proper terms, but most people when you're saying cow ... Anyways, just for that. Most people will purchase a steer, because the steer is going to ... at a younger age you're going to get more beef, and more people prefer to butcher a steer versus a cow, because the cow can then be bred back obviously, and then you can have a herd, and they can produce more cows. However, we, and this may be the case for you, sometimes you'll have farmers that have had a year where all of their cows end up throwing a bunch of heifers, and they can't keep that many heifers, and so they decide to sell them. I'm not going to sell my heifers to go then purchase a steer from someone else, because that would just be dumb, but we don't need that many heifers, so we have raised and butchered heifers as our beef animal, too, so just to preface that.
Melissa K. Norris: It's deciding where you're going to get your cattle from. A local farmer, in my opinion, is going to be your best bet, because you can go and look at the animal on the ground at the pasture, look at their herd. You can really ask them a bunch of questions. Most places, if you're buying an animal from them, are happy to answer your questions. It could also be a great resource if something were ... so that you did have somebody local. Say something happened or you're like, man, I'm just not sure if this is normal behavior, that you would be able to contact them and ask them like, "Hey. I've got a question about whatnot." They're just somebody local to you. It would really be your best bet.
Melissa K. Norris: Other times, there are auctions, and you can go to cattle auctions. You don't always get bad cows at auctions. The issue for me is you just don't necessarily know what you're getting. You don't know where that animal has came from. Especially if you have an existing herd, for us, bringing in another animal, if they have diseases or that type of thing, then we want to kind of keep them quarantined. I just prefer to get from a local farmer or a local source, where we can actually go and talk to them and see the stock that we're getting, what they come from and conditions, et cetera. But those are usually the two main ways that you're going to get your cows when you're starting.
Melissa K. Norris: Then, like I said, just really making sure that you have a really solid fence. The thing with cows is they are a larger animal, but they're like a mouse. If they can get their head through it, they can push their body through it. The grass is always greener on the other side. We do barbed wire, but we put they're called stays. They're metal stays that you put in between ... You have your expanse of your fence post. Right? Then you've got the stretch of the barbed wire. In between, like right in the middle between the two fence posts, we put those metal stays. That way when the cow tries to reach their head through the fence, the wire doesn't stretch as much, and so it makes it harder for them to get through the fence.
Casey: I see. Okay.
Melissa K. Norris: Those are really good to put in we have found. But like I said, yeah, just going through the fence, making sure that it is really nice and strong is good. Then with the cows themselves, it really is, for the most part it's your feed and your water. You're going to want to be finding some different feed sources, because most of the time, ideally, kind of like the best size, most people like to butcher at two years old, and so you're going to be taking them through, depending on ... We always butcher in the fall, because they're coming off ... they're still on the gain, so meaning usually during spring and summer they're on fresh pasture. They have a lot of green grass, and so they're gaining the most weight during that time. They're not using their energy to stay warm, because it's already warm out, et cetera. So, you want to butcher when they're on the gain.
Melissa K. Norris: If you wait too far into winter, then usually they do lose some weight. That's why most people butcher in the fall. Plus, old time wise, they would butcher in the fall, because then they could age the meat. It was colder out. They could age it. They could cool it. Then they could keep it throughout the whole winter months without it going bad. There's kind of a couple of reasons most people butcher in fall. But that being said, you're going to have to feed throughout usually two winters if you're doing it that way.
Melissa K. Norris: Now, if the steer is a really large steer or for whatever reason your like, we need to butcher at one and a half .... Say the calf was born in the spring, like in March or April, and so you go around and hit the next. Then it's a year old. Then if you were to butcher that October, it would be a year and a half. We've done that, too, where we're like we don't really want to buy enough hay to take this animal all the way around one more winter. It's already at one and a half years old. It's a pretty decent size. We're going to get a good amount of meat off of it, and we've just decided to butcher then. But you're going to get ideally at two years is when most people do it.
