The Move is an organization that connects young people from Boston with farms and the food system. They travel to various farms both in Boston and in the suburbs. They will be coming to Breakneck Hill Farm on Oct 17 at 9:30 AM to help with a number of projects. We will be moving the cows and taking down the fence on the Back Pasture. We will also be getting the barn and barnyard ready for the cows to come back to in November. I am hoping to secure an oak log to split into rails if not we’ll be finishing some rails and setting up some home made split rail fence. Please stop by and say hi if your in the area. We’ll be serving grass-fed burgers for lunch.
Five members of the Urban Farm Institute came out from Boston to visit Breakneck Hill Farm on a beautiful day on Sep. 18th. Our immediate goal was to pick some of the thousands of delicious and organic apples that are on the trees on the conservation land. The orchard was originally planted in the 1940’s and at one point had something like 3000 trees. Invasive plants, disease and development have destroyed almost all the trees. The only ones that survived were the ones in the cow pasture that were protected by the cows who ate the invasive plants and who also ate the apples that dropped to the ground. Drops are a problem in orchards as they harbor pests and diseases.
The goal of the visit was also to make a connection and exchange ideas between our suburban farm and one from the city. The cow fund provided lunch and we discussed the many ongoing permaculture projects at Breakneck Hill Farm.
The Urban Farm Institute is a non-profit organization that trains inner city young people in the skills to grow high quality healthy food. They have a number of properties they have or are turning into small farms in Boston. They most recently acquired the 2 remaining acres of the historic Fowler Clark Farm right in the middle of Roxbury. This will be their headquarters with a garden filling what was an overgrown lot. Congratulations to the UFI!
September 28th, 2015
Dear Breakneck Hill Cow Fund Friends,
It is with great sadness that the Breakneck Hill Cow Fund has decided that that we are no longer able to sustain a herd of Belted Galloways on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. We began this journey in 2001 to “save the cows” with a very suspicious Farmer Ray Davis. The adventure grew into a restoration project, an agricultural passion, and a way to bring a bit of Southborough’s agricultural past to life. Children and adults from Southborough and surrounding communities have enjoyed watching calves being born, cows grazing against the backdrop of flowering apple trees, families enjoying “Farm Day” and excitedly waiting to see what square the “cow pie” would be dropped on and so many of us finding peace while walking the trails alongside these beautiful animals.
Recently, The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund (BHCF) learned that recommendations for the management of the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land would reduce and limit the amount of grazing areas for the cows. Lack of rain over the past few years has negatively impacted the quality of existing grasses. These factors make the need to feed the cows hay during the warmer months necessary, and costly, to maintain a healthy herd and have contributed to our decision to close our operations.
Reflecting upon the past 14 years, the BHCF and the cows have brought us joy. There are so many people who have been instrumental in the success of the Cow Fund and so many stories and personal reflections. The present Board wants to thank the Southborough Conservation Commission, the media, our past and present Board members and everyone who has loved, supported, volunteered and enjoyed the cows on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.
The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund
P.S. We will be making arrangements to return recent contributions to our supporters. We will be in touch once those arrangements have been finalized.
A non-profit organization, YouthGROW, that provides agricultural opportunities for Worcester inner city young people came to visit Breakneck Hill Farm and the herd of cows on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. A total of 40 including staff helped put up an electric fence on the Back Pasture. After putting up the fence, the group was treated to a lunch of beltie burgers. It was a great day by all accounts.
The Belted Galloway (and occasional Milking Devon) herd made their way across to the Breakneck Hill Conservation land today. The herd is smaller (and possibly less musically inclined) than in past years, but for today it was nice to see the herd as excited as ever to get back to their summer home.
Stop by and visit the Belties on Breakneck Hill Road sometime. They are one of many attractions on this beautiful piece of land.
Due to popular demand (as voiced both by cow fans and the belties themselves) the belties will be making their annual move to the pasture today (Sunday, May 17) at about 4 pm. This is the latest they’ve ever made the move. Hopefully, we will get some rain in the near future to support the further growth of forage on the fields. Please drop by to welcome them to their summer home.
