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Bob and Kim Braun raise Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW laying hens on pasture at Pigeon River Farm, which is set on the southern branch of the Pigeon River in Waupaca County, Wisconsin. “We’re blessed to have some of the best soil in the region for our pasture-raised flock,” says Bob. “We can grow quality vegetation that in turn enhances the quality of our eggs.” Research shows that pasture-based management is not only better for animal welfare, but results in tasty and nutritious eggs with more beta carotene and higher levels of beneficial conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids when compared to conventional eggs.
The Brauns raise a combination of about 300 Rhode Island Red and Astralorp laying hens on pasture, where they spend most of the day foraging for seeds and bugs. Heavier than standard layers, both breeds are well suited to the harsh Wisconsin winters and respond very well on pasture. They lay the delectable brown eggs that the Braun’s customers look for. Bob and Kim are excited to be recognized by AGW for treating their farm animals with respect and managing their flock on pasture, which they believe will improve profitability and allow them to grow their business. “We look forward to illustrating this approach to other farmers and showing the value that can be found in high-welfare management,” adds Bob.
The Brauns also raise Scottish Highlander beef cattle which range freely in green pastures with quiet surroundings for minimal stress, where natural grasses and vegetation provide a luscious food source and optimal growth. This creates a near perfect recycling system of natural fertilizer to plant growth to natural animal growth to more grass growth in tune with earth’s natural food production cycle. Their natural pastures are maintained via rotational grazing. The fields are allowed to recover while the cattle graze on revitalized pasture. The herd of beef cattle at Pigeon River Farm is also Certified Grassfed by AGW, an optional, additional accreditation for farmers meeting Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW standards of production which offer assurance of high-welfare farming practices and 100 percent grassfed feeding protocol.
Bob Braun was raised by his grandparents on a farm in Racine County, WI, and spent his youth working for a vegetable truck farm, a beef farm, and the family poultry farm. Kim grew up in Franksville, just outside of Racine, and spent her youth working with race horses and gardening with her family. In addition to owning and operating a successful research company, Bob and Kim raised their family on a working farmette in Kenosha County, where they continued to pursue their joint interest in farming and raising healthy food for their family and friends.
“Our premium soil is our growing foundation,” explains Bob. “We treat the soil with respect, returning more nutrients to the soil every year then we take out. Each year we have replaced the amount of row crops with more pasture, and we have been working with a world-class agronomist to develop a nutrient plan for the animals that also benefits the soil.” Drawing on the Joel Salatin approach to farming, the Braun’s integrate their livestock into the farm by rotationally grazing their pastures, which allows them to utilize the land and the animals most efficiently. “This method allows us to produce a quality product for human consumption that could be achieved no other way than by pasture-based farming,” says Kim.
High welfare practices are a natural extension of the Brauns pasture-based management and fundamental to their animal husbandry: “Since my earliest years on the farm as a child, I’ve always believed in and practiced the humane treatment of animals,” says Bob. “A free-range, cage free environment provides a high quality of life for our chickens, and a high quality of life fosters healthy immune systems and nutritious eggs.”
Long term, the Brauns are dedicated to the health of people and the environment: “Our mission at Pigeon River Farm is to respect both land and nature through our farming practices. We strive to use safe and sustainable farming practices to ensure that the land we farm is just as productive for our children and grandchildren as it is today.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW pasture-raised eggs and Certified Grassfed by AGW beef from Pigeon River Farm is available seasonally at the Marion farmers’ market on Fridays from 3 – 6:30 pm at the Marion Plaza Shell at 1107 N. Main Street, Marion, WI, or direct from the farm on Saturday mornings from 10AM – 2PM at E7148 Neitzke Rd, Clintonville, WI. Eggs and beef can also be ordered and picked up at the farm or at the Marion Farmers’ Market. For more information, visit www.PigeonRiverFarm.com, e-mail RobertBraun@pigeonriverfarm.com, call 715-754-2425 and follow them on Facebook. Pigeon River Farm pasture-raised eggs are also commercially available at Health Food stores in the greater Milwaukee area. To read the Piegon River Farm blog visit www.pigeonriverfarm.net.