I have been waiting for a rainy day to work on more posts. Needless to say, it’s been dry here in Georgia! Not a good thing for the farming life or for more posts from our March trip.
Last summer, someone asked us whether our farm was ‘sustainable.’ I wasn’t quite sure how to answer–sustainable monetarily? sustainable as far as producing what we need for day-to-day living? sustainable as far as environmental practices? sustainable concerning animal welfare? …so many ways to interpret that question!
The answer to any of those questions in Cuba is “yes!” The farms that we observed were small. Outside of the city, almost all homes had small gardens. All seemed to have a menagerie of animals about the property; oxen were common, but cows were not.
For years, Steve (aka Oscar) had cows with his dad. When Steve’s dad sold all of his cows, Steve kept his small herd on the family land. After retiring, Steve began working to rebuild the herd, fix fences, get the pastures back in optimum condition, and cut hay for the winter.
We began to realize that our small herd was not really earning its keep. In order to keep the farm from becoming a money pit, we needed for the herd to grow more quickly than nature was going to allow. In July 2015, we bought ten bred heifers from a farm in south Georgia. The cows were due to calve in October and November. When it was time to pick up the heifers, the weather was hot and dry. In order to transport the cows from south Georgia to home, Steve was going to have to make two trips. A very kind neighbor offered his longer cattle trailer and truck so only one trip was needed. The day that he transported the cows, it ended up being cool and rainy! What a blessing–the help from our neighbor and the rain! During calving season, we had nine new calves–six bulls and three heifers.
Of our original herd, we kept nine cows who had five calves. We sold four of the five and kept one bull calf. Our hope is that the bull calf will eventually become the bull for our herd; his father was from the last bull bought by Steve’s father. We rented a bull to service our nine cows, who are due to begin calving in late March!
To keep up with all of the logistics of the farm, we have found that using spreadsheets on Google Drive has helped a lot. We are keeping information on when vaccinations were given, when fertilizer was applied to the fields, when fields were planted, which cows have calves and when, etc. We hope that by doing a better job of record keeping, we will eventually see black in the accounting column!
More cow updates will be coming soon; I’ve just got to get through the pictures!