Freedom vs Risk

Freedom vs Risk
Icelandic sheep on lush green pasture at Little Creek in Townsend, Montana
Green, lush summer pasture, which feels very far away at the moment


Pasture raised is all fine and food until a snow storm. Then it's "why don't you put those animals in a barn?"

I'm oversimplifying, of course, but there are two sides to every coin. And this pasture raised livestock thing is no different. Livestock that are more confined have their temperature regulation, protection from the elements, completely safety from predators. They live a life with very little risk, yet very little freedom.

From certain perspectives, and certainly on the cold and snowy days like today (isn't it supposed to be spring??), that life looks appealing.

Little Creek Icelandic sheep out on winter pasture in Montana
Little Creek ewes out on pasture this morning

Conversely, pasture raised livestock, like the cattle and sheep at Little Creek, live a life very similar to the wild elk, antelope, and deer that surround us. They're outside on the beautiful and sunny days just as they're outside in the squalls. They are out among the birds, the bugs, and the predators. Tons of freedom, more risk. 

I think about this "freedom vs risk" concept a lot. 

Each farmer gets to decide for themselves what they're comfortable with. And because I believe wildness is the root of all good things for livestock and the food they produce, I choose more freedom and more risk. This doesn't mean I don't care highly for them and attend to their needs - we spent the whole day spreading feed and bedding for them so they can ride out this snowstorm in relative comfort. But I can never completely mitigate every bit of risk and discomfort that their life on pasture sometimes - rarely, even - brings.

Little Creek cattle and calves on pasture in the snow
Cows and calves in the (brief) snowstorm this morning, as we spread bedding and feed

And as I get deeper and deeper into this ranching thing, now six years in full time, I am moving more and more towards more freedom for the livestock. More days on pasture. More time on the move, to new grass. This winter they spent almost all daylight hours on pasture, more than they ever had before. And that includes in sunshine, in the rain, and in the snow. And that's one reason why I believe our meat is the best; that very freedom.

Pasture with snowcapped mountains in the background
But afternoon the sun was back out and the sheep were spread out all across the pasture grazing. The calves and cows were happily drinking from the creek, the memories of the storm already distant. And now that the worst is past I can see the storm for what it was, precipitation that will feed our pastures and grow tall, green grass all summer. For which our livestock will be very grateful.


1 thought on “Freedom vs Risk

Robert Solomon

1. I can taste the freedom.
2. Alot like raising kids!

May 21, 2023 at 16:27pm

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