The most recent CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) event was held at Common Sense Energy Farm in Williamsburg. Here, Marty Dillion raises lots of different things including chickens, grapes, corn, and pigs, but his big focus currently is dairy cows. He has five cattle all at different ages, and just earlier this year the newest steer was born.
During part of the event Marty took us on a walking tour of his small rotational grazing set-up. Instead of feeding his cattle corn, he has a system of grazing pastures to feed the cattle for the majority of the year. This reduces the amount of hay he needs year-round, which makes his farming more affordable. In his descriptions of the pastures he mentioned plants that have an effect on milk production and health. Clover is one plant that is harmful when cattle each too much. It can cause bloat in the stomach, which if not treated right away can be deadly. Also what the cattle eat can have an effect on the taste of the milk.
After the pasture tour we all got to milk one of his cows by hand. When milking by hand it's best not to set the bucket on the ground, but hold it between the knees so the cow won’t kick it over. Marty told us also to lean against the cow so she knows where you are when milking her. After we all had a chance to milk, Marty let her youngster come over so he could eat too.
We ended the day with some wine tasting made from grapes and other fruit grown there at the farm.
—Dulcee, ISLAND Summer Intern