Melissa K. Norris: So, finding a hay source is going to be key, because if you are buying from ... just going to a local food store and buying your bales of hay, that's pretty much the most expensive way possible to do it, quite honestly, because they're buying their hay wholesale from a farmer. Then they're bringing it in, and they're paying the shipping. They're not trying to rip people off. That's not what I ... I hope I'm not ...that's what I'm insinuating, but you're going to pay the most, because they're the retailer, not the wholesaler. If you can go directly to the farmer or directly to whoever's doing the haying and buying from them, you're cutting out that middle man, so therefore it's cheaper.
Melissa K. Norris: But then you're going to work out either you're going to have to haul the hay and transport it, in most cases, and so you've got that part. If you have a truck of if you could rent a truck or borrow a truck, if you don't have one, in order to move the hay. Then the storage part of the hay, because you're going to need to buy it ... You ideally want to have your hay source lined up at the beginning of summer, at least here, because oftentimes they'll sell out. So, you kind of want to go to the farmer and be like, "Hey. Can you provide me with X amount of bales?" Then they'll let you know when the weather conditions are right and they're doing the cutting. Then the hay's baled and ready, and they'll be like, "Okay. Hey. Come get your hay."
Casey: [crosstalk 00:31:49]
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. Oftentimes, at least for here, because I know we're in different states, but I'm assuming a lot of this is going to transfer to any area, if it's the smaller, square bales that you can move easily in a pickup truck and by hand, if you come and pick them up out of the field, so that the farmer's not having to either pay help or do it himself and move it into a barn, sometimes you can get a lesser cost per bale that way. Then you can just get them directly out of the field and then bring them to wherever you're going to store them. Then sometimes they'll just put them up in the barn, and then you can go and get them that way. It kind of depends on the farmer. You can ask them about that.
Melissa K. Norris: Or the big, round bales, which is what we feed, those for us have been the most cost effective, is to do the really large, round bales that are wrapped in the white plastic. They look like the big, large marshmallows. The reason for that is we don't have a barn, so if you're going to be storing hay for the whole winter, you obviously need an area that's going to be really dry, that they're not going to get snowed on, rained on, et cetera, turn moldy, that type of thing. We don't have a barn, or a garage, or anything like that on our property to store those bales, and so the big marshmallow bales, which is actually haylage, so it's fermented, it actually has higher protein, and we feel like it's actually better nutritional wise for the cattle. But that way we can store that even here in snow and rain, and we don't have any issues, but we do have to have a tractor to lift them.
Melissa K. Norris: In the past, we didn't have a tractor, so we put them on a flatbed truck that we borrowed rom my husband's work. Then him and I together could get them rolling and push them off to unload them without any equipment. Then when we would go to feed them though, he would open one, and we would have to just by hand unwind however much we were feeding for the day, and then feed that by hand, and then make sure that bale that was open was covered really well until we had fed it all. We do have a tractor now, which allows us to move the full bale, put it in a feeder out in the field, so then we're only feeding, like I said, about that every four to five days right now with the size of our herd.
Melissa K. Norris: There's kind of different options with your hay, depending upon, like I said, equipment, the amount of work you're willing to put in daily, as far as physically unwrapping those big, round bales and feeding, and storage areas to store the hay, which is our biggest factor as to why we went to those round bales was because we didn't have a barn.
Casey: I see. I see. Okay. When we talked a little bit about if we were to hypothetically have two to three steers on our property that we were raising, how much space is really appropriate to kind of mark off or to fence off for them? What would be the appropriate amount of space per steer?
Melissa K. Norris: That's great. Here, and I do not know your guys' ... I would definitely get ahold of if you have a local cattlemen's association or even a local farmer. I don't know if the county extension office would have these kind of details or not. That would be another thing you could check. But I don't know for you guys how much grass you get per acre in peak growing season. For here, if you have an acre of full pasture per animal, then you don't have to supplement at all until we hit the winter months with feed. But I know depending upon how arid you are, like of course if you go down to Southern California, you need acres and acres per animal. That's why I'm kind of giving a little bit of preface for people listening in. I would definitely have you check that, too.
