September 22, 2022

Looking Towards Breeding Season

Looking at some of our core breeds on the ranch, and how they play into our specific program.

Autumn is my happy-place

The cooler temperatures, shorter days, and changing colors inspire me. I always get a new surge of creative energy, and look-forward to the coming events on the ranch.

In a sense, autumn is a reset. It is when we start thinking about the season to come with new breeding schedules. As I choose the groups, I am tasked with deciding which genetics get carried into the future, and which will drop out of our rotation. Which combinations "correct" for areas we would like to improve, and how to create better livestock for our program, overall.

Heritage genetics are the backbone of our livestock here. Our pork is built on Berkshire, Meishan, Gloucestershire Old Spot, and Red Wattle breeds. We have found that these breeds bring the best flavor, temperament, fertility, and pasture-friendly characteristics to our program. We are consistently breeding crosses, and purebreds, to meet our goals of providing the best tasting meat that is nutritious to boot.

  • We find that the Meishan traits create a deep, red, marbled carcass, superb natural mothering skills, and a fantastic temperament in our animals.
  • Berkshire heritage provides that sweet, nutty flavor, a fast growth-rate, and a wonderful comformation for pigs.
  • The Gloucestershire Old Spot genes make our pigs excellent grazers, sweet mothers, and good pasture-mates.
  • Red Wattle characteristics include a well-marbled carcass, fast growth-rate,  and excellent hardiness in our climate. (Fun fact, this breed is also unique to North America!)
Bootise on an autumn morning

We only raise, and breed, one type of sheep here, and that is the Leicester Longwool. Anyone who has asked me about our wool and lamb program knows the story-- I was gifted a lambswool when Wilhelmina was born, and never looked back. The softness, the quality of the fleece, and the natural colors all astounded me. Little did I know the meat would knock my socks off, too!

Being committed to this singular breed, and working hard to grow their numbers in the U.S., has been an enriching experience for all of us at the ranch. This fall we are adding several new ewes and grouping them with our two, proven rams. I am already excited for lambing season!

  • Leicesters are part of the "luster" group of longwood sheep, for the brilliant, silky shine on their wool
  • The Livestock Conservancy describes their fleeces as "heavy, curly, soft handling, and lustrous with a spiral-tipped staple up to eight inches."
  • Leicesters are excellent grazers, and are able to thrive on all kinds of pasture
  • Lastly, they are wonderful mothers and do well lambing with limited assistance.
Beautiful Leicester fleeces, and a few goats

And although we do not breed our own chickens here (yet), they still get some autumn honorable-mentions. We are adding a couple hundred more birds to our flock this fall as we plan for increasing egg availability next spring and summer. To accomplish this task, we look to cold-hardy birds that are up for the task of laying eggs through thick and thin. For this reason, we rely on the following as the core of our flock.

  • Rhode Island Red: these birds are built for the bitter-cold, and are excellent layers in all kinds of weather conditions
  • Black Australorp: originally from Australia, these birds have become popular for their adaptability, sweet nature, and consistent egg production.
  • White Leghorn: they may be flighty, but they are simply the best at converting pasture into orange egg yolks-- there's nothing more dreamy than that!

Whether you are energized and excited by the changes this time of year brings, or simply enjoying the slower pace of fall, we hope to connect with you! Stay tuned for our fall and winter market schedule, information on shipping to the western United States, and our upcoming podcast!

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