Pa. Scotch Highland producer uses sustainable agriculture techniques

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PITTSFIELD, Pa. – A field day was held by the Northwest Project Grass and the Warren County Conservation District at Big Horn Ranch in Pittsfield, Pa., focusing on the use of pasture land, adequate fencing and the use of sustainable agriculture techniques.
Michael Wright, owner of Big Horn Ranch, walked participants through his barn yard and pasture showing how he makes the most efficient use of his land, a mix of flat and sloped areas.
“In my pasture, I look for biodiversity,” said Wright.
“Even weeds are food for some of the animals.”
Fencing. Wright showed his net fencing that is wired with a 12-volt battery where he pastures his goats. He explained that the fencing keeps predators such as bear and coyotes out of the area.
The stream that runs through that area draws animals in; it is a high-traffic area for bear.
He likes the net fence and has experienced little difficulty with it. His dog patrols outside the fence.
He has water flowing gravity-fed through a 3/4-inch pipe so there is always fresh water available. He uses lime as a cleansing agent. There is lime in the corner of the fence for animals to track through to clean their hooves.
This year has been different because of the drought. When Wright made up his grazing plan, he planned for the normal amount of water. That did not materialize, so he adapted as best he could, encouraging the animals to forage even more mature grass.
Animals get moved every three to five days. The fencing lasts a maximum of five years because it is moved so often.
Kelp is added to the minerals for herd health.
Highlands. In the paddock with the Scotch Highland cows, strips of cloth are used as a fly rub for the animals. The cloth is soaked with diesel fuel to repel flies.
The cows’ horns are used for predator protection. Wright feeds them only a small amount of food. Hay is purchased.
Wright does not own any forage equipment and he likes it that way. He pays for the hay, but in turn has time for other necessary duties.
He estimated his feed costs at $3,000 per year. Breeding is done with a bull, not artificially. The breeding window is fairly short – 24 hours to 36 hours – hence, the bull does a better job.
Animals are butchered from 24 months to 36 months of age.

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