A Place For All
It was a couple of Percherons that got Kirsten and Al Kosinski into the livestock business. After experiencing draft horses on a Christmas tree farm near their home in southern Michigan, the Kosinskis knew a life without a little livestock was no life for them. Two draft horses, 50 goats, a small herd of sheep, three Scottish Highlander cattle, two geese and a flock of chickens later, Kirsten and Al haven’t looked back.
“We came to Missouri two years ago, from Michigan,” Kirsten explained. “We fell in love with the area,” she said, adding they knew they could realize their dream of owning a farm and growing their livestock numbers in a place like Missouri. So down from Michigan they came, with their livestock of that time – two draft horses, Kirsten’s AKC registered German Shepherds, some bunnies of Al’s, four goats, and some ducks and chickens. “We looked like gypsies on the way down here. We’d stop wherever we could find a field, so the dogs could get out and run. We did our chores on the road,” Kirsten explained. “But it was fun,” Al smiled.
Utilizing all the Animals
Once settled in Missouri Al and Kirsten began growing their herds. Savanna goats appealed to them because of their ease of care. “We were new at this, and the last thing we wanted was to come out one day and them all be dead because we did something wrong,” Kirsten said.
Black Bell Acres, as the Kosinskis call their farm, is home to both registered and percentage Savanna goats, and registered Alpines. They also have some Nubians, and Kirsten said she really likes the positive effect a Savanna/Boer cross can have on a baby. “Savannas are very hardy. Their babies are very strong. They drop, they’re still wet and they’re already looking for the udder,” she noted.
The sheep are Katahdin and Dorper crosses mostly. "We really like the Katahdin-Dorper cross, their meat is exceptional," Kirsten explained.
In the spirit of the black bell, (the farm's namesake that traveled with them from Canada to Michigan than to Missouri) Al and Kirsten worry about predators, but only slightly. All their goats, sheep and even their large Highlanders, wear bells. "We've never lost an animal with a bell on it," Kirsten said.
Kirsten thinks that the noise from the bells deter predators enough to keep them at bay.
The Kosinskis have been marketing their livestock at the local farmers markets and by word of mouth. Kirsten said she is already selling grass-fed lamb, and oh, did we mention their pigs? Al and Kirsten also raise Berkshire hogs that they have butchered and processed locally, then sell at market.
Kirsten also milks about five goats a day, makes cheeses and yogurts from her goats, but she's only allowed by law to sell raw milk.
The Kosinskis are still figuring a lot of their business and marketing strategies out. Kirsten has goals to market a larger amount of lamb in the future, and she and Al want to have a small amount of grass-fed beef to offer from her Scottish Highlanders. They're starting this process now by bringing in a Highlander bull to begin breeding.
"This has been a dream come true for both of us," Kirsten summed up.