About Barnett Farm and Dairy
Located in Rockwood, TN
Both my wife and I had grandparents who were farmers and we each spent a great deal of our childhoods on those respective farms. In my late teen years I worked on dairy farms because that's what most young boys did where I grew up. Both my wife and I had parents who chose not to be farmers so we both came up in a more commercial world, but we both always missed the farming experience we remembered as children. As our memories tugged at us we began to search for a small farm where we could use our memories to create a farm all our own. One day in late 2009, the opportunity arose and we purchased our farm where we began to put our early experiences to work making a natural based small dairy farm.
I am a commercial pilot by trade and my income and former knowledge has afforded us the ability to make this farming transition which we both enjoy so much. I'll retire from aviation next year and farm full-time. My wife was always interested in the medical field so she is now in Veterinary College. As we both desired, our small farm has become a research and study facility for us. We both wanted to create a natural environment where we could study the animals with as little human interference as possible. Our goal was to learn natural behaviours and the consequential health to both the animals and ourselves as we utilize the products of the farm which does incidently include the animals themselves.
At this time, we farm dairy cattle, pigs (five months each year), chickens, and honey bees. We intend to bring in turkeys at some point in the near future. Our primary focus is on the dairy cattle taylored to the Guernsey breed. Our Guernsey's are registered and also certified A2/A2 producers. At this time the only animals we farm year 'round are the cattle and chickens. When we began our farm, we started with two donkeys and seven horses but we quickly learned that we didn't want to raise animals just to have something to feed. It is our policy on the farm, that everything must produce something, either meat or other consumable product.
My income from my day job has allowed us to play with some of the things that someone who depends on the farm for income just can't risk. One of our foremost objectives when we started farming was to sort out the myths from reality, and to do that we needed to try some crazy things. At the time we began, we didn't have very many animals so we had a lot of fields to experiment with, without jeopardizing our animals groceries. It has been a very fun learning experience along the way.
There are so many wives tales, farmer tales, or beliefs, whatever you want to call them. Often, they even sound goofy when spoken; you have to wonder there that came from. One of our primary objectives was to study these tales or statements and learn the facts. It has been both fun and interesting. Through a lot of research, we have found some universities that have made a lot of really good information available to the public for the low cost of free! Despite this low cost, very few farmers take advantage of this information. The University of Tennesse has hundreds of documents available for download, and for free, from thier website for anyone interested.
The myths we have found by category:
- Horses can't eat cow hay: This has got to be one of the most craziest. We know people who have horses which are pastured on the same ground as their cattle, yet they won't bale that same hay and feed it to their horses because of this myth. They are both grass eaters, and they both eat whatever grass is available. What's really funny is that if it is good enough as grass, then it is good as hay. There is one problem that is true: Kentucky 31 fescue does cause birthing problems in horses, Kentucky 32 fescue does not. If you don't have birthing horses this isn't a concern.
- If you have Donkeys, you wont have Coyotes: This is not true. It is true that donkeys don't like dogs and coyotes, but they won't absolutely control them. It depends greatly on their mood and what they are doing at the time. We have seen a donkey chase a dog clear across the pasture trying to jump on it and kill it, and at the same time we have seen the very same donkey eat hay less than 200 feet from three coyotes that were eating a young cow of ours that they had freshly killed.
- Only a really smart donkey or horse can roll fully over: They can all do it if you watch them long enough, and it don't have anything to do with smart. Equine spend a good amount of time rolling in the dirt which damages pastures, but this is how they scratch their backs. It is also a method of controlling parasites. We saw everyone of our horses and donkeys roll fully over at one time or the other, some regularly. All it ever seemed to depend upon was how much effort they were putting into it.
- Horses need special feed: Commonly referred to as "sweet" feed. This is one of the worst things equine owners can feed their animals. Animals aren't any different than humans when it comes to sweets, they don't need it, and they shouldn't have it. Horse and cattle feeds are often coated with molasses to sweeten trashy fillers so animals will eat it. It is good to train animals to come for a very small amount of pure grain feed, but nothing else.
