Around the Ranch
Since the dawn of time - or at least since Jason Smith has taken the reins down at Rock Bottom Ranch - chickens have followed sheep. They also follow three goats and few donkeys. I realize some might be scratching their heads when I talk about chickens following sheep, so first let me back up a little. Not quite to the dawn of time, just a few hundred years.
The great herds of bison that used to roam this continent were truly great. Joel Salatin reports documented herds of bison stretching 50 miles long and 20 miles wide. Imagine if the entire Roaring Fork Valley were filled, nose to tail with one massive bison herd.
As these animals grazed their way through the Great Plains they put down a whole lot of...manure. Rich in nutrients, manure played no small role is building the deep, dark, rich soil that drew early farmers to the those Great Plains.
This intense concentration of nutrients, not surprisingly, attracted other animals. Early explorers journaled that the flocks of blackbirds (likely a mixed group of cowbirds, grackles, and redwing blackbirds) following the great herds of bison often numbered in hundreds of thousands. Such massive flocks would blacken the sky, and the sheer weight of the birds crowding together would rip branches off of trees. These birds would pick through the manure left by the bison, searching for bug larvae and weed seeds. In the process the birds dispersed all of the nutrient rich manure.
So, back to chickens following sheep.
In observing wild herd-bound herbivores like those great bison, three characteristics become definitive:
1.) They are always on the move, drifting seasonally
2.) Pressure from predators keeps them grouped tightly
3.) They mow down grass as they graze
The Ranch’s multi-species rotational grazing system, also called “Mob Grazing” is an agricultural practice that attempts to mimic those natural phenomena whereby a large number of animals graze on a small amount of land for a short period of time.
By using portable electric fences, we can create movable pastures of any shape and size. The first animals to use that pasture are the larger, manure producing animals like sheep and goats. After they have done their job and mowed some grass and put some fresh manure on the ground, we create a new pasture and bump the animals over. By not overgrazing, the grass is kept in a state of rapid growth, maximizing the utility and production of the land.
Although we have not yet enlisted the help of 200,000 blackbirds, we do have chickens. Our chickens provide similar services like spreading manure while picking out weed seeds and bug larvae, and they give us eggs. Once the sheep have vacated a pasture, we keep the fence erect and moved the chickens in.
And now, it won’t only be sheep, goats and donkeys that the chickens follow because Rock Bottom Ranch just introduced cows to our livestock fold. Ten to be exact. The cows are now pastured at ACES at Rock Bottom Ranch through a partnership with Cap-K Ranch, a family ranch established in 1955 in the Frying Pan river drainage. ACES looks forward to demonstrating sustainable methods for raising cattle at Rock Bottom Ranch, and will also be selling Cap-K Ranch beef through this partnership.
These cows are some cool customers.
But don’t take my word for it!
Head down to Rock Bottom Ranch, see the cows in action,
Ask the chickens how they like picking through cow poop,
Maybe buy a dozen eggs,
We just harvested a ton (almost) of leeks,
And meet all your friendly farmers working a Rock Bottom job!
The first day of the Aspen Saturday Market begins tomorrow, June 11th! Find Rock Bottom Ranch's booth in our NEW LOCATION in front of Little Annie's - look for the red trailer & ACES tent.
All products can be purchased at the Ranch during open hours (Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM and Saturday 9AM – 1PM). Please call ahead to confirm availability or to place an order for pick-up.
Eggs are also available for sale at Hallam Lake in Aspen during open hours (Monday - Saturday 9AM - 5PM).
- We have a steady supply of our locally famous, pasture-raised, non-GMO, Animal Welfare Approved, delicious chicken eggs.
- A full pork inventory is available including chops, bacon, ribs, roasts, and ground pork.
- Cap-K Ranch beef is now available with various steaks, ground beef, and more.
Spring vegetable crops are coming in including spring mix, arugula, leeks, basil, and more.
~ Chris Dominick, Agriculture Assistant
Rock Bottom Ranch is open Monday – Friday 9AM – 5PM and Saturday from 9AM – 1PM with Farm Tours each day at 11AM. For questions about Rock Bottom Ranch please email Jason at [email protected].