• BJ

Happy New Year from the TOTW Crew!

Wondering what the crew at Taste of the Wind is up to this blustery, cold time of year?

Well here is an update!


This time of year here is not for the faint of heart. We often have temperatures well below zero accompanied by winds that rival hurricane-force speeds!

Luckily the livestock we raise were selected based on suitability for our harsh climate.

The Sheep: Our flock of sheep is made up of a breed called the Icelandic. As you probably gathered, the breed originates in Iceland- one of the last places on earth to be settled by humans. Iceland is composed of volcanoes and glaciers, has no forests, and because of cool temps- mosquitoes don't even exist. Wind speeds in Iceland can reach 40 to 140 mph and though the ocean moderates the temperature swings the temperature ranges from -39.5*F to 55 *F and averages around 14 *F.

Sheep living in Wyoming have to be tough! Our last spring/summer snow in 2019 was June 23, when we received several inches of snow and had lambs born the same week!

Centennial is pretty similar in Climate in a few ways. The average temperature this time of year ranges between 0 *F and 18 *F with the lowest temp recorded at -66 *F and the highest at 114 *F and the highest wind speed recorded in the state was 134 mph.

This being said, our icelandics prefer to be out in the local Centennial weather! they enjoy frolicking in the snow, eating snow rather than drinking the fresh creek water we provide, and they refuse to go into the shelter we built for them. They like to sleep in warm wooly groups in the deep fluffy snow These are some tough ladies!

The Icelandics are great at getting around in the snow and their long wool insulates them so well that snow does not melt off their backs until the outdoor temp is above freezing.

The Pigs:

Mangalitsa hogs are much hairier than the average hog and have quite the layer of fat along their topline that helps to insulate them in winter.

We raise a heritage breed of hogs call the Mangalitsa. This breed originates in Hungary and is raised mainly for Lard. This means a large percentage of the carcass is fat, which is useful for the hogs and for us! Lard is great to have in the kitchen and around the house and can be a lot healthier to consume than other hydrogenated oils or shortening used for frying or baking (see my previous blog post of lard and tallow) or even making soaps and candles (coming soon in a future TOTW blog post).

Our Mangalitsas are very social and outgoing. They will not let you do anything without giving them a scratch behind their ears, along their backs, around their tails and under thei bellies. They are very vocal and active creatures and they actively search out vegetation to rip up, play with, and eat.

The things we have noticed raising these hogs is that they are very audacious, and they are great foragers. Every morning, when they wake up, they like to do a few laps around the entire pasture they are in- no matter the size of the area! They are very active animals and love to forage for grasses, weeds, and roots. Because of this, we use our pigs to do vegetation management in areas where shrubs and trees have taken over and crowded all other plant life out. Pigs are a chemical and diesel-free method of habitat management, not to mention that they are turning unwanted vegetation into delicious and nutritious pork while they are at it!

The Chickens:

Our Red Ranger Broilers are thinner and leggier that the standard Cornish Cross Broiler, but they still produce a quality product that remains healthy and able to forage and enjoy the high altitude chicken lifestyle up until they are ready to be processed.

As far as broiler chickens go, we raise mostly Red Rangers for their hardiness and slower growth. Fast-growth at our elevation usually spells a recipe for disaster in the form of neurological and circulatory issues that lead to death. Animals who have been bred for fast growth and maximum feed efficiency (including chickens and cattle) outgrow their bodies' ability to function properly at high elevations and develop Brisket Disease which is basically heart failure. Even at lower elevations Double-Breasted Jumbo Cornish Cross Broilers that are raised in the chicken industry are not able to stand for extended periods and often get sores from laying on their feet throughout the day. For these reasons is not ethical or feasible for our operation to raise the Jumbo Cornish Cross birds, so we choose animals with slower growth rates and smaller bodies so the physical demand to meet their needs is more reasonable.

In the winter our broiler chickens are less-free but still ranging, and have access to fresh water, fresh greens (hydroponically and organically produced) and robust shelter so they can get out of the Centennial weather that they tend to dislike.

Unlike the icelandic sheep, our chickens prefer to stay out of the nasty weather as much as possible. We shut their shelter at night this time of year so they can roost and stay warm in the absence of cold wind, snow, and predators looking for an easy winter meal. Everyone has to work a little harder to survive this time of year!

In the mornings we open the barn up for the chickens and on particularly nasty days they jump outside for some bites of snow and then hurry back in to hunker down for the day. Every time we come in to feed the chickens eat the snow off of our boots because they don't even want to go down to the creek to drink!

Laying Hens:

We currently raise a wide variety of breeds so that we can evaluate which ones are the best for our operations. We evaluate the breeds based on free-ranging ability, hardiness, longevity, avoidance of predators, and egg production- particularly in the Spring and Fall.

We are currently experimenting to find out what the optimal breed of laying hen is for our operation. the ones that have been the best fit so far have been the hens that aren't known to be super-prolific layers. Dual purpose (meat and egg) birds have done well compared to the high-production layers we have had (such as leghorns). We will be sure to update you on the progress of our on-farm research regarding laying hens.

The one thing we know for sure is that having a variety of of breeds is a very good thing! While some varieties are slowing in egg production others are just picking up. While some chickens are flighty- they alert the rest of the flock to the presence of predators. While some chickens are mellow- they will set on eggs and raise chicks for us!

Our fluffy and feathery team is busy this time of year, eating hay and food waste, nibbling on shrubs, tall grasses, and trees that are sticking out above the snow, hunkering down, frolicking in the snow, and sun-bathing when the opportunity arises. There are beautiful things about this time of year that we need to make sure to appreciate.

The animals seem to take this time of rest, relaxing, slow pace, and cold temps in stride. They grow thick coats, they reduce their activity, and they indulge in the goodies we bring them every day.

Due to the harsh winds and the tendency of predators to search out easier food sources in the winter, our crew is not quite as free-ranging as they are in the Spring and Summer. They depend heavily on food waste in the winter as well as grass hay, rather than green-growing pasture grasses and they are very fond of growing plants that are sticking out above the snow anywhere they can get to them. This still produces a tasty quality product because we work hard to offer fresh greens, veggies and fruits to our livestock year round- so they still can produce those Omega-3-fatty-acids that many of our customers are after.

Chris tends to keep a positive attitude no matter the weather.
I tend to be a bit more critical about the circumstances....

Where there is a will there is a way, foodwaste doesn't stop in our community in the winter so neither do we, and neither do the animals. These team members are truly incredible to work with and they inspire me on a daily basis. We hope you have enjoyed this farm update and it has helped you understand how the TOTW crew still works towards our goals through all four seasons.

The dogs are just happy to be outside at all times!

-Happy New Year!


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