How to Raise Livestock on Pasture
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Quit jobs to farm
Every day is a workday at Dazi Acres, but farmers David and Suzanne Eltz don’t mind. In fact, they love it. “Everyday is a Monday. There are no Saturdays and Sundays here. We look forward to going to work,” says David.
“We quit our corporate jobs to do this,” says Suzanne, who worked in project management. Before David donned muck boots as his daily footwear, he was a journalist. When they met on Twitter (they fell in love in just 140 characters), they knew they were kindred spirits. Ready to shed corporate stress and start a new life, they bought a farm in Tennessee.
“When we came up to the farm, we were trying to figure out what to do with our lives. We wanted to grow safe, clean food,” says David. “We were also brave and crazy,” adds Suzanne.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
New to Farming
Although David and Suzanne came from urban areas (Atlanta and Las Vegas, respectively), both had country in their blood.
“My family ran a ranch in California,” says Suzanne, who was familiar with the complexity of raising cattle.
Being new to farming, they did what any journalist/project management duo would do: They dug in and did research. “We read Joel Salatin’s book, You Can Farm,” says David.
That was the game changer. Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley became the model for Dazi Acres. Polyface Farms is a local food, direct-marketing farming model that pasture-rotates livestock. Salatin follows grazing and feeding models that mimic nature.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Direct to Consumers
Reading about the methods used at Polyface Farms “was an ah-ha moment,” says Suzanne – the pivotal moment that gave her and David the direction for their new venture.
So they began raising livestock and growing vegetables for themselves and as a business. They marketed their goods directly to their local customers.
“This direct marketing is the fastest type and most profitable type of agriculture,” says David. “We get to keep 100% of our dollars when we sell something.”Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Chickens on Pasture
Dazi Acres (pronounced like the word daisy, it is a combination of David and Suzi, Suzanne’s nickname) started with a little of everything. David and Suzanne bought chickens, cows, turkeys, and pigs over a period of a couple of months.
The plan was that every animal on Dazi Acres would be pastured and rotated. The Eltzes started out with small numbers – with sustainability in mind – and picked breeds that would fit their farming model.
They chose Cornish Cross chickens because they are good meat chickens and they do well on pasture.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Pigs in Woods
They bought two Angus-cross steers at a local auction.
They bought Yorkshire pigs the first year and then heritage crosses of Chinese Spotted, Berkshires, and Chester Whites.
The farm continues to widen its meat offering, adding sheep, duck, and rabbits this year.
“The sheep are Katahdins, a hair sheep,” says David. “They do really well on pasture. They are highly resistant to parasites, so we don’t need to vaccinate, and we don’t use antibiotics.”Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Management-intensive grazing means their animals are moved frequently – twice daily in spring.
The cows graze, the sheep follow the cows, and finally the chickens and ducks follow the sheep. Each animal grazes in the way typical to their breed.
This method of multispecies rotation grazing keeps the grass nutrient-rich and weed-free without pesticides or fertilizers.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Selling Direct from the Farm
David and Suzanne call themselves farmers, but their true job is creating relationships – with the animals and land and with their customers and healthy food choices.
“We love getting out and meeting our customers,” says Suzanne, who sells vegetables, baked goods, and handmade soaps at local farmers markets.
Their meat and eggs are marketed through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and at farmers markets.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Providing Great Food
The days at Dazi Acres are long. Weeks fold into months. The animals grow large and healthy. Tomatoes ripen, berries plump out, pumpkins gain heft. Farm life is hard work, but it is fulfilling.
“My job in journalism made me feel like I was sitting on my butt and doing nothing,” says David. “Now, we feel good about what we do. We are providing great food to our customers, and we give our animals a good life. I’d been asking myself for years what I was doing to make the world a better place. Now I know.”Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Raising Free-Range Chickens for Meat
Every three weeks, David Eltz gets 100 to 150 Cornish Cross chicks from a hatchery. As soon as the chicks start jumping up, they go on pasture.
The chickens live in 10×10-foot moveable shelters. The lightweight shelters are covered with hardware cloth and tin roofing to protect from weather.
The shelters are moved every morning to another 10×10-foot space, leaving behind 300 pounds of nitrogen (from manure) in an acre. “It’s natural, organic, not brought in, not petroleum based,” says David. “We are building the soil. We like to think of ourselves as grass farmers. We want to leave a much healthier farm than when we got here.”
The open-air chicken processing area includes an electric chicken plucker and galvanized killing cones. They process 30 to 35 chickens a week. The chickens are 7 weeks to 9 weeks old, and about 4 to 5 pounds.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
Tennessee Roast Chicken
“Dazi Acres Signature Tennessee Roast Chicken is a wonderful way to enjoy chicken,” says Suzanne Eltz. “We serve it to company all the time!”
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup molasses
2 cups ice cubes
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 (4- to 5-lb.) whole chickens, cut into 4 pieces each (boneless breasts, leg, whole with bone in, wings, carcasses reserved)
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1. To brine the chicken, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add kosher salt and molasses. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 2 to 3 minutes or until salt and molasses dissolve. Transfer to a very large bowl; add ice and next 4 ingredients. Let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture cools to room temperature. Cover and chill 30 minutes to 1 hour or until cold. Submerge chicken in cold brine. Cover and chill 6 to 8 hours.
2. Preheat oven to 300°F. Remove chicken from brine; rinse and pat dry.
3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 14-inch nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 unpeeled garlic cloves, some thyme, and half of chicken. Cook 5 minutes or until skin is browned and crisp. (The honey in the brine will brown the skin quickly.) Turn chicken and garlic, and cook 5 minutes or until browned. Remove chicken, garlic, and thyme and place in a roasting pan. Repeat with remaining oil, chicken, garlic, and thyme.
4. Bake chicken, skin side up, at 300°F. for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 165°F. for breast meat; 175°F. for leg meat. (Breasts cook faster than legs.) Turn oven to 400°F. the last 5 minutes to seal in all the juices. Cover with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.Date Published: February 25, 2015Date Updated: February 25, 2015
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