Northland Sheep Dairy Farm Tour – Student Post by Ben
As part of TC3’s integrated pest management (IPM) program for the summer of 2017, the class went on a field trip to Northland Sheep Dairy. Located in Marathon NY, amidst beautiful hilly countryside, Northland is “a 100% grass-fed seasonal sheep dairy powered by draft horses & mules and some committed, hard-working farmers,” to quote their website’s welcome page, which you can find at www.northlandsheepdairy.com. We were joined by a class from Binghamton University Acres Farm and the VINES program from Binghamton, and we made for a very large group altogether.
We were introduced to the farm by Northland Sheep Dairy co-owner Donn Hewes, the man with a passion for and in charge of the draft animals used for power in the fields and property. He showed us the barn where the animals are kept and explained a bit about the nature and nurture of these horses and mules. These included Percheron and Belgian varieties of draft horses, and Suffex mules and Cleveland Bay mule crosses.
It was a treat to be able to see an operation that implements work animals on a farm, as we have learned that there are a variety of benefits of an integrated farming system. The horses and mules not only provide work in return for calories taken directly from the farm they live on (in grass and hay) but also cycle those nutrients through their manure, and reduce the need for external sources of energy (diesel for tractors, grain based feeds). The horses and mules are fed on a permanent pasture system, which means that the land for grazing is always for grazing, as opposed to cropping it one year and grazing the next or some permutation of the like.