An Insider Peek at Kiawah River Farm’s Refugia: Cows and Sheep

Refugia is becoming a popular methodology for raising livestock in the U.S. The term is connected to the concept of refugium, a geographical region that has remained unaltered by a climatic change affecting surrounding regions and therefore forms a haven for relict fauna and flora. In simpler terms, it means nature knows best and is working on its own.

One common misconception in U.S. livestock management is the theory of a singular livestock farm. The success of farmers who only manage a single species tend to have more problems. Animals need other animals to help them survive and fight disease. Each species has weaknesses and strengths. Merging two animals that have opposing strengths and weaknesses is the answer in combatting parasitic and environmental problems. Hence, cows and sheep now roaming the beautiful pastures of Kiawah River Farm.  

Sheep and cows are very compatible in the theory of refugia. Both sheep and cows eat grass, hay and need minimal additional nutrients to survive. Since their diet is mainly found in the land, parasitic control becomes a lot trickier because parasites live in all parts of the earth, including grass. There are certain times of the day when parasites are most prevalent in the grass, so controlling the time in which the animals eat is a major part of the refugium.  

When the sheep are grazing, the cows tend to be relaxing under a shady tree. When the sheep migrate to the barn, the cows will head out to the pasture for a bite. These manners are more than courteous acts; they actually help with parasitic control. Reducing all-day eating, especially in cows, greatly reduces their access to parasites. So, the sheep help regulate the cows’ feeding times and limit exposure to parasites, and in return, the cows protect the sheep from predators. This creates a natural symbiotic relationship between the two animals. 

Relationships like the sheep and cows are just one of many that we protect at Kiawah River Farm. The environment changes often in the Lowcountry, which makes refugia difficult but very important to the survival of our farm residents. At Kiawah River Farm, we are always prioritizing the balance between land and creatures, making the farm a unique and continuous learning experience. But it is worth its weight in gold because it’s better for the environment and for you!