Stephen Leslie

Thanks to everyone for informative and thoughtful replies,
Carl and George’s responses illustrate how the systems we develop are based on the scale we choose to farm at (or that farm economics compel us to choose). For instance, 15 years ago we initially planned to milk ten cows, but once our sister cheese co. was up and running they needed the milk of 20 to operate at what they felt was an economically viable level of production. 20 cows translates into 45-50 head on the farm plus four horses—a lot of poop! That herd increase obviously had a huge impact on our manure storage and handling, and we eventually had to invest in facilities to manage all that manure in an environmentally sensitive way. We built a cover-all structure for the herd and a smaller one to store manure in winter and a 1/4 acre stacking pad for making windrows of compost. Like George, we determined that at our scale it made more sense to have a neighbor come in with a frontloader and dump truck to clean out the composting pack in the cover-all barn. He also hauls compost to a rented field that is about a 1 1/2 away from the farm. We off-set this cost by selling some finished compost to organic growers and homesteaders in the area. We are managing 80 acres total—4 acres in garden plus hoop houses, 35 or so in pasture, and the balance in hay land. Jim’s clients who want wood products on their land are following the same trend as we are, but maybe for different reasons. We buy in about 800 yds of pine wood shavings annually to bed down all the animals. We found straw to be cost prohibitive. My wife Kerry also prefers the pine because of all bedding materials (save sand) it harbors the least amount of environmental mastitis. We use both tractor with PTO spreader and horses on JD ground-drive spreader to get the compost spread on the land. WE intensively graze the hill pastures and do not spread there, but the garden and hay fields are all spread annually. As Erika mentioned, we are also seeing some high levels of phosphorous in the garden—at this point it is in the higher range of optimal, but we still have to monitor it. We put about 10 tons of finished compost to the acre in the garden and sometimes more,and about 5tons/acre on the hay fields.
As best as I understand it from a historical perspective, 100 years ago, a dairy milking 20 cows in Vermont would have been on the large side. They might have had 2 or 3 teams and 6-8 farm hands (as well as their own children) working on the farm. Of course, many farmers at that time would have been growing all the forage crops (and bedding from straw). Even so, moving all that manure would be a Herculean chore. One big difference, is that we are putting a lot of labor into making compost rather than spreading out the back of the barn all winter (as a lot of farms in the northeast without spreading bans still do—including plain farmers). We do most of our spreading in the spring and fall, but will spread cover crops in mid-summer before plowing down. This year I hope to graduate to putting the Fjords 3-abreast on the spreader to lighten the work for them. Below is a record of our hours on the Horse-drawn spreader for 2012:
JD “H” series Manure Spreader: 35 hours total (141 spreader loads—24 on hay field—the balance on the market garden approximately 141,000 lbs. or 70 tons of compost delivered to soil by horse power in 2012).
Erika–thanks for the description of the oxen with the sprayer—saw your photograph of that a while back and intended to ask you for more details.
The photo shows me loading the JD spreader with our little Kubota to spread in the garden, while neighbor Matt Dow loads up the dumptruck for a compost delivery to Fable Farm in Pomfret.

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