We at Rafter W Ranch are committed to producing the healthiest food possible in ways that cooperate with nature, not work against it. This is good for the land, good for our animals, and good for the people we serve; symbiosis.
Diversity is a strength when it comes to natural ecosystems. Conventional farming or ranching likes to plant all the corn over here, and pen up thousands of cattle over there, while they house all the chickens in there. That doesn’t happen in nature! Whether it’s the African Savannah or the Rocky Mountains, differing species will share the same space, and this is good. Of course, there are predator-prey relationships, but very often there are symbiotic relationships at play too, like with the buffalo and the cowbird.
Following this example, our pastures (while incredibly diverse in plant life) serve both grazing animals and chickens too. We’ve found strength and health are added to our animals and our land by doing this.
Symbiosis On The Ranch
Our cattle (or sheep) graze a paddock. They’re given a day to do this, at most, and then moved to the next spot. Within a few days, chickens are given access to this same paddock (our broilers in their movable pens, or our hens free-ranging from their mobile coop).
- The chickens flourish with this system: The grass is shorter so bugs are easier to find. They scratch and scatter cow pies looking for fly larvae. This doesn’t appeal to you and me, but provides a delicious buffet for the birds!
- The pasture is improved: In addition to the “rest and regenerate” aspect that improves all the good plants in a pasture, the chickens add their own fertilizer to the paddock. And the scratching and scattering mentioned above? That distributes the natural fertilizer left by the cattle, so no dark green “humps” of grass (that the animals would naturally avoid) dot the landscape.
- The cattle benefit: They aren’t re-grazing around their own waste, thus halting any potential for parasites to infect them and complete a life cycle (and keep in mind, chickens aren’t subject to the same parasites the herbivores are). The forage is enriched and regenerated for their next time through, parasites are long gone, and flies and other annoyances are kept at a minimum.
Lastly, of course, we all benefit. These practices, while requiring close attention and careful management through the seasons, allow us to use the same land for two purposes and improve the pasture while we’re at it. They help us to produce the best eggs and meat available, while at the same time avoiding chemical fertilizers, parasiticides, and medications so often required in confinement-style operations.
If you’d like to see this “Nature’s Orchestra” in action, contact us to arrange a visit to our Simla ranch. We’d be happy to show you around.