Melissa K. Norris: Space wise, we say here about an acre per animal, I should say for cattle, for a large animal, like a cow or a horse, if you want them to be pasture raised. Of course, you can do it on smaller, but they're going to tear up that ground, and then you're going to have heavier parasite infestation when they're on a smaller amount of pasture, because they're grazers. They actually will, especially horses, if they're in a stall, they will try to go to the bathroom in one area that's away from their feed, but if they're on a smaller piece of land, then it's just going to be ... naturally that's only going to be doable for so long. You're going to have more cross contamination. Ideally, I would say at least an acre per animal for space. Now, as far as not having to supplement any grass, depending upon your climate, they may need a little bit more.
Casey: I see. Okay. Okay. Then the other question that I had was would it be feasible to consider putting a greenhouse on the property that's an hour away, or is that something that is just not really realistic?
Melissa K. Norris: That's a great question. Honestly, with a greenhouse that ... because really with a greenhouse we're trying to create a false growing environment essentially. Right? So, if there's the humidity levels, there's the heat ... and I know even when I'm using my high tunnel, which I don't have heated, so I'm not dealing with really checking temperatures and having to adjust a heater and really finessing those humidity levels, even that, especially during the spring and fall, when I'm trying to put plants in there that can't go outside yet, in the morning I'm having to go and open it up, once the sun comes out. Otherwise, it gets too hot. Then in the evening I'm having to make sure I get everything closed down early enough that I'm still retaining the heat from the day, but not too early, so I don't cook things.
Melissa K. Norris: I feel like it's a lot more hands on work honestly with that greenhouse, just because you're having to constantly monitor the environment and make changes, especially as the sun comes up and the sun comes down. I think that that would probably be a harder thing to do. Now, if you had vents and things on different automatic timers ... which I have never had a heated greenhouse, so I want to make sure that I ... I've never had a heated greenhouse where I've actually put all of that into play. I just know that dealing with the high tunnel it feels to be a lot more hands on when we have those temperature changes, like I said, spring and fall. In the summer I just leave it open and I'm not doing anything, because I'm not trying to manipulate the environment the plants are in, other than keeping the rain off of them, because of blight. I would think that the greenhouse, if it's an hour away and you did need to make an adjustment, that that would be a lot more of a pain honestly to just keep on top of.
Casey: Right. Okay. Maybe even considering if we did want to do something like that, doing that at our property at home, because it does involve a lot more involvement with me daily.
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. Then after you get it up and running at home, after a while you might be like, oh, man, I've really got this nailed. Now I know exactly what needs to be done. Then you could perhaps move it. But I would say especially when you're kind of figuring it out, I would think starting it at home, where you can just really be there, would be ideal.
Casey: Okay. Then is there anything else that maybe I haven't considered or that you can think of that would work with just smaller spaces? I mean, we incorporate some vertical gardening on the side of the house. We are using our yard area for gardening for some raised beds. Like I said, I do have the chickens, and raspberries, and some fruit trees. Is there anything else that's maybe just the footprint of it is just a little bit smaller or more realistic to have in a backyard, rather than on a larger piece of property?
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. I mean, I think there's always things in the backyard. I know you said you have raised beds and you are doing some vertical gardening, which is awesome, because vertical gardening gives us obviously in the same amount of space, if you're growing vertical, you can usually get more in there. Depending on how far apart, and you may or may not already be doing this, but on how far apart your raised beds are, could you use the large hog or cattle panels between, so that the archway's actually over the walkway or between the raised beds, so that you could grow things up on that archway that would give you even more growing space in the existing beds you have, so you wouldn't have to put in more beds?
Casey: I could. I saw that you have how you do your beans and that you were going to be rotating different things out. I think it's just going to be a matter of figuring out how much sunlight I have, if I were to put that in, because I don't know that I could put it in over or in between raised beds, but I could put it in in another part of my yard. It just doesn't get quite as much light.