Update: We have decided to delay the move to let the grass recover a bit more from our record-setting winter, so there will be no move today. We’ll keep you posted as to when the move will occur.
We need at least 10 inches of grass in order to start the rotation so we will sacrifice one paddock while we feed them hay. The winter paddock needs to be cleaned out and reseeded. A portion has already been put into barley.
The BHCF will be holding a public meeting to discuss the future of the Breakneck Hill Cow Fund on Sunday, April 26th at 4pm at 61 Breakneck Hill Road. The purpose of this meeting is to talk about the challenges that the BHCF faces, basic facts such as expenses and income generated, exchange realistic ideas and plans to generate funding and recruit a consistent volunteer base. Please refer to the information below to formulate your sustainable and realistic ideas to help us continue to have a herd of cows on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.
*It takes 3 years to get a cow to market weight on 100% grass. That is approximately $1100 in hay costs alone.
*Each adult cow eats approximately $700/year in hay based on 22 acres available for grazing
*Once wetland restrictions go into effect (2016) our pasture will be reduced to 14 acres and hay costs will go up to approximately $1,000/year
*The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund pays a fixed $2,000/year in insurance costs
*Additional costs (gas, fencing, time, truck use, missed work & misc….) presently average $4,000/year. Paul & Chris have both donated this amount for the past 10 years!!!! $40,000 of their own money
*It has been identified that in order to continue, we need to hire a part-time employee from April 1-November 30th for 10 hours/week equaling $4,000/year who would be responsible for maintaining fencing, feeding, rotating cows, watering cows, manure control, invasive removal……..)
*Average income from fund-raising (not selling meat) $2,000/year
*Average net income per year from meat sales from 4 cows/year approx. $6,000
*To sustain herd we need to purchase a bull at cost $2000/year. We are unable to rent a bull due to our license agreement. Resale value approximately $1000 (after feed costs)
*Paul & Chris personally feed the cows 450 times per year, each time takes approximately ½ hour. 225 hours each/year feeding! This is based on present acreage of 22 acres. With reduced acreage of 14 this will probably increase to about 540 times per year-270 hours/year spent feeding.
*Volunteer Feeding Needs-average 500 hours/year (estimated without factoring in PT employee)
In Summary on 14 acres (without meat sales)
What do we need to sustain 10 cows?
$4k PT employee
$3K land use for Paul’s property ($2/cow /day/5months)
$1k gas, vet bills,
What do we need to sustain 5 Cows?
$4k PT employee
Dear Southborough Community,
The outpouring of support to keep the cows in Southborough has been overwhelming. We have received many phone calls, emails, and there have been many posts on MySouthborough expressing sadness that we are considering closing our operations. We have received verbal support and encouragement from Town leaders asking us to figure out a way to keep the cows on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund (BHCF) board of directors met last night and decided that holding a public forum to generate realistic ideas to increase fund raising efforts, recruit and retain volunteers, and formulate plans to feed and graze the cows in Southborough is important. We need to give the Community a chance to help us.
While we hope that this public meeting allows for the opportunity to generate ideas that result in a plan that we can realistically implement, we have many hurdles to overcome. We need the public to attend the meeting and come with solutions, a desire to volunteer, and creativity. We will post on our website a list of our challenges and facts about our organization with the intent that it will guide you to ideas that we can make work.
The meeting will be held on Sunday, April 26. Time and place TBD.
Again thank you for your support!
The Breakneck Hill Cow Fund
Laurie, Paul, Chris & Steve
Its not all bad. Beef sides and cuts will be available for the next 6 months. We will also be donating cows to a food pantry in Roxbury we have developed a relationship with.
I will also be keeping a couple cows on my property with the pigs and chicken. All are welcome to come by to see them. I will also still continue to have programs on my property.
Finally, we want to thank our supporter and all the people we have met over the past 14 years.
Please feel free to contact me for beef, pork, eggs or to come by and say hi.
Operations Manager, Breakneck Hill Cow Fund