Highland With a Little Help from my Friends (Farm Visit pt. 2)

Saturday we went to visit a farm in Strawberry Plains, TN, home to highland cattle and Scotish black face sheep. You can read more about his set up at Lakin Farms here.

Overall, the experience could not have been more encouraging.

Mr. Lakin was incredibly open and friendly in answering all the questions we had about how to establish a herd/flock and their basic needs and such.

These are the top 5 most encouraging aspects of the visit:

  1. The cattle and sheep are incredibly self-sufficient. They receive little to no intervention other than once a year shots, inoculations, or medications as needed (ex: when traveling across state lines) Otherwise, they’re very independent, hearty, and true to their heritage breeds. 
  2. They are browsing foragers. Both the sheep and the cattle eat “like goats” and prefer mixed grass hay, weeds, and other typically undesirable plant growth (like kudzu and poison ivy) as opposed to more hybridized breeds who eat only lush green pastures of high quality grass. This was a huge encouragement in that we don’t have any lush green pastures area, but we have plenty of browse to offer. That would enable us to naturally manage the land and reclaim previously useless overgrown brushy areas.
  3. No shelter required. The thick coats on both the sheep and cattle make them virtually impervious to bad weather. Aside from us wanting to milk a highland and therefore wanting some kind of shed to keep that process pleasant during inclimate weather, we don’t need any infrastructure aside from some good fencing, which we learned doesn’t have to be electrified, or cattle panels. Mr. Lakin simply uses woven wire fencing on T posts, or posts made from timber from his farm.
  4. No, we aren’t crazy. We were hesitant at first to be open with what we wanted (to milk a cow known for beef) considering the size and state of our land (5.3 acres of mostly wooded rocky hills) but when we opened up to Mr. Lakin, he not only told us he didn’t think we were nuts for wanting to try, but even went so far as to say he thought it was feasible and a good idea! 
  5. We made a friend and mentor. Mr. Lakin agreed to come out to our property and advsie us on what steps we need to take prior to adding animals, and how and where to put things. We expect him out sometime next weekend, and look forward to learning from his experience and working with him in the future. 

It’s a really wonderful feeling to have a sense of community and support when you’re just getting started and really don’t know a whole lot about what you’re doing. Financially speaking, it’s especially nice to have someone who has been there and done that before on a larger scale looking over our shoulders so to speak as we seek to make one of the largest investments we will ever make on our farm. We couldn’t be more excited for the future of our little homestead.

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