Taking care of livestock in the winter is where the men are separated from the boys. Well below freezing temperatures, deep snow, ripping winds, frozen water...these are some of the challenges winter brings. Living in north central Massachusetts, we get the snow and frigid subzero temperatures, so winter is real around here. I get asked a lot about how we care for our animals in the cold months, as it seems to be a concern for people new to keeping livestock. When it comes to the goats, there really are two things that are of the upmost importance: they need to be dry and in as draft free of an area as possible. They can handle the coldest of temperatures as long as they are dry, their bedding is dry, and they have protection from drafts.
While my goats are spoiled rotten with their organic/soy free/non gmo feed, organic second cut hay, and constant doting, I consider myself to be pretty old school when it comes to animal husbandry. I am a firm believer that animals were built to handle inclement weather. They have thick coats, snuggle to stay warm, and as ruminants their fermenting bellies act like internal space heaters. So, this means no heat lamps or additional heat sources in the barn. Now not saying these couldn't or shouldn't be used in life or death situations. But, these supplemental heat sources throw their bodies out of whack and make it difficult for them to self regulate with constant exposure. Not to mention the extreme danger of a fire. I have been known however to wake up 1-2 times in the middle of the night when we have real bad cold snaps (like last year when it was -20F+ for weeks on end) to suit up and go check on the girls. So, what do I do to keep our herd going throughout the cold months? Read on friends.
Love is in the air here folks! The hormones are flying and we have a packed breeding plan to keep us in babies from February until July. Big Marie has been artificially inseminated and is confirmed pregnant, while Audrey and Alison have had their date with their suitors. Time will tell if they are in fact pregnant, and Ruby is my final girl to be bred. My calendar is chocked full of heat dates, bred dates, and potential due dates. So who was bred when and when can we we anticipate bouncing babies? Read on!
It's about time I finally wrote a blog post about my sweet sweet lard. It is no secret that I have a serious love for lard and how magical it is. A healthy animal fat that has been villainized due to the shift away from pastured pork to commercial factory farming has resulted in a general opinion that lard is an evil fat. Now, let me be clear. When I am speaking about all of the benefits of pork fat/lard, I am referring to pastured pork. Pigs raised outside, in the sun, rooting around in the soil and eating greens as nature intended. This does not apply to feedlot raised, barn stall raised, confined pork...because yes that is the villain.
Lard rendered from pastured pork is a healthy and stable animal fat. There is a perceived idea that lard is an artery clogging, heart attack causing, unhealthy fat. Yes, this is the case when you are talking about pigs raised in confined factory operations (CFO) or similar housing. But, we aren't about those pigs here! Pigs store the vitamin D they get from spending all day in the sun and foraging on greens in their fat. Once rendered into lard, only a couple tablespoons a day can provide you with your daily requirement of liquid sun. Lard is also high in fatty acids such as oleic acid, and when you raise pastured pigs finished on acorns, the high level of omega-3's they get from the acorns are stored in the fat as well! Lard also has a well balanced ratio of saturated: monounsaturated fats, and next to olive oil, it contains the highest quantity of monounsaturated fats of any cooking oil. I could go on and on, but I think you get the gist of it. Lard truly is a nutrient dense super fat in the kitchen.
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