Apparently I have to say this. I have left the most recent facebook comments where they are for two reasons. First, they make it pretty clear that if you’re looking for a smiles-and-cauliflower approach to life, you’re in the wrong place. Second, they beautifully illustrate how to politely and gracefully excuse yourself from a page. Please take a hint, internet.
No, Owl Hill Farm has no vegan members. There’s one relative who doesn’t eat meat but does appreciate eggs and milk… I guess that makes her a vegetarian? I’m not actually sure. Either way, there are no persons here who believe that it is inherently wrong to make use of an animal’s effort, products, or flesh. We do believe that there is a right and wrong way to go about doing this, however.
We don’t use antibiotics, de-wormers, or other pharmaceuticals unless they are absolutely necessary. We’ve all seen the horror stories about resistant infections and resistant infestations and we don’t want any part of contributing to that. Good quality diets firmly based in roughage/forage and solid rotational grazing practices go a long, long way toward avoiding the need for these things anyway. Work with nature, not against her.
This is how everything works together here, with nature and not against it. Most obviously, everything poops. Chickens and rabbits contribute to the amazing compost that keeps the vegetables impressive and the goats scatter theirs across their pastures so that I don’t ever have to add chemical fertilizer to the field. The chickens are probably the best bang for the cluck, since not only is their compost awesome but they scratch through everything they can reach and peck out all of the bugs. Yes, chickens are omnivores naturally. I haven’t pulled a tick off of a human or pet since we turned the chickens out to start scratching for bugs years ago, and they lay AA Ex-Large and Jumbo eggs with huge dark protein rich yolks from February to November. I don’t use artificial lights to keep them laying year round, but I also have some three year old hens still laying strong when a commercial egg layer’s life is less than two years. That natural winter break is important to their health. There is no vegetable waste on this farm. If the goats, rabbits, chickens. or mealworms (the hens’ winter protein supply) won’t eat it, it gets composted. Grass and leaf clippings get composted or mulched if they aren’t being fed to rabbits or lining nest boxes because who buys wood shavings or straw when there’s free leaf mulch?
There’s no animal product waste on this farm either, and that’s the part that’s harder to explain, but apparently needs to be explained. Every animal here is food or a support system for food. The goats are lean, healthy, naturally raised, no antibiotic or hormone involved red meat. They are also milk, leather, tallow, bone crafts, wool, draft labor, self-propelled field fertilizer, dog food, and hours of entertainment. I do, in fact, know how to use everything but the ‘baaa’ from a goat. (yes, even the offal has uses- ever eat black pudding?) This means that we require fewer goats to meet all of our needs, and treat each and every goat with respect and a strange, hard to explain sense of admiration for just how much it’s giving us. It’s not just the goats, either. Rabbits are meat and pelts and dog food (some offal that is perfectly edible if treated properly by humans that is better served regards the time involved by being fed to the dog. Security system’s gotta eat too.) in addition to being fantastic producers of compost material. Rabbit poop is amazing soil amendment, once properly rotted down. The chickens are even more multipurpose. They lay eggs, till the garden beds, provide unbelievable pest control, deposit high-nitrogen soil amendment wherever they go, are hilariously entertaining, and even make decent soup when their egg laying days are done. Old chicken is like trying to eat leather, but it does put great flavor in the soup. Again, with all of them it’s hard to explain the sense of admiration for these animals, because they really are so much more than food.
So no, we’re not vegan. We’re committed to working with nature and the natures of our livestock. Livestock are part of a larger interconnected and mutually supportive system we call small-scale sustainable agriculture. They’re food, but they’re also a lot more. We respect them, we admire them, and we don’t let any of them go to waste.