- Horses can't eat alfalfa or clover, it will cause them to founder: There is nothing that will aid a grass eater in weight gain better than high quality alfalfa which is often perscribed by veterinarians to treat under weight equine. Alfalfa is the highest producer of natural nectar of any legume (clovers). Horses, unlike cattle, eat almost constantly. They don't lie down and chew their cud as cattle do, so they will over-eat and become fat if pastured on rich legume fields. Founder is a common term for the condition properly known as laminitis, a hoof disease most often related to grossly fat equine which can also be attributed to excess sweet feed. If you want to control your animal weight, do the same thing you would do for yourself, control what, and how much goes in the front door!
- Dry your cows off slowly: Really bad idea. This wives tale orignated by someone feeling sorry for the uncomfortable swollen udder the cow must be suffering. You have to let nature take care of business. If a calf is stillborne, or dies in the wild, the cow dries off abruptly and without negative consequence. Sure, she will be uncomforable for a few days. If you attempt to dry her off slowly by milking only once a day or something like that, you will give her an udder infection called Masitis. It is a serious condition which can not be left untreated, and it will surely occur if you try to dry your cow slowly.
- Never milk your cows more than twice daily: This is a really dumb one. Calves nurse throughout the day, whenever they feel hungry. You can milk your cows as often as you or they want daily. Three times daily improves output noticeably. The important thing is to not overmilk your cows with a mechanical milker. When she is empty, stop milking. Also, you should not use excessive vacumm when milking. 11-12 Hg is perfect.
- Chickens lay eggs the color of their ears: Uh, no they don't. When we first heard this, we had Golden Comet hens, Austrolorp hens, and a Domonique rooster, and we had a bunch of crossbreed chicks which were a variety of colors. An older farmer lady was visiting us, and as she looked at the chicks, she commented, "You can tell what color egg they are going to lay by the color of the ear." Well that proved not to be true, though we knew it wasn't to start with.
- You can't feed chickens tomatoes: This one I read on Backyard Chickens Completely false; our chickens eat tomatoes from our garden as fast as we will let them and they love them. As long as your chickens are well fed, they will only eat what they like which includes fruits and vegetables of all kinds. Feed them all your scraps; they will love you for it!
- Chickens favorite food is bugs: Not true. Their primary diet and favorite foods are grasses, fruits, and vegetables. Chickens are omnivores, and they do eat bugs. Chickens love chicken and steaks to, and there is nothing funnier than watching them chase flies around. If you want your garden weeded, just make some weed tunnels and let them go to work. They must be in tunnels or they will eat your entire garden, including all your peppers and tomatoes. Yes, the hot ones to, they love Jalapenos!
- Fertilized hay is better for your cows: No, it isn't. We had a farmer tell us one day that he would only buy fertilized hay for his cows. This farmer tale costs a lot of poor farmers money they don't have, or money that should be spent elsewhere. Fertilizer improves the rate of growth; it doesn't change what is growing. We watch all our farmer neighbors put thousands of dollars in fertilizer on weed patches year-after-year. Cattle and horses don't eat weeds; this is wasted money that would be better spent controlling the weeds first, then fertilize the good grass.
- You have to much clover in your fields: You can't have to much clover. Unless it is Trifolium Campestre, which is an introduced species now wild in all but six states. This invasive clover is a poor quality ground cover that limits growth of other much better quality plants including grasses. Native clovers are high in nutrition, and it takes much less good clover hay to keep the weight on your animals in winter than it does with much lower food value grasses. Clovers are good for honey bees too!
Humans need to realize that nature took care of business for thousands of years. Stop interfering with the natural process and things will work out on average. Control the problems that humans have caused especially in the last 125 years where most damage has occured, and most other problems will take care of themselves. In nature, there are species that will provide an abundance of food for all who farm even just a little.