See What's New
The first of the soil reports from our 13 main fields are in and they show heartening improvements in organic content and in the soils’ cation exchange capacity. Nice to see the incremental progress over the years with our rotational grazing and organic practices. The credit belongs to the heritage livestock and to the pasture plants that they graze.
Errol Thompson and his crew from Thompson’s Backhoeing and Trucking completed work on a new by-pass sediment pond in a portion of the Dunk River that crosses the farm. The soils around the pond are currently too wet for us to finish the necessary landscaping, but we will be seeding permanent pasture on the field side of the pond and indigenous grasses, including Big Bluestem and Switchgrass, and indigenous flowers for pollinators, on the other side. We hope to get some of the latter planted in November so that these indigenous seeds can vernalize in the ground and be ready to work their magic in the Spring. The first herons, ducks and sandpipers are already checking out the new pond, as are young Brook Trout.
We turned the Beltie and Kerry bulls in with their respective breeding herds. This year, most of the American Milking Devon cows will be bred with one of our Beltie bulls as we want to expand our production of Beltie/AMD hybrids. We are very impressed with this cross, as are people who have purchased some of the hybrids from us to raise for freezer beef. The pictured cow with horns is one of our AMDS nursing her Beltie-sired calf.
Glory, a red, polled cow with a wisp of white on one side, was the first of the American Milking Devon/Belted Galloway hybrids to deliver her calf, a beautiful Beltie-sired male, pictured here with his mother at three months. We look forward to adding more hybrids like Glory to our breeding herds in the years to come.
Our new Shade Haven mobile shade structure arrived from Viroqua, Wisconsin. Thank you to company president Reed Doerr for delivering it in person, and thanks too to the On Farm Climate Action Fund for supporting this initiative, and to Meagan Moynagh, Climate Action Specialist from the Federation of Agriculture, who joined us for the Shade Haven’s arrival. We think of our Shade Haven as a precision manure spreader, allowing us to direct the manure from our main bovine herd onto the areas of our fields that most need a boost in fertility. The Shade Haven is easy to take down, move, and set up elsewhere (on average perhaps 20 minutes per move) so that we can, and will, shift it to where it best serves our needs every few days. We hope to obtain another unit soon to use with the main sheep flock. Having our livestock directly spread manure in the places where we want it generates a huge saving of fossil fuels, use of expensive equipment, and our labour.
mid-May to mid-June
New lambs arrive day and night (mostly night) – 20 of them on 25 May, and 118 in total.
Mitchell DesRoches and his crew from Seymour DesRoches Construction Ltd. finished work on our new pole barn. Among other uses, the barn will provide shelter, if and when needed, for bovines that used to winter outdoors, in woods that were destroyed by post-tropical storm Fiona. The frequent ice storms and then thaws of a changing climate were also making it less feasible to winter cattle outdoors, as they could not cross the fields without risk of injuring themselves on the ice or cutting up wet, soft soil.
April and early May
We completed 50 acres of pasture renovation. On half, we used the rototiller and no-till drill, and we prepared the seedbed on the rest by intensive grazing, followed with the no-till drill. The rototill/no-till fields were seeded with an Alfalfa/Tall Fescue addition or Trefoil, Forage Chicory and Kentucky Bluegrass. The other fields were seeded with Italian Ryegrass to replace grasses lost from three years of prolonged summer droughts. Unfortunately, Rustaret entered yet another prolonged drought in 2023; this time it was a Spring drought, with one inch of rain in each of April and May. After that, we had record amounts of Summer rain.
We shipped most of our Katahdin flock to a farmer in Ontario, keeping only a few ewes and rams. We intend to focus on improving our purebred Wiltshire Horn flock and on developing parasite-resistant hybrids that will raise good meat lambs on pasture.
Rustaret Farm received the Gilbert R. Clements Award from the PEI Department of Agriculture for “excellence in sustainable agriculture.” We were grateful and delighted to receive the award from the president of the PEI Federation of Agriculture on a farm visit. Out of fear of Covid, we chose not to attend the announcement of the presentation at the Federation’s Annual meeting.
Post-tropical storm Fiona hit Rustaret hard with winds to 151 kph, damaging the barns, knocking out the power for days, and bringing down hundreds of trees across fences, lanes and fields. It will likely take two years to clean up the trees that came down in the 200 acres we manage as pasture, and yet longer to deal with fallen trees in the farm’s 100 acres of woodlot.
We completed work on two new ponds in Back Field with, yet again, the support of people from Ducks Unlimited, who have been helping us to build ponds on the farm for many years now.