We are trying a new type of weaning this year: wean rings. This is a plastic ring that clips inside the calf’s nose like a clip-on earring. We think wean rings are the least stressful and most natural way to wean. When the calf tries to nurse its mother, the ring’s spiky points make it uncomfortable for the mamma to nurse her calf. She’ll then initiate the weaning process. These rings may look drastic, but they are safe and cannot hurt the mamma cow. Our calves are still able to have all the physical contact that they want with their mammas. They can still nuzzle, follow around, and get licked on by their mammas.
Selling premium, value-added meat and poultry to consumers requires a good amount of marketing, which is not something that comes naturally to us here at White Oak Pastures. Fonts, color schemes, photos and logo designs weren’t handed down from previous generations like land stewardship and livestock husbandry. But, as we’ve done with so many changes during our rapid growth, we adapted to and embraced this new component: logo design.
Castration of male animals is a common practice in the livestock industry. Said to reduce aggression, the practice likely came about with the confinement of cattle in crowded conditions where the animals aren’t free to roam and express natural instinctive behaviors. As Will Harris says, you just can’t keep a bunch of bulls in confinement; it’s like the worst prison movie you’ve ever seen.
A byproduct of our red meat abattoir is a lot of intestines and guts. It’s not as much waste as there would be in an industrial plant that processes up to 100 times more animals than we do, but it’s still a lot. Most people would throw all those intestines away. We’re full-circle at White Oak Pastures, so we feed ‘em to black soldier fly larvae, which our poultry devour, and then fertilize our land with their feces. Win win win win win!
Over the years, we have accumulated a number of animal welfare and land stewardship certifications. Will likes to say he’s like a Boy Scout collecting merit badges. We feel that we owe it to our customers to meet the standards of all of these organizations, and pay their verifiers to audit us to their standards. This is because so much of our product is sold online and through distributors to consumers who live a long way from White Oak Pastures. Farmers who sell their products directly to consumers may not need these third-party verifications, since they know their customers personally.