Welcome to Forest Hill Farm! Our animals are raised on pasture, as God intended. Our cattle and sheep are 100% grass fed and our heritage hogs are pasture raised, as pigs should be. Pig’s and poultry eat non-GMO grains. The pig’s diet is supplemented with milk from our small herd of dairy cows. We’d love to have you as a customer, but if you’re located outside our area please find a farmer who puts animal husbandry, land conservation, and quality of life at the forefront of livestock production. EatWild.com has a listing of farmers committed to grass fed, pasture raised meats. If you have questions feel free to email us
The grass is pretty sparse this spring. The warm weather just got here but it isn’t here to stay, yet. A snowy mix of precipitation is forecast for May 2. This is May, isn’t it? The cattle are back on pasture but are moving more frequently to keep them grazing and the new grass from being trampled. Last night as we were setting up fences I saw one cow off by herself, she went off to have her calf. A few minutes later she delivered a big, healthy heifer. Life is good! When all the cows had been moved Keith went back for the cow and her calf. He ended up carrying the calf because she hadn’t been on her feet for more than a few minutes and it was a long walk.
On Friday, April 19 we picked up the package of bees we’d ordered. It included 3000 bees and one queen in a separate cage. It was cold with occasional snow flurries interspersed with rain, much too cold to install the bees. On Saturday the weather was warmer, mid 50′s, and sunny. For the past few months I’ve read books, magazine articles, watched DVD’s and learned about bee keeping. In preparation we tried a dry run to make sure we were prepared. By far the most comprehensive, easy to follow, step by step guide, was in Beekeeping For Dummies by Howland Blackiston.
The night before we picked up the bees we made sugar water and added Honey B Healthy. This will be their feed until all the frames of foundation are drawn into comb and there’s evidence that they’re taking in nectar.
The queen cage was placed in between the center frames with a mini marshmallow plugging the cage opening. In a few days she’ll eat it and escape. By that time the other bees will recognize her pheromones and accept her as their queen. If she hasn’t escaped the cage within a few days we’ll release her into the hive.
After the bees and frames were sprayed with sugar water Keith began shaking the box of bees into the hive. There were still a few stragglers clinging to the screen box so we placed it outside the hive, eventually the majority of the stragglers moved inside. The entrance reducer was put into place to help to control the temperature and prevent robber bees from entering the hive (no worries of robber bees yet, it’s too cold).
The installation was a success, no one got stung and the bees were content. Watching them come and go from the hive has been fascinating. Hopefully the weather will break and nectar and pollen will be plentiful soon.
Dow AgriSciences announced the launch of Enlist corn which is resistant to 2,4-D. Dow expects the first sales of Enlist corn in 2013 with a planting date of 2014.
I had an epiphany. There are so many things I want to learn about and experience so what am I waiting for? One of them is bee keeping. For years I’ve been fascinated by bees. I’ve studied them, researched apiary science, and formed ideas and opinions on how to best care for them. This information hasn’t been put to the test yet. Next week my first package of bees, 3000 of them plus one mid-west bred dark queen will be shipped to the farm. Dark queens are said to be calmer and more resistant to disease. The hive’s are built, soon to be painted when it stops raining.
One hive seems reasonable to start with, but by late June we’ll have a couple more ready in case of a swarm. There’s never been an agricultural challenge that I haven’t embraced with confidence until now. Caring for chickens, hogs, cattle, sheep, and goats hasn’t intimidated me but bees are far more complicated. They’re fragile in the ecosystem, susceptible to toxins, mites, and environmental issues; plus, they sting. My goal isn’t to harvest honey, I’ll let the bees keep it for the first two seasons. It’s the perfect food for them. Many bee keepers harvest the honey and then feed sugar syrup or corn syrup to the hive throughout the winter. To me it seems logical that the bees convert nectar and pollen into honey, the perfect food for the hive. They should benefit from their labor by living off of it. Good nutrition for the hive might improve disease resistance and strengthen the hive enough to overcome veroa mites, colony collapse disorder (CCD), nosema, and a myriad of other threats.
