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July 28. 2013 9:15PM

Loudon cows herd grass was greener in Durham


 

DURHAM -- It was moving day at Emery Farm on Sunday as a herd of cattle from Loudon moved to new pastures for summer grazing.

It is the second year cows from Miles Smith Farm have spent the grazing season in Durham and other farms across the state.

Carol Soule, co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, said the collaboration harkens back to more traditional farming days when cattle farmers would lend out their herds to produce farmers as natural "lawnmooers" and fertilizers.

Miles Smith Farm has leased more than 300 acres of mixed farmland throughout New Hampshire for the summer grazing season, including property at St. Paul's School in Concord.

On Sunday, about 17 cattle were trailered and led from a pasture near the historic barn on Emery Farm — the oldest continuously operating farm in the country — to a pasture across the property behind a field of blueberry bushes.

During the season, they will be rotated between three pastures on the property to allow grass in each pasture to re-grow.

"The faster we can get them in and out of a pasture, the faster the grass grows and then the roots go deeper," Soule said.

The larger roots are good for the soil, and help protect fields against drought because the grass is less dependent on surface water alone, she said.

Miles Smith Farm has a herd of about 65 beef cows, including Angus crosses and Scottish Highlanders.

Soule said they started rotational grazing about three years ago, because they simply do not have enough land at Miles Smith Farm to accommodate the herd.

Emery Farm was eager to participate.

"I love the concept that we are working with other farms and that's the way it used to be," Soule said.

Soule said cattle farmers in the state could feed the entire state on their beef, if more attention was paid to the land and using it effectively.

"You don't need to spend $50,000 an acre, there are a lot of people who want to use their land wisely," she said.

Although it was a rainy morning, several families came out to watch the small cattle drive, and meet the herd, including Curious Bleu, who "signed" a children's book Soule had written about Bleu's first day as a runaway who found his way back to his mother.

Ellen Karelitz is on the Agricultural Commission in Durham and said having cattle back at Emery Farm is exactly the kind of thing they want to say in the historically agrarian town.

"It is all about bringing animals back into people's lives and reconnecting them with their food sources and what goes into producing food," Karelitz said. "And it's just so much fun."

Bill Towle and his brother Brad have leased and operated Emery Farm from David Hills for the last 22 years. He said cows have not been on the farm since the 1950s when a small dairy farm was started, but it was short-lived.

He said visitors to the farm enjoy seeing the cattle, especially because they are so accessible.

He said they also do not hay the fields anymore, so having the cows come to graze and fertilize the land is a big help in keeping it viable.

The entire herd will be brought back to Miles Smith Farm from their summer grazing locales in late fall, to allow Soule and her staff to monitor, water and feed the cows during the difficult winter season.

Before that happens, Bleu and friends will participate in Durham Farm Day next month, and will offer "cowback" rides.

Miles Smith Farm beef is available for sale at their own farm store, at Emery Farm, and at various farmer's markets across the state.


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