Melissa K. Norris: Got you.
Casey: So, I have to ... Yeah.
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. It kind of depends on the crops how much sunlight that they're getting. For beans and pretty much the main warm weather vegetables, like pole beans, cucumbers, winter squash, all of those kind of vining and trailing things, they really need at least six hours of full sun every day. It would depend on that area of your yard, and you could ... especially the sunlight of course in the summertime is usually further overhead, so we're actually getting more direct sunlight during the summer months than we are right now. But I would just kind of look at it and see throughout the day how much sunlight is it actually getting.
Melissa K. Norris: But then there's a lot of things, like your peas and things like that, that will grow in less amount or partial shade. They're going to have to have some direct sunlight. Very few will do really well in full shade. But you've got some things that will do just fine in kind of partial shade and that aren't getting that amount, things like a lot of your cool weather crops will do okay that way, so brussel sprouts, lettuce, peas, kale, those types of things. You may be able to do ... and especially you in Utah ... How hot do you guys get there during the summer months?
Casey: I would say we may have a few days over 100, just barely, but it's really not terrible. I would say 90s is pretty common throughout the summer. It does get warm, but, I mean, I grew up in Phoenix, so nothing is as miserable and hot as [inaudible 00:42:43].
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. You're a little bit more ... I thought your guys' summer temperatures were a little bit warmer typically here than where I'm at, which is why I was asking. During the middle of summer actually that might be an ideal place to do things like cool weather lettuce or things that would typically bolt or doesn't typically do so well in that hotter weather, so brussel sprouts, those types of things, beets. Kind of any of those cooler weather crops I would test out. Like I said, if it's getting at least six hours of sunlight a day, then I would definitely try some things like peas and beans. I think that they would do fine. But I would just kind of test it if you have this space.
Melissa K. Norris: Really the hog panels, we just used per one hog panel we had two metal T-posts, so one on each side. Really it's a pretty low cost. I mean, there is some expense. It's not like it's free. But it's not a super big investment, both on the labor and/or the hog panel itself and the T-posts. If you decide later, you're like me, it just didn't really grow that well in that spot, if you're going to have livestock, you definitely can put those T-posts and those hog panels to use, even with cattle or with chickens or something else. It won't go to waste. But I would test it. I would try and maybe just do one this year and just kind of see how it goes. But I would definitely try to use that area, if at all possible.
Casey: Well, I'm excited to try all these things. Maybe what I'll do is I'll work on all these projects and then just have to send you some update pictures and see how everything's going. Okay. This is my ridiculous question that I'm ... If I have a cow that gets out, how do I get it back in?
Melissa K. Norris: Okay. It's not a ridiculous question at all, because most beef cattle are not halter broke. Now, a milk cow, a dairy cow, most of them are halter broke, because you're bringing them in every day obviously to milk them. You need to be able to have hands on. Beef cattle are not halter broke. They are not tame. We can't go up and pet them. They're not pets, and they don't have that. So, it's a very good question, because how else are you going to get them in?
Melissa K. Norris: We are grass fed, organic, pasture raised. However, we do buy a couple of bags of organic grain every year. We have them grain trained, which is probably going to sound really funny. But basically what that means is we will put a small amount of grain in a coffee can or a bucket and shake it, so that they immediately associate this grain with that sound. Then we feed it to them just in the little feeder. You can get little feeders, a little trough. We're not giving them grain every day. We don't give them grain even every week. We're not grain finishing. Between six cattle over a year two bags of grain is actually not very much at all.
Melissa K. Norris: But the reason that we do this is it's just like a kid with candy. They love the grain. It's sweet. They love it. They don't get it very often. But they know when they hear that sound that they're going to get the grain. We'll do this too when we need to load ... If we're taking our cows, if we're not borrowing a bull and having a bull come to our pasture, then we'll take the cows that we want to have bred and we'll take them to my dad's field or whatever bull we're using for that season. To get them, same thing, to load or if we have a hurt cow, which we have never really had a cow that's been hurt that we needed to pen up, but that way we can put a feeder inside a small pen, and we can shake the grain. Then they'll come in to eat, and then we can close it. That's how we get them into the cattle trailer as well is we shake the grain up at the front. Then they'll step in to get the grain. Then we can shut the door. That way we just make sure-
Casey: Ah. Okay.
