Saturday, December 17, 2011

My New Home - The Rockin H Ranch

Finding the "right" place to develop and grow a goat dairy and creamery hasn't been easy. I started out with the idea and business plan of milking goats and making cheese during the winter of 2006.  I obtained my first goats the following summer and things grew from there. Here are some things I wrote about Getting Started

It soon became evident that the farm I had at that time wasn't the right place to grow this business.  The search for a farm that had an existing milking parlor ... even one I would have to remodel for the goats brought me to the farm I just moved from.  I wrote about my excitement about the possibilities of   The New Farm   I spent 3 years there and learned a lot about making cheese, remodeling milking parlors and cheese processing rooms.  Here's the story about the Milk Parlor Remodel

After much work and money poured into this farm, I found things with the structure of the remodeled Processing Room that would never pass the inspection of the State Milk Board.  Passing this inspection and having the dairy certified with the State Milk Board is essential to selling my cheese in stores and making a living at this business. It looked like I would have to build a new structure or at the very least sink a lot more money into the current structure.  Since I was leasing the farm, I wasn't willing to do either of these.

My heart was in turmoil over the years, effort, and money I had put into the dream of a goat dairy and creamery.  I had learned so much about making cheese, growing the goat herd, and what the requirements were to have a successful cheese processing business.  I wasn't ready to give up.  As always, I took my concerns to God in prayer.  He has always lead me in the right direction.

Then out of the blue ... this past Spring (2011) ... an unexpected offer was made by my friends Cody, Dawnnell and Taylor.... owners of the  Rockin H Ranch
(Several of the photos below were taken by Cody, Dawnnell and Taylor.  They have given permission to use them in this posting)

They asked me if I would consider moving my entire goat dairy operation out to their ranch.  They didn't know anything about the turmoil I had been in about the dead end I had run up against at the farm where I was living.  I felt like this offer was an answer to my prayers.

A goat dairy was an enterprise they had been planning to add to their ranch. In fact they had bartered with me for a "truck load" of my Nubian babies to get started on that goal.   Here's the post I wrote about it this last winter New Home for the Babies

With moving my dairy onto the ranch, the goal of an operational goat dairy on the ranch would be realized much sooner than they had expected.  And guess what ... they just happened to have an older unused milking barn and an empty house on the ranch.   Both the house and milk barn are pretty old, but have great possibilities.  I'll be posting more about these and their remodel soon.

The house 

The milk barn from the Tank Room end 

The milk barn from the Milking Parlor end

Over the next few weeks we discussed the details and came to an agreement.  Soon, I began remodeling the old cow dairy to fit the goats and preparing for the move to the Rockin H Ranch.  Yes, I have lots of photos and stories to tell about these activities.... But, first let me tell you about the Rockin H Ranch.

It is 1,000 acres of the most beautiful and peaceful land I have ever experienced.  The views are breathtaking.  From the top of the hill above the house, you can see forever.

The fields just below the milk barn are so lush and have a creek running at the edge of them.

Cody is a well respected expert and authority on raising grass fed and finished animals for meat production.  He has been ranching for most of his life and has spent the last 10 years building the forages and livestock on this 1,000 acre ranch.  It takes thinking outside the "normal" modern ranching thought process to create a sustainable ranch where it alone completely provides the living for his family.

They raise and direct market grass fed beef, lamb, pastured pork, chickens, turkeys, and free range eggs.  There are never any grains fed to the beef and lambs.  The pastured pigs and chickens get a little organic feed in addition to the grasses and forages.  The pigs also get the whey from my cheese making and extra veggies from the huge gardens.

Their food label is Real Farm Foods.  Their products are sold and delivered directly to their "preferred customers", their CSA members, and to several of the health food and local foods stores in Springfield.

Here are photos of some of the animals on the ranch.

Grazing the cattle herd is managed with a series of 15 acre paddocks.  The cattle are rotated to new paddocks of grass and forages every day or so.  It takes a little over 3 months for them to rotate completely around the ranch.  One of the amazing things is that hay is only necessary when the ice and snow is too deep for the cows to dig through.  This style of pasture management has enough grass growth and forages for the cattle to eat year round.... even during the winters here in southern Missouri.... and in the dry times of the summer.

The pigs are raised naturally on pasture and never in confinement.

The large flock of sheep free ranges over the ranch.  There have been lots of baby lambs born this winter.  They are so much fun to watch.

Meat chickens are grown during the warmer months in hoop house like shelters that are moved every day to new grass.  These chickens stay clean and healthy while they grow into delicious chicken dinners!

Turkeys are naturally grown in time for fresh Holiday turkey.

The free range laying hens have two jobs.  The first is egg production and the other is fly and insect control.

Dawnnell has a small herd of dairy cows.  She milks them to provide fresh raw milk.

Here are my goat girls free range grazing.  They have access to 250 acres on this quadrant of the ranch.  In this photo taken in early December, you can see them in the foreground and the cattle grazing at the bottom of the hill.   My goats have become very comfortable here at the ranch.  They're so smart about finding the best places to eat and finding their way back home in the evenings just before dark.

Multi-species grazing is one of the keys to the success of the ranch.  The goats and sheep eat the forages that the cattle won't eat.  And, by having the cattle rotate through each paddock on the ranch, parasite control is enhanced.

What is the most important thing on this ranch?  You might think it is the livestock or the grass they eat.  But, the most important thing on this ranch is the soil and the microorganisms that live in it.  By free range grazing, the animals not only spread their natural fertilizer on the soil ... they also trample the organic material into the soil.  Healthy soil makes healthy grasses and forages ... and this in turn makes lots of healthy animals who eat the grass and forages.

Did I mention how beautiful the views are here on the ranch?  I took the photo of the sunset below from just outside the milking parlor.  Yes, I love living here on the ranch!



Carol said...

It does look like a dream come true for you!! Beautiful place.

Sandy said...

Brenda - I'm so glad to read this update. Best wishes in this wonderful new adventure. I'll be anxious to read the updates and see the pictures. Have a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas.

darius said...

What an exciting (and fortuitous) opportunity! Wishing you continued favor of the Universe...

Jenna said...

Congratulations on the new set-up, Brenda! Looking forward to seeing how your new production is going,

Dalyn (AKA The Queen of Quite Alot) said...

Amazing! I'm so happy for you! What a wonderful ranch and God-given opportunity- that's some community living and in harmony that I love to see and hear about. Congratulations!

Brenda said...

Thank you all! Dylan, this is an amazing place. One of their goals for the near future is to have several like-minded families living and working here on the ranch. I am honored to be the first to bring my "farm" to become part of this place.

Darren Lanphere said...

Now, that’s what a traditional ranch house looks like! Simple, yet very homey. Also, the animals are free to roam around, and feed on the healthy, fresh grass. This whole idea must be tiring, but seeing them occupying your spacious ranch is overwhelming. If given a chance, I would like to spend time in a ranch like this.

-Darren Lanphere