Humane Farming

Shannon Brook Farm is invested in humane farming and provides all our livestock, poultry, livestock guardian dogs and barn cats with a high level of care each and every day.  In conjunction with our pursuit of humane farming the farm was certified organic within the first year of operation.  Organic certification requires that the animals are fed certified organic feed free of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics and growth hormones.  The animals must have clean water, outdoor access and clean, dry bedding and have ample nesting and roosting areas that are protected from inclement weather in addition to a whole host of other requirements.

Every day our number one priority is to get out and check on the flocks of birds, the herds of pigs , the flock of sheep, the cattle, the livestock guardian dogs and the barn cats.  We carefully check for injuries, illness and their general well-being.

Prior to starting our farm we researched local veterinarians to find a good match.  We were very fortunate to locate our veterinarian as she is enormously talented, endlessly energetic and is dedicated to the care of sheep and goats, pigs, cattle, poultry, dogs and cats.   Her approach to animal husbandry is to educate the farmer as to the best way to care for various animals and how to manage urgent situations to alleviate any distress an animal is experiencing while pursuing a positive, long term outcomes.   Investing in our relationship with our veterinarian prior to day one of the farm is one of the best investments we have made.  She has become a trusted and important friend of the farm.

In the past three years Shannon Brook Farm has been awarded three Humane Farming Grants by Food Animals Concerns Trust (F.A.C.T.).  The organization, based in Chicago, awards grants across the country to farmers who are actively working to improve the quality of life for their farm animals.

Our first grant was for  mobile hen house, which moves the laying flock across the pastures, allowing the birds to fertilize and add organic matter to the soil while giving the birds 10-15 acres to roam each day depending on the particular pasture size.  We have found that moving the laying hens parallel to the pasture-raised pigs provides protection from hawks and owls as the birds of prey steer clear of the pigs.  The laying hens are also guarded by our livestock guardian dogs.

Our second F.A.C.T. grant was to build two mobile pigs houses, which allow us to move our herds of pigs across the pastures, while providing them with shade and a protective environment during inclement weather.  The pigs root up invasive plants and fertilize the soil, making the perfect seed bed for grasses, which fill in naturally due to the extensive existing seed bank.  The seed bank grows into thick swaths of grass on which the sheep flock grazes the following year.

Lastly, our third F.A.C.T. grant  is to build three farrowing huts for our porcine breeding stock.  Statistically speaking, one of the most significant causes of  piglet loss is the sow accidentally laying down on her newborn or very young piglets.  Farrowing huts are a safe and humane method of sheltering the sow while she farrows, giving her a clean place to nest, while providing minimal structure allowing the piglets to run into a safe zone when the sow makes the transition from standing to laying down.  The sow and the piglets are also protected from predators during this vulnerable time.

Moving the pigs and the birds with the use of the mobile housing we are able to fertilize and aerate the pasture soils, adding organic matter as we go.  The practice of multi-species rotational grazing cleans the pastures of parasites that would normally cause trouble mainly for the sheep.

Each year we consider further improvements that we can make to our equipment and facilities in order to humanely support the lives of  our animals.  It’s an exciting and gratifying challenge with positive changes being made annually.