In the ’1990′s French researchers were alarmed by the disappearance of billions of bees. Their study targeted a link between colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the neonicotinoid insecticide, Imidacloprid created by Bayer. Neonicotinoids are chemically related to nicotine which works as a nerve agent destroying the central nervous system of insects. It’s used in treating soils, seeds, vegetables, fruits, berry and nut crops. They are the most widely used insecticide in the world. Since 2008 seed treatments using neonicotinoids have been banned in France, Germany, and Italy.
SAVE THE BEES!
One of the biggest threats to honey bee health is neonicotinoid’s used to treat seeds. Lawn and garden products are full of this pesticide. PLEASE read labels carefully. Buy organic if possible or environmental friendly, less harmful items. If you’re buying seed make sure it’s untreated. Below is a list of product names indicating they contain neonicotinoids. Print and take it with you to the garden center. Let’s save the bees!
Ingredient lists may include these brand names; Actara, Platinum, Helix, Cruiser, Adage, Meridian, Centric, Flagship, Poncho, Titan, Clutch, Belay, Arena, Confidor, Merit, Admire, Ledgend, Pravado, Encore, Goucho, Premise, Assail, Intruder, Adjust and Calypso
“More than a generation has passed since FDA first recognized the potential human health consequences of feeding large quantities of antibiotics to healthy animals. Accumulating evidence shows that antibiotics are becoming less effective, while our grocery store meat is increasingly laden with drug-resistant bacteria. The FDA needs to put the American people first by ensuring that antibiotics continue to serve their primary purpose – saving human lives by combating disease.”
Here at Forest Hill Farm we don’t use antibiotics in feed. Cattle and sheep only eat grass. Pigs and poultry aren’t fed ANY antibiotics.
More food for thought!
If you guessed ‘A’ congratulations again! You might know more about feeding cows than some farmers. Don’t you feel smarter already?
Some years spring comes early, calving is uncomplicated. Other years, like this one, spring is nowhere around. Despite the cold temperatures the cows deliver calves. As a precaution we brought the cows into the barn yard where they could get under the shed roof . There’s protection from freezing rain or snow here. Under the shed are straw bales and stalk bales for bedding. Round bales of hay fill the feeders under the roof and in the yard outside. Most of their days are spent in the open air, they come in freely when the weather is severe. The calves prefer the open air, too. Laying up against the stalk bales and hay feeders the calves are barely visible. On March 20, the first day of spring, the temperatures in north east Iowa struggled to get past the freezing mark. The calves all tucked themselves into the bedding. The cows standing over them added another layer of protection.
In the morning we noticed a lame calf. His leg was hanging at an awkward angle, loading him into the truck we took him to the vet’s office. X-rays confirmed the hind leg was fractured clean through. Our best guess is that he was sleeping in the hay when one of the cows stepped on him. The vet offered two options; euthanize him or do nothing and let the leg hang. Discouraged, Keith started researching other options. He discovered a description for the Schroeder-Thomas Splint. Keith and I made careful measurements of the calf’s leg. From this we drew a template, Keith welded steel rod exactly as presented in the instructions. The angles of the frame are critical for immobilizing the leg. The vet couldn’t have been more supportive. He anesthetized the calf, reset the bone, and padded the splint and taped the leg into the frame. Throughout the procedure the cow bawled incessantly to her calf.
When the leg was set the calf and cow were closed into a quiet area under the shed. So far the calf is adjusting well. He’s able to get up and down, nurse, and move (awkwardly at first but he’s getting better). He’s being supplemented with comfrey to help heal his bones, and Hypericum.
|This is Spot, the lamb|
Spot is one in a family of triplets. He’s still nursing from his mom but 3 times a day he’s getting a bottle,too.
I feel like the barn door is a Pez Dispenser, every time I open it another lamb or calf pops out. So far, we’ve had a whole bunch of new lambs and 7 new calves this month. Chloe and Lulu each had calves so they’re back in the business of giving milk. Alice and Clarice are due in May and June.
