We moved our operation to Texas county Missouri in November of 2016 from NW Georgia. We are premium breeders of Kiko Goats, KuneKune Pigs and Black Hereford Cattle. What makes our farm unique is that we are one of only a handful of farms to utilize 3 species or more in there multi grazing program. This enables us to fully utilize all available forage in the most efficient way.
At BF Farm in Huggins, owners Mark Bengtson and Jodey Fulcher are breeders of Black Hereford cattle, Kiko goats and Kunekune pigs. They use a grazing regimen involving all three species taking turns working over the same space.
The technique is particularly effective because of what the three species like to eat. The Kunekune (pronounced “cooney cooney”) is a small breed of pig native to New Zealand renowned for being an effective method of maintaining, managing or eradicating unwanted pasture weeds. Meanwhile, goats are well known for voluntarily munching on larger undesirable plants (like multiflora rose, knapweed, ironweed and more), while cattle, of course, prefer eating grass.
“The goats prefer a woody forage and the pigs prefer a weedy forage,” Bengtson said, “and the cattle, of course, like grass. Each one of these species has different needs and wants in the fields, so they compliment each other well.”
The result is a more uniform pasture, because more plants are involved in the grazing. And with “undesirable” plants being regularly eaten, there’s no need to spray pastures with herbicide.
“I hate the use of chemicals, and this provides an alternative to people who think that’s the only answer,” Bengtson said.
Kiko goats are also native to New Zealand. The presence of goats in a given field not only promotes undesirable plant control, Bengtson said, but helps control what grows in “difficult” areas, like steep hills or banks..
“Goats are amazing,” he said. “They’re very resilient in terms of finding food, and they can utilize protein in wood. That’s why people sometimes see their goats eating bark.”
Bengtson and Fulcher will sometimes even place a species in a field based on what is growing at a given time of year.
“We try to keep an eye on that,” Bengtson said. “Like right now, clover is coming up like crazy, so the cattle are in an area where there’s a lot of it. It’s about an 8-acre space, so in they’ll go through that in about three days.
“But we’re not going to let that go to waste.”
The cattle-goat-pig rotation also promotes parasite control. Once the eggs of most harmful parasites get into the ground, a host must be found within a week.
“That’s the key,” Bengtson said. “If you constantly move the animals, the parasites are never going to be able to reinvest.”
Another bonus to having the three species share land is that parasites are “species specific.”
“A goat parasite will not affect a pig and vice versa,” Bengtson said. “Same with the cattle. Basically, once the goats are done in a field and we bring in the pigs, any parasites left behind by the goats won’t affect the pigs.”
A low level of parasites means the animals’ own immune systems can work properly. It also means not having to use parasite medicines or supplements.
“We refuse to use chemicals in our animals,” Bengtson said. “It’s like you’re poisoning them to keep them alive, which is just a silly thing to do. You’re never going to have a totally parasite-free goat, for example, but all you need to do is keep them at a level that’s naturally manageable.”
Bengtson and Fulcher moved to Texas County from Northwest Georgia about two years ago. They sell mostly breeding stock, preferring to raise animals based on “quality, not quantity.” BF Farm covers about 200 acres, with about 50 acres cordoned off into 12 pasture spaces ranging from two to 10 acres. The sections are where the three-species rotation occurs and are separated by about 14,000 feet of goat fencing and feature 23 gates that make moving from section to section easier. The rest of the acreage is dedicated solely to cattle.
By DOUG DAVISON • [email protected]
About Kiko Goats
Kikos hail from New Zealand where their name means "meat." Kiko development began in the early 1970s when a group of ranchers united to form The Goatex Group LLC. They collected and bred thousands of feral goats, reserving only the fastest maturing, meatiest, and most disease- and parasite-resistant goats from each generation to use as breeding stock, sending the balance to slaughter. They provided their herds with no supplementary feed, no shelter, no hoof trimming or vet care, and no assistance at kidding. Only the toughest survived.
Conformation: Kikos have straight profiles; medium-length ears; and magnificent, up- and out-sweeping, spiraling horns; wide, strong frames with moderate bone size; and compact, muscular bodies. Most American Kikos are white, but Kikos come in a wide variety of colors. They have supple skin and short- to medium-length coats.
Special Consideration/Notes on Kiko Goats: Does are prolific, protective mothers, and require little or no assistance when kidding. Kiko kids are small at birth, but grow qui ckly; they are alert and active within minutes of being born. Some of the fastest maturing, most efficient meat goats in the world are created by crossing Kiko and Boer goats.
About KuneKune Pigs
The Kunekune Pig (pronounced: cooney cooney) is a breed known as the "Maori Pig" having been developed by the first people of New Zealand. Being near extinction in their homeland during the 1970's, two animal preservationists, Michael Willis and John Simister, are credited with their conservation. Since that time, the breed has gained recognition on both the North and South islands of New Zealand, in Great Britain, Europe, the United States, and most recently in Canada. The Kunekune Pig in America is finding a serious niche market for small farms, in sustainable farming systems, for permaculture, and with chefs, charcutiers, caterers, and in home butchery.
About Black Herefords
Like red Herefords, Black Herefords are becoming known for their feed efficiency and docile temperament. If a registered Black Hereford is crossed with a registered red Hereford and the resulting progeny is black, then it may be registered with the Black Hereford Association. The Black Hereford breed was formed to create cattle that would pass on the desirable traits of the red Hereford, but with black and white colouring. Like red Herefords, Black Herefords are often crossed with black Aberdeen Angus cattle to produce heterosis ("hybrid vigor") in the progeny, producing a type commonly known as the Black Baldy. The Black Herefords are usually the breeds Angus and Hereford combined.
Many cattle breeders desire the traits of the red Hereford cattle, but want black cattle, as black cattle tend to bring more money at market. Angus (black) are known for higher quality carcasses. Breeders like to cross Herefords, also known for good marbling, with Angus, even better quality