Did you know it's National Egg Day? We're not exactly sure how to celebrate, but we think we'll probably cook up some pastured eggs our favorite way for breakfast (Sunny side up? Scrambled? Poached? Hard boiled? Hard to decide, so we might make them all).
National Egg Day, of course, makes us think about our birds and everyone who works with them at White Oak Pastures. Our pastured poultry staff is the largest field crew on the farm - with good reason.
At White Oak Pastures, we are home to many different species of livestock, but we raise five species of poultry alone: chicken, turkey, duck, goose, and guinea. While, logistically, this can be challenging, leveraging multiple species is central to our land management strategy - because they all have different impact on our pastures.
This is part one of a three-part series on how White Oak Pastures uses animal impact to holistically regenerate land that was previously industrially row-cropped into productive, pastured savannah. So how does poultry animal impact fit into our planned grazing strategy?
Poultry, in particular, play an important role in regenerating land. Ruminants (like cattle, sheep, goats, etc) are moved quickly across our pastures, but they are oftentimes promptly followed by poultry. We move most of our poultry flocks about once a week, giving them fresh land to forage - and spreading out their animal impact across our pastures.
How do poultry help support a multi-species ecosystem?
Poultry provide a lot of beneficial impact for our multi-species livestock ecosystem. Because our poultry are unconfined and free to move about on pasture, they have the freedom to eat - a lot. Our poultry forage seeds, plants, bugs, and grubs to supplement the non-GMO feed that we provide them. This means that they function as natural (and hungry) bug and grub control, helping keep our pastures free from insect overpopulation. This bug control also helps keep our numerous livestock herds healthy and free from pests, worms, and parasites.
How do poultry beneficially impact pasture?
As we work to regenerate former row-crop land, the movement of poultry plays a central role in reshaping the land into perennial pasture. Hunting all of the bugs and grubs means our poultry get a lot of exercise. Not only does this improve the health and resiliency of our flocks, resulting in what we think is tastier meat, but it also significantly alters our land and our soil.
Laying hens, broilers, ducks, turkeys, and geese have an especially thorough impact on pasture. The strong feet of our poultry species break up the topsoil as they pass through (this is particularly true for the heavyweights of the poultry world: turkeys). Poultry birds with strong beaks, like geese, disturb the soil with their grazing as well. This scratching and pecking aerates the soil, allowing water to start penetrating the soil and percolating through the top layer.
In addition, after foraging, pecking, and scratching, our poultry leave their rich manure on the pasture. Because most of our poultry are given a base diet of non-GMO feed, these poultry species function as net nutrient importers, their manure adding additional nitrogen and carbon to the soil. But even geese, who are herbivores and could subsist entirely on pasture, still increase the organic matter through spreading their manure throughout our pastures.
The mix of the aeration, water percolation, and rich natural fertilizer from poultry create ideal condition for grass seed germination. As we work to establish perennial grass ecosystems in newly-acquired pasture, promoting seed germination is absolutely essential - and poultry play a significant role in that process. All of this activity increases the long-term productivity of our pasture and helps regenerate our land.
Pastured Poultry Products
Our mix of poultry species at White Oak Pastures benefits our land, but it also allows us to produce and sell poultry products that we are proud to send to our customers. With products ranging from sliced smoked pastured turkey to duck cajun sausage to our popular 5-bird grind, we have many different options for poultry-lovers.But this National Egg Day, we hope you are first celebrating by frying up a White Oak Pastures pastured chicken egg or two (with a beautifully-colored yolk). That White Oak Pastures egg came from a hard-working bird - our poultry are valuable contributors on our farm, supporting the regeneration of our land and the health of our pasture, one peck, grub, and scratch at a time.