Above: This fenceline demonstrates the stark difference between a pasture that was grazed (right) and a pasture left fallow (left). We own the right pasture and recently aquired the left. We look forward to increasing the bioproductivity and forage profile of the new pasture using all natural, animal impact.
Farming daily reminds us that we are part of nature, not separate from it. Particularly with our holistic, natural approach to land stewardship, we respect and work with the natural world. To this end, we must face the trials that come with a natural, pasture-based system, including the presence of natural predators. We cannot be with our animals 24/7 and depend heavily on our Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) to protect our herds during the night.
White Oak Pastures has based our land stewardship on Savory Institute's Savannah paradigm. In this system, the ideal composition is 20% shade, 80% pasture. We are working with our Iberian and heritage hogs to create the farm’s 20% shade, silvopasture ecosystem. Our woody polyculture will include trees such as oak, pecan, fig, pear and olive trees. The tree density will be about 40 trees per acre. This is not a dense canopy and will allow sunshine to filter through so that our livestock can forage a pasture understory. The dehesa forests in Spain on which we hope to model our Iberian pastures have a tree density of 85-120/hectare.
Our Hog Production Manager Aaron Lorenz explains the specific role our pigs play in establishing savannah ecosystems:
" Hogs love fresh pasture and cool...
Herding our hoofstock is not an easy task. Our animals are raised on terrain ranging from brambled woodland to open pasture. We often need to sort and separate the herd into smaller groups based on factors such as age, gender, and genetics. We find our herding dogs indispensable in these complicated tasks, especially when moving our goats and sheep which are notoriously hard to work with. Dogs are an efficient, finessed, low-stress way to move large groups of livestock.
White Oak Pastures had a wonderful Saturday evening with the Albany Museum of Art and Albany Technical College Culinary Arts Department putting on a benefit dinner for the museum. Our very own chef Reid Harrison prepared the first four courses with White Oak Pastures protein- duck, goat and lamb. He also helped direct the enthusiastic culinary students. This evening was a great success for everyone. It was the biggest fundraising event of the year for the Museum, the Culinary Arts students were able to experience the organization and care that go into a large, on-location, fine dining event, and White Oak Pastures was able to share our unique pasture-raised products as well as several of Chef Reid's most popular recipes which we are very proud of. The event featured local chefs Todd...
We use animal impact daily to improve the health of our soils and forage. However, we also use our livestock as landscapers. We frequently use our goat herd to clear shrubbery from vacant lots in downtown Bluffton. If you have visited the farm store, you’ve likely driven by our goats hard at work. This March however, we have been busy with and excited to used our cattle to help clear some of our newly acquired land.
During this month, our cattle moved through the pecan orchard and several of our new, overgrown vacant lots. They grazed what they could, but we insured they had adequate nutrition by supplementing them with our high quality, organic haylage. The more woody and fibrous plant matter which cattle are not evolved to digest- they viewed as a playground. Our cattle clearly...
Will Harris drew this diagram with a pen on a crumpled piece of paper one August 2016 afternoon. He wanted to visually explain his land management system on the 2500 acres here at White Oak Pastures. Our Multimedia Manager Laura Mortelliti added a few bells and whistles to the imagery, but the concept is fully Will's and we are excited to share it with you.
“Damn, that's a nice bumper”. It was a rainy, muddy, cold weekend in December 2007. Will Harris had just finished showing Brian Sapp around the farm, which, at that point, Brian describes as “just feeding cattle and the plant was a concrete floor”. Brian’s lifelong passion for fabrication led him to craft replacement bumpers as a hobby. When Will kicked the bumper on Brian’s 2004 Chevy pickup, his eyes “got big as half dollars”. Will then told Brian, “You may never strike an arc on this farm, but I know from that bumper that I want you to work for me.” Will could tell from how well the bumper was made that Brian would put effort and hard work into everything he did.
October and May typically mark the change of season here in our Southwest Georgia subtropical climate. Historically, these months are the driest months and the months when the warm season perennial grasses and the cool season annual grasses swap dominance. This year the seasonal change was delayed due to our recent severe drought. However, thanks to the later-than-normal rains which finally arrived, our cool season annual grasses are sprouting in our pastures.