Diversity on the farm: My cows are prejudiced

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I’m always hearing about diversity and inclusion and really didn’t think that it applied to my farm. Well, as I was sitting down at the end of the day and pondering my plans for the farm, it struck me.

My cows are prejudiced. Now, I couldn’t blame the cows too much. They were brought up that way and I hadn’t taught them anything different.

You see, the cows have the pasture all to themselves. They’ve never seen another critter out there eating their grass and I’m not quite sure how they’d react if they did.

The wheels started turning. How could I have diversity and inclusion on the farm?

The ideas started coming fast. I could always add goats or sheep, horses, alpacas, some pigs or a herd of geese.

Then I caught myself. Before things get out of control, I had better take this idea a little slower. I don’t want to overwhelm the cows. So, I’ll just take a look at sheep and goats.

First off, would the new guys be eating all of my cow’s grass? Well, it seems that everyone has a little bit different food preference.

The cows could continue eating the grass while the sheep would eat the broadleaf forbs. The goats don’t prefer either and would much rather browse on brush, shrubs and small trees.

Since everyone is eating something different, I shouldn’t need to reduce my cow herd or add any extra land. Wait a minute. That means that I could sell more pounds of meat on the same amount of land.

That’s always good for the farm and I would have the side benefit of doing less weed control with everything getting eaten. That means less money spent on chemicals and less time wasted putting it out on the field.

Fencing

What about fencing? That may be more of an issue. Sheep aren’t too bad. I could add a few offset hot wires to my existing fence and keep them in just fine and the fields with woven wire won’t need any improvements.

Goats though, are a whole different story. I believe goats think that we put up fences as a puzzle for them to solve. Because, they always seem pretty proud when I find them standing on the outside and I’m sure I’ve seen a grin on their faces with a sense of accomplishment.

Well, I guess the fences do need some improving. This would be as good of an excuse as any, and I definitely can’t cut corners when I do goat fencing.

Get along

Will they get along? Just like folks. Some get along and some don’t. I should probably plan on some disagreement.

Like I said, my cows were prejudiced. If that’s the case, then I should plan on rotating the species through my pastures at different times.

Everyone will still get what they want, just at different times. Integration, on the farm, might not happen overnight, but hopefully it will over time.

Sitting here, I just thought of some problems that might come up.

First of all, the goats and sheep are awful tasty. Predator control has to be a top priority. So, I’ll have to add a guardian animal to my shopping list. I’ll have to look into what will work on my farm, but that will wait for another cold night when I am sitting here.

Minerals

Next, everyone needs minerals, but not the same kind or amount. Either there will not be enough of one or too much of another. For example, sheep can’t have too much copper. I had better think through my mineral feeding program and make some plans before I get too far along.

And the No. 1 thing I have to think about is; how am I going to market these new animals? As a farmer, I can do everything right in raising my animals, but making money, that’s the hard part. This should have come up first.

I am up for a challenge. Tomorrow night I will ponder marketing strategies.

Anyone interested in buying some goats or a sheep? I know that I may have started my cows off on the wrong foot, but it is never too late to teach them something new.

Diversity and inclusiveness will be my new mantra on the farm and no one will ever be able to call my cows prejudiced again.

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Ed Brown is the OSU Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Athens County. Send questions or comments to brown.6000@osu.edu or write in c/o Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.

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