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. You kind of can ask the farmer like, "Have they ever had grain? Are they aware of ...?" And that type of thing. Then you'll know. If they've already heard grain, they've had grain, then they remember it. Then we'll just feed it periodically. We'll feed them some grain throughout the year just to kind of keep them used to coming in where the grain is at and hearing it, so then if they do get out or we need to move them into an area for whatever reason, then it's not this super past, distant memory. They're like, oh, yeah. But it's not something we do daily or even weekly. We keep them grained trained in that [inaudible 00:47:03].
Casey: That is super helpful. I could not figure out how ... I hear, I have other people who have had cattle and, "Oh. My cows got out," or something like that. I was wondering, how in the world are they getting these giant animals back that don't want to be back? So, that's really helpful.
Melissa K. Norris: Yeah. I have to say too the person that feeds them during the wintertime, which is usually my husband, I will be honest, they know him and his voice, because he's ... They associate like he's bringing me food, because he's the one that feeds the cattle predominantly. When we're shaking the grain and calling ... We'll also call them, so having maybe a specific way that you call them. It's just kind of these little triggers that they associate with the grain, so definitely the shaking, because you want that noise, so then later ... There's even been times where a cow has started to get out, like we left the gate open ... I'd like to say it was the kids, but it may have been me, quite honestly. This was a couple years back. We were actually out of grain, but I had some gravel with a pal. I shook it to get them back through the open gate that I had left open. Which you can't do that very often, because if you trick them and you don't actually have any grain, they're going to be like, well, I don't care if you make that noise. But in a pinch it works, so like just doing it once.
Melissa K. Norris: The reason I mentioned this, so you want to get them associated to the sound of the shaking, but then we'll also call them, and so that you can have two triggers, like a specific way that you call them when you're shaking the grain, so then you can use your voice as well as the shaking noise to help get them in where you need them to go, should they get out or you need to put them in a different area.
Casey: Got you. Okay. Talking about feed, how do I know what the appropriate amount is or which cutting I need to be purchasing for them? I've heard the first cutting of the season is typically not great. It has all the weeds in it. It's not what you want. But then I have to be aware of protein contain, just so these cows don't bloat and die. How do I know how to feed them or which cutting to feed them?
Melissa K. Norris: It's a great question. When it comes to hay, your first cutting typically has more weeds in it. The second cutting is thought to be a better cutting. It has less weeds. It's usually sweeter, and most people feel that it has greater nutritional value to it. Now, depending upon the weather where you live ... Here where we are in the Pacific Northwest, very rarely do you get a third cutting. The weather, everything has to align and just be perfect for that to happen, and it doesn't happen every year. So, there sometimes can't even be third cuttings, depending on the climate that you live in, but usually you'll get a first and second cutting.
Melissa K. Norris: With the cattle, when it comes to first or second cutting, we feed both and have not had any issues where we are. Now, that's with doing regular grass and timothy orchard grass, just regular grass. On our side of the mountains there's really not a lot of alfalfa, and so we don't typically buy alfalfa and have alfalfa for the cattle. Just kind of putting the difference between the two hays there. Now, with horses, because your cows have the multiple stomach chambers, and so they can eat a lot of different feed, as compared to horses, we feed the fermented hay, the haylage, to our cows. We actually feel that that's better than the dry hay in some instances, as far as nutritional, and protein, and all of those things. But with horses you don't ever really want to feed the haylage. Horses are much more prone to bloat and to colic and digestion issues. They're a lot more finicky.
