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 about 150 Rhode Island Red laying hens on pasture, where they spend most of the day foraging for seeds and bugs. Heavier than standard layers, Rhode Island Reds are well suited to the harsh Wisconsin winters, and lay the delectable brown eggs that the Brauns’ 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.
Bob 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 Brauns 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 ducks, and a high quality of life fosters healthy immune systems and nutritious eggs.”
The Brauns also raise a herd of beef cattle, which are 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. With the growing disconnect of consumers from the source of their food and growing demand for meaningful welfare standards, Pigeon River Farm found it essential to have third-party validation demonstrating their exceptional practices to a market hungry for truthful information about their food.
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 chicken and duck eggs, and Certified Grassfed by AGW beef from Pigeon River Farm is available seasonally at Marion and Clintonville farmers’ markets, or direct from the farm on Saturday mornings. For more information, visit www.PigeonRiverFarm.com, e-mail RobertBraun@pigeonriverfarm.com or call 715-754-2425.