Our timing is a little off this year. We usually plan on having calves and lambs a couple of weeks before the pasture is ready. This year the snow cover is causing a delay but the added moisture is welcome.
Early next month chicks, turkey pullets, ducklings and goslings will come to the farm. Our turkey hens are going down the road to rendezvous with a friend’s toms. After they’ve been with the tom the eggs will be collected and saved. Kept cool, not cold, the eggs remain fertile but inactive for two weeks. When the hens come home we’ll put their eggs into the nesting boxes and let them hatch their own eggs.
A farmer in Iowa is making headlines. He’s being hailed as innovative for saving on feed costs by feeding his cattle sawdust. Perhaps even more unbelievable is that University officials, and his veterinarian are giving a nod to the alternative feed. What in the world are livestock producers thinking? Won’t they be surprised when no one wants what they produce.
The apple, cherry, and peach trees have been pruned. The garden is waiting anxiously for new seedlings and the rototiller is tuned up and ready to go. All we need now is better weather.
The lane from the barn to the house is an icy slope. Every day it thaws just enough for the snow to melt little rivulets down to the barn. Night time temperatures are just low enough to re-freeze the slope. This morning as I was carrying a basket of eggs I slipped and crashed. All the eggs broke. Immediately I thought, ‘Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket’, but having them in two wouldn’t have helped. Neither basket or carrier are a match for the ice. Keith fell twice yesterday and he has ice cleats on his boots. Ahh, March, the month with a little bit of everything.
It’s that time of year again…Lambing Time! So far there are three sets of triplets, four sets of twins, and a couple singles. Lambing started on Saturday morning. With about 35 ewes still to lamb it’s busy around here. This is a great time to lamb, it isn’t too cold and spring is just around the corner. When the lambs are ready to graze the pasture will be lush again. Next week the pastures will be frost seeded, six weeks after that they’ll be ready for grazing.
On January 29, six years ago, we bought this farm. It wasn’t a decision made in haste, we’d been preparing for the previous seventeen years. It wasn’t a leap of faith, a bold adventure, or a risk. It was a confident step in the right direction. Farming started as a dream and three and a half acres. Later ten additional acres were added the farm grew steadily from there. Eventually expansion became impossible due to rising land values and housing developments taking over farmland in our area. The decision to move to Iowa wasn’t difficult, it’s been rewarding.
This farm was planted fence row to fence row with corn. The soil wasn’t healthy, it was washing away with erosion. The land had been over used. The barnyard was overgrown with giant ragweed and the house, which we didn’t see until we took possession, was horrible. Somehow we saw past these deficiencies and a bigger picture unfolded before us. Years of raising chickens, pigs, goats, turkeys and eventually cattle prepared us for growth. It was a culmination of dreams, plans, and knowledge. Six years later we’ve managed to halt the erosion, plant a couple hundred trees, replenish the soil, and plant a garden.The land is recovering, it’s rewarding us with beautifully rich pastures. The wildlife is returning also; pheasants and wild turkey roam the fields. Hawks, hunting for snakes and field mice, fly above the baler while we make hay. Rabbits are abundant, aren’t they always. They eat the trees, shrubs, and garden believing they were planted especially for them. Occasionally they’re spotted nibbling the blueberry bushes. The dogs see them too, but, neither bunny or dog makes a move. Unfortunately, the dogs aren’t menacing enough to keep the vermin away. The bunnies know it. Our pet rabbits, George and Popeye were viewed as protected pets and now all rabbits fall into this category. It’s the same with raccoons. The dogs remember playing with Sammy, who was included in all of their farm adventures, to them, all raccoons are acceptable. The chickens strongly disagree.
Walking through the apple, peach and cherry trees I noticed chew marks and stripped bark on the youngest trees. The rabbits, sitting on top of snow drifts, ate the trees lower branches above the mesh wrap that was supposed to protect them. On winter afternoons a walk through the farm reveals areas that still need attention. Year by year these areas are shrinking. Eventually improvements will be made by desire instead of necessity. That day doesn’t seem as distant anymore. However, one more improvement needs to be added to the never ending “to do” list; rabbit proof fencing.