Farmer Focus: Spring California rains lengthen grazing

The grass is green and our girls are happy – springtime is great. As a dairyman almost nothing makes me smile more than my cows on pasture.

Our pastures have grown well this year. In the fall we fertilise with manure and plant clover and rye grass seeds.

Many months later our labour pays off.

We have had intermittent rains this spring, which will help significantly in the length of grazing we get.

It also helps that in between grazing our 1.2ha paddocks we follow the cows with a mower.

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We have been mowing our pastures consistently between grazing ever since we became organic. We have seen huge growth by giving the grass a clean cut.

Being an organic farmer is rewarding in other ways as well.

See also: Relief as the rain arrives in California

In the area we live there is a significant demand for organic and pasture-raised products. Nearly 90% of the dairies in northern California are organic at this time.

One advantage is that the price is more consistent for longer periods of time. If I remember back to when we were conventional farmers, I recall it being exhausting – constantly fighting the ups and downs of milk pricing.

Our price last changed in September of 2015 and is still holding strong today.

We expect slight changes in the near future as organic feeds have significantly decreased, but nothing dramatic.

Our eggs business is doing well.

Our branded product, Pasture Fresh Eggs, has an exclusive retail place in Whole Foods Markets chains in my area.

See also: Pressures of launching organic egg brand

With 37 stores placing our product on the first day of our launch it feels great to be starting on the right foot.

In addition to packaging my own eggs I also purchase eggs from some local organic farms and sell those as well.

We are putting in a washroom on our ranch. With a 20 case machine, we will begin processing on farm in about three weeks. This is a big money saver as I am using another farm to process my eggs.

We have a long way to go but it feels terrific to see our packaging on the shelf.

Jessica McIsaac milks 350 pedigree Holsteins in Petaluma, California, with her husband Neil. They sell organic milk and also have 6,000 laying hens.