We moved our operation to Texas county Missouri in November of 2016 from NW Georgia. We are premiumbreeders 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]
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.
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.
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 grading cattle to get better meat quality and black hide if possible. Feed lot buyers will pay a premium for black hided cattle, because they have a better chance at a higher Quality grade (High Choice or Prime) than other hided cattle. Also, many breeders want to introduce Hereford type traits into their black cattle while maintaining the black color. The Black Hereford allows breeders to accomplish both of these goals. The Black Hereford is an efficient, docile cattle breed used mainly to produce beef.
The numbers are impressive: 200 acres, three species of livestock, 14,000 feet of goat fencing and 23 gates. It’s all for a sustainable grazing technique managed by two dedicated and knowledgeable farmers, working a rotational grazing formula that makes for an innovative and successful livestock venture.BF Farm in Huggins, Missouri, is owned and operated by Mark Bengston and Jodey Fulcher. They are top-notch breeders of Black Hereford cattle, Kiko goats and Kunekune pigs. All three species enjoy rotational grazing through pastures at BF Farm.Mark and Jodey have found an approach that maximizes food availability, reduces parasite risk and promotes health for each animal while effectively managing the natural resources of the land.While Mark grew up in New Jersey and had never farmed before, Jodey grew up in Georgia and spent summers learning and working on his grandparents’ farm. An uncle gave Jodey his first goat—a Saanen buck that had been won in a poker game—and his grandfather got him started with chickens.Jodey’s early farming experiences influenced the choices he made starting a small farm with Mark.
Together since 2006, Mark and Jodey first lived on a Georgia property that they enjoyed. An avid gardener, Mark enthusiastically planted their entire yard.Eventually, he longed for more space to garden. Jodey suggested they look for a small farm. Intrigued by the idea, they found and bought a 35-acre farm in Cave Spring, Georgia, in 2013.When Mark and Jodey moved to the farm, they started with a small mixed-breed herd of goats. Slowly, Jodey redefined the makeup of the herd. He narrowed his focus and commitment to Kiko goats.Jodey began to develop a name for himself and the farm with the quality of Kiko goats he produced.Soon they were researching other livestock species. This led them to learn more about Kunekune pigs and Black Hereford cows.Both species would eventually take up residence on their farm. Mark and Jodey realized they would need more land to focus on the kinds of livestock they wanted to manage and the rotational grazing systems they admired. With a commitment to raising registered livestock and a vision of quality over quantity, they began scouring the country for the right farming location.After a nationwide search, Missouri proved to offer the most economical option in terms of quality grazing land and availability.BF Farm comprises 200 acres with 50 acres fenced to create the 12 pastures for goats and pigs. The remaining 150 acres provides rotational grazing for the cattle.Choosing this space is consistent with the mission of BF Farm. Through advanced research, meticulous record keeping and a dedication to excellence in care, breeding and maintenance, the pair raised animals that are financially productive.
“When we bought this farm, Jodey had about 30 goats and we had a dozen head of cattle,” Mark says. “We are in our third year here and have grown to over 50 head of cattle, 40 goats with the anticipation of 80 offspring this year. And we have five reproducing sows.”The move to Missouri has provided improved animal health while supporting the sustainable rotational grazing practices Mark and Jodey wanted to implement.The farm is laid out like the face of a clock. About 50 acres are designated for the goats and pigs with fencing and gates to allow animals to be moved from pasture to pasture. During the summer months, animals are moved on a weekly basis through pastures ranging in size from 2 to 10 acres.The pasture rotation maximizes food resources for each species without overgrazing the land, promoting animal health.“Each animal has parasites specific to their species,” Jodey says. “One of the biggest expenses when raising goats commercially is deworming. Rather than pouring chemicals into the animals, we move them through the pastures and produce healthier individuals.”Mark said they’ve created an environment that doesn’t contain enough animals for the parasites to complete their life cycle.Goat parasites don’t affect the pigs, cattle parasites don’t affect the goats. Each species arrives in a pasture and vacuums up the parasites left behind by the previous grazers. The lower level of parasites also means the animals don’t need medications to keep them healthy.
