The Cows Are Back on Breakneck Hill

Written by rdevlin on May 17th, 2015

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.

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Stop by and visit the Belties on Breakneck Hill Road sometime.  They are one of many attractions on this beautiful piece of land.

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Cows to Move Today (Sunday)

Written by rdevlin on May 17th, 2015

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: Cows Will NOT Move to Pasture this Sunday, Mother’s Day at 4PM

Written by rdevlin on May 10th, 2015

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.

 

Cow Fund Public Meeting, April 26th

Written by Paul on April 17th, 2015

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?

$10K hay

$2k insurance

$4k PT employee

$3K land use for Paul’s property ($2/cow /day/5months)

$1k gas, vet bills,

Total: $20,000

What do we need to sustain 5 Cows?

$5k hay

$2k insurance

$4k PT employee

$1,500 Paul

$1k misc

Total: $13,500

 

 

Cow Fund to Organize Community Forum

Written by Paul on April 9th, 2015

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

 

Cow Fund will Have Last Season on Conservation Land

Written by Paul on April 3rd, 2015

 

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.

Paul Bourdon

Operations Manager, Breakneck Hill Cow Fund

paul.bourdon@lfb-usa.com

 

Cows Future Still Uncertain, Please Attend the Conservation Meeting Apr 2nd, 7PM

Written by Paul on March 15th, 2015

Read Paul’s blog entry here, then find out how you can help Save the Cows!

Thursday night the Cow Fund presented a grazing plan to the Southborough Conservation Commission and Stewardship Committee. The grazing plan was worked out in conjunction with the Conservation Service of the USDA. The Cow Fund plan is not just about producing healthy grass-fed beef but also caring for the land and hopefully saving our children’s future. We are attempting to follow the holistic management system as developed by Allan Savory. Savory has been described by Joel Salatin (http://www.polyfacefarms.com/) of the Omnivore’s Dilemma, Food Inc. as one of the greatest ecologists of our time (Ted Talk). Savory’s system is fairly simple. By feeding the soil life we can not only make resilient soils that can produce healthy food but we can also sequester carbon. The potential is there to globally put Giga tons worth of carbon stably back into the ground. His system relies on using large herbivores to mimic the large herds that built the deep soils of the savannah and the great plains. Plants are grazed and manure is deposited in small areas using modern electrified fencing systems. Then the animals, cows in our case, are moved to the next paddock and the grass just grazed is allowed to fully recover. The process of graze and regrow in addition to the manure, is crucial to feeding the soil micro-organisms. These soil microbes, bacteria and fungi, feed larger invertebrates and they in turn feed the birds and other wildlife. A biologically active soil can hold fertility much more efficiently than chemical fertilizers which are water soluble and will leach and runoff the property ending up polluting waterways.

 

This system only works if plants are allowed to fully recover and that has been the problem from the beginning. The pasture on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land has extremely thin soil, mostly on moderate slopes. When we get dry spells as we have for the past few summers the grass stops growing and in order to not over graze the pasture we feed the cattle hay. The Cow Fund does not have the resources to do this and it sometimes ends up the members finance the purchases. We must maintain a minimum size herd not just because a cow takes 3 years to reach a marketable size but also because the holistic grazing system requires a certain density of herbivore to feed the soil life. The Cow Fund board is unanimous in our position that if we do not have the proper resources to manage the herd correctly we will not continue to keep cattle on the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. This is a very difficult decision but we feel it is right and it will certainly not stop us from doing this somewhere else.

Finally, we would like to thank all our long and short time supporters. We have met some great people both here in Southborough and in the greater community.

If you are concerned about the continuation of the cows and agriculture on Breakneck Hill then please consider attending the conservation meeting on April 2nd at 7PM in the Town House. Letters of support can be addressed to the conservation administrator Beth Rosenblum at brosenblum@southboroughma.com

Need more information?  Want to find out more about our plan and how you can help?  Follow this link:  Save the Cows

 

 

Neptune dumps another foot+

Written by Paul on February 17th, 2015

Cows were dealing with another snow storm. Measured about 42 inches on the ground. Never seen that before.

 

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Juno Dumps about 3 feet of Snow on the Farm

Written by Paul on January 28th, 2015

The winter has been pretty easy until yesterday. Its weather like this, 11 degreesF, -1 wind chill and 3 feet of snow,  that makes me think of the immortal words of Thomas Paine:

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”.

One of the Southborough revolutionary war soldier’s died of exposure and starvation at Valley Forge so how bad can this be?

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Continued Work on Water Management and Energy Conservation

Written by Paul on January 3rd, 2015

Permaculture is all about multifunction and managing resources. We have been trying to reduce the exposure of the house to the prevailing winds from the north and west in order to increase our energy conservation. To do this we insulated the foundation wall with 2 inch polystyrene and back filled it. Some backfill was brought in locally but much was generated on site by clearing material that was blocking drainage around the barns and the soil removed from the mulch basin in the front yard. One resource that has been generated by the pigs are stones, the bane of the New England farmer. The pigs dig up rocks incessantly.

PigPaddockStonesThe rocks are collected by hand and used to create drainage along the foundation so water does not pool there.

 

 

 

 

 

Here the stones are used on the north wall of the front porch so water drains away from the wall and into the mulch basin below.

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The stones are covered with a plastic sheet and then a layer of sand. Finally, the sand is covered in wood chips, free from the local municipal dump and contoured to create a swale away from the house that also feeds into the mulch basin.

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Previously, most of the water from the roof and around the house was a problem that had to be directed away and into the street. Now it will be used to grow food. Permaculture is all about making use of the resources at hand. Breakneck Hill Farm continues to move not just toward sustainability but positive impact.