I kind of met a member of Normanton Farm this past spring. About 10:00 pm on a weekday night I was driving home from a dinner meeting. As I rounded a corner on a main road in town, I was surprised to discover a cow in the middle of the road. While I knew I was driving in the suburbs and have seen numerous deer in the road, never before had I met a cow in the road. Of course, when I met Steve Normanton, owner of the farm, this week, the cow encounter was the first thing I mentioned. He remembered the night quite clearly, as he had to locate the runaway cow and return her to his farm. As he explained, “She’s a teenager and was wandering.”
During this morning visit to Normanton Farm, Steve gave me a tour of his farm. Situated on Charles Bancroft Highway in Litchfield, New Hampshire, it covers 65 acres along the Merrimack River. We started our tour with his group of cattle. Steve has 38 head of cattle, with 32 of them being housed in Litchfield and the other 6 in Antrim. Among his cattle, he has Scottish Highlands, Belted Calloways, Hereford, and Hereford-Angus.
These cattle are akin to nomads, as their grazing area changes frequently. Steve has determined the exact frequency with which the cattle need to be moved: 5 days. With five days per area, the cows are able to eat all of the growth that is available, tramp down the growth that they won’t eat, and leave an appropriate amount of manure. Staying longer than that would result in new growth being eaten too soon, and staying less wouldn’t allow enough time to complete the needed work. With this structure to the cattle moves, it takes approximately 180 days for the cattle to cover all of the land at the farm.
Maintaining the cattle in such a manner is a symbiotic process. The cattle are able to graze and eat grass and weeds that are a normal part of their diet, which means there is no need for humans to mow that land. Leaving manure in these areas eliminates the needs for fertilizer. Also, this timespan helps decrease pests, such as biting flies. By the time new flies have matured, the cattle have moved to a different area. As Steve noted, “These animals are tools that help build the fertility of the soil.”
Feeding the cattle on grasses and weeds not only provides the cattle with the diet which with they were meant to be fed, it also produces meat that tastes better and is better for people to eat. While maintaining the farm’s land, the cows are turning themselves into what will be delicious steaks and hamburgers.
An interesting fact about these cattle is that they have the ability to recognize which minerals they need. On the farm there is a feeding trough divided into 16 sections, each of which contains a different mineral. The cattle only eat the minerals they need. Looking in the various bins, one can see that some minerals are needed more than others.
What does this farm have to do with Think Tasty? A farm such as this produces the meats that many restaurants now seek. Grass-fed beef is better on many levels. Cattle raised on grass and without antibiotics and hormones tend to be healthier animals. These animals then produce meat that is tastier and is not filled with chemicals. Obviously many people recognize these benefits, as Steve has sold out of beef for this year.
To learn more about Normanton Farm, visit Think Tasty on Wednesday.