The animals move in a clockwise rotational grazing system from pasture to pasture. The way the farm is laid out—with the addition of gates and fencing—allows the animals to be moved from one pasture to another each week.Not only are the animals protected from parasites this way, but rotational grazing ensures the land is never overgrazed as each species consumes something different while in a single pasture.The cows also move through their own pastures in a low-stress migration—not a hectic cattle drive. Movement of the livestock results in built-in rest periods for each pasture.No group is back in the same pasture for 12 weeks, and no species is back in the same pasture for six weeks.
These Goats originated in New Zealand, evolving from feral crosses.Kiko means “meat” in Maori. The goats mature quickly for meat production and do well in the wetter climate of the Midwest. Kikos are hardy, and the females are good mothers. The breed has not been as overmanaged as other goats, and Jodey chose them for their high level of parasite resistance.Equipped for dealing with plants that are often considered undesirable in pastures, the goats consume brambles, multiflora rose, hardwood seedlings, knapweed, ironweed and more.They tolerate plants with higher levels of tannins than the other livestock can. Because goats prefer different browse than cattle, the two species don’t compete for the same resources.
These pigs also hail from New Zealand. They nearly went extinct in the 1970s, but conservation efforts helped them recover. They expanded to Great Britain, Europe and the United States as well as Canada.Kunekunes attract attention because they are ideal for smaller farms, as well as farms focused on sustainability. They enjoy an increasing popularity among chefs, charcutiers and home butchers.Friendly, docile and easy to handle, the pigs sport a short-upturned snout adapted more for grazing than rooting. The pigs can fatten on grazing and as a result boast a low fat-to-meat ratio.Their natural habitat is woodlands and pastures, and they are excellent animals to maintain, manage and eradicate unwanted pasture weeds. Their effectively consume weeds without damaging soil.Kunekune have very lean meat because they dine on 90 percent pasture grazing and little grain. They never eat slop, Mark says. They grow to 220 to 300 pounds and fit in well on smaller farms.The pigs sell as meat and for pets.
These animals have a docile temperament, high-quality meat production and beautiful black hides, making the breed attractive in recent years. The cows’ low-key and calm personalities made them an excellent choice for BF Farm’s pasture practices.Cattle—along with the other species—get DNA tests to ensure quality and credibility with each individual. Mark and Jodey trace their weights from birth, selectively maintaining weights with a focus on raising animals that provide good breeding stock.“Cattle are an interesting science,” Mark says. “We are guaranteeing that our cattle are 100 percent homozygous. They will always throw a black polled calf.”One of the registered animals sells for about four times the price of a commercially raised animal.The cattle primarily sell as breeder stock because Mark and Jodey follow such a stringent program of each animal’s health. They are weighed at birth, at weaning and as yearlings. If they don’t meet the baseline weight numbers, registration doesn’t happen.
BF Farm also houses a flock of guinea fowl that consume as many ticks as possible. The trained flock stays close to the barn and areas where the animals sleep. Ticks pose a health issue for the other livestock, so it’s necessary to have something that will consume them.A flock of chickens produces enough eggs for people, pigs and the dogs that live and work on the farm. The eggs help Mark and Jodey keep costs low—using them as an additional source of protein.Five Great Pyrenees dogs work on the farm. Each dog lives with a different goatherd serving as protectors. (One of the younger dogs bonded with the pigs.)The dogs bond with their herd, and the livestock know them as their guardians. They are critical to keeping the herds safe from coyotes. The dogs also help mitigate the increasing number of black vultures in the area—barking until the birds move on.Overall, Mark and Jodey stay focused on strategies of diversification and rotation. They are committed to their model and to promoting it as an option for other small farming operations.Their philosophy reflects a pledge to sustainable practices that focus on health and well being for each species of animal and the land itself.