How We Raise Our Animals

How We Raise our AnimalsBreeding & Birthing:

Our animals – raised on our farm here in Purcellville and on specially selected partner farms – are bred first and foremost for their mothering capabilities, hardiness and their ability to thrive in a natural pasture environment. We also focus on breeds that produce a high-quality meat … not necessarily the latest “fad” in animal breeds, heritage breeds or otherwise. We are about the best quality in clean meat.

At Fields of Athenry there is no artificial insemination, no extended daylight hours, and no hormone injections.

Here, everything goes by the stars and the moon and an animal’s natural breeding cycles. The mother’s natural instincts produce the healthy chick, piglet, calf or lamb, and human interference is kept to an absolute minimum.

Beef: Our Black Angus – in our view the sweetheart of American beef – are raised just around the corner of our farm. We have a fabulous working relationship with one of our neighbors, whom we could not do without.

Sheep: Our Dorset and Suffolk breeds, which we cross for their fantastic meat qualities, are raised for their hardiness and abilities to lamb and grow out on pasture alone, without grains. Our sheep and lambs are raised here and on four neighboring properties.

Pigs: It was a split second thought, but, no … we don’t raise our own pigs. Our pork is raised by an experienced local Mennonite farmer.

Poultry & Fowl: While we had been raising all of our own birds here (turkeys, chickens, duck, goose), my old processor retired. He introduced me to his cousin up in Pennsylvania who now does a portion of our processing. Through this introduction, I was fortunate to meet other like-minded farmers who now raise poultry and fowl for me. We do have our core stock of breeding turkeys, as well as laying hens here on our immediate farm. It just is impossible for us to do it all here.

Care & Feeding:

When pasture raising, “survival of the fittest” is a key element in ensuring strong, healthy, productive livestock. This also contributes to the health quality of the meat. For example, parasites can be a farmer’s (and an animal’s) worst nightmare here in Virginia and other Mid-Atlantic states. When the summer months bring with them heat and moisture, parasites invade farm and animal and each needs to have a strong immune system.

We love our animals and care for them when they become sick.

We raise orphaned animals – and animals that have been rejected by their mother – by hand, carefully ensuring each has the shelter, nourishment and attention the mother would have provided.

But if raised right – with the benefit of sun, rich, open pastures, the ability to roam, and the opportunity to let their natural instincts (versus confinement) protect them from harsher elements – animals raised for meat rarely need antibiotics and other interventions.

Our cattle and sheep are 100% pasture raised without grains. We are extremely fortunate to have our dairy farmer raise organic alfalfa that we feed our ewes while pregnant and through lambing. Once weaned, our lambs feast on a beautiful teff hay, which is an African grass high in protein (grown by our cattle farmer for us).

The key to our birds is that they are truly free ranging (no skids) – grazing on grass pastures, slugs, bugs and berries (not dirt lots). It is not in the nature of poultry to feed on grass alone, so they are fed grains. They are happy birds!

Transporting & Processing – From Our Hands to Our Processors to You:

Our poultry, beef, lamb and pork-producing animals are carefully selected from our fields for butchering.

Livestock is then loaded from our fields or our partners’ fields, and delivered by us for processing the same day. We also pick up your fresh meat from our processors and transport it back to our farm for home/office delivery, or for pick up at our Farm Shop. Our product follows a totally unbroken chain – from our hands to our processors to you.

Our animals do not suffer the confinements of a feedlot or any of the other abuses of “Factory Farming”.

Meat is hung for its appropriate curing time. Again, the meat on your table passes from our hands, to our processors to you.

We do not purchase animals from outside agricultural operations for processing – we use only animals raised on our farm and with our trusted local farm partners. We do not sell animals we raise to other processors or agricultural operations.

The processors we use follow strict and humane butchering methods.

The bottom line: Our methods of farming and raising animals – and the carefully selected quality products we offer – does not fit into anyone’s tidy little box. Everything stems first from our family’s journey in restoring the health of one of our fives daughters, and imparting that growing knowledge and experience to others facing similar life-changing health challenges. Fields of Athenry Farm is both a business and a mission.