Melissa K. Norris: I know we're talking about cattle, but just a little bit of difference there. A lot of times people will take hay advice I guess that really is important for horses, but we've found hasn't been quite as important when it comes to the cattle, especially with things like bloating and that. I would say if you could get second cutting to third cutting, yeah, that is usually considered to be better hay nutritional wise and flavor wise. The sweeter and the better tasting the hay, then the more that the cattle is going to want to eat it, or horse for that matter.
Melissa K. Norris: But it's really the quality of the hay I feel is more important than first or second cutting per se. If it's a field that doesn't ever get fertilized, or it has just a lot of weeds in it, or doesn't have a lot of really good grass or clover, that type of a thing, then a second cutting of a field that's crappy, forgive my french, is crappy hay versus a first cutting of a really quality field, then I would take the first cutting of the really quality hay versus a second cutting of a field that has not very good quality. Hopefully that makes sense.
Casey: Right. Yes. I got you.
Melissa K. Norris: Yes. Technically, second and third cutting is really great, but we have fed first cutting. Sometimes you get a mixture of both. There might not be ... We've gotten first cutting and then second cutting, like looking at the weather, sometimes here even the weather, it can be hard to get even a second cutting, believe it or not. So, sometimes we'll buy first cutting, because we're guaranteed to get a first cutting. We don't know if we'll get a second cut here. Then if a second cutting does happen, then you can buy some second. Then you can mix it, because usually we're buying in the summer. We're not feeding that hay yet, and so then we wait until we start to feed, and then you can kind of mix and feed some of the better, higher quality versus some of the lower quality. You can kind of mix it together.
Melissa K. Norris: You really with the hay want to make sure that it doesn't have mold in it, that there aren't any weeds that would be harmful to the cattle in there. You kind of want to know what was in the pasture, what's in the hay, and then that it isn't too dusty. You don't want it to have a ton of dust in it. I mean, hay's not clean per se. You're going to have some dust and that type of thing, but you don't want it to be really dirty and have a lot of dust, because then that can irritate them when they're breathing and stuff. You definitely don't want to have the mold in there, because they won't eat it and you don't want them eating ... Then if it did have high levels of mold, you wouldn't want them eating that and that type of thing.
Casey: Okay. That makes sense.
Melissa K. Norris: But, yeah. I'm really excited to see your guys' path.
Casey: Well, I really appreciate it. I feel definitely encouraged and capable after learning so much from you. There's all these things that we're always nervous to begin and we just really feel unqualified for, and so it's really great just to kind of have the support and encouragement that even if it's not perfect, it's really just a trial and error thing. We will work on it. We'll have to update you and let you know how everything's going.
Melissa K. Norris: Yes. Please do. I can't wait to see how it goes. This is the thing. I know I'm the same way when I'm starting out something. We all started at the beginning. Nobody started born knowing all of these things. I mean, I had the advantage of my dad did have cattle growing up, but even when we started, even though I had grown up raising cows with my dad, when we first started our own herd, my husband and I both ... I would call my dad and ask him like, "This is right, right? This is really what you did?" We all start at that point, so don't let it stop you, but don't feel bad, like oh, man, or feel weird about it. Sometimes we feel weird, like I just don't know everything. I feel inadequate. Don't feel that way at all.
Casey: Well, I really appreciate all your encouragement. I think we'll give it a try, and we'll just see kind of where it takes us.
Melissa K. Norris: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on.
Casey: I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Melissa K. Norris: Thank you. Well, I hope that you enjoyed that episode as much as I did with Casey and that you are liking this new series and format that we're having here on the podcast. If you still have any additional questions to the things that I talked about today, please do either leave a comment on the blog post, which is at melissaknorris.com/292 for this episode, or even in the review. Leave a review of the podcast and you can mention this episode and list any other questions or things that you may have regarding this episode. That helps me to know what topics to cover in upcoming episodes. I want to thank you so much for spending your time with me. I greatly appreciate it. I can't wait to be back on here with you next week, same time, same place. For now, blessings and mason jars, my friend.
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