One of the ambitions of a sustainable system is that it should be a 'closed loop'. This means that things entering the system (eg resources, energy etc) and leaving the system (eg waste) should be reduced as much as possible.
We are still a ways off a closed loop system. Honestly, I don't believe we'll ever achieve it because there will always be things we want/need that we can't produce for ourselves. As farmers, we are bringing nutrients onto our land (in the form of chicken feed) and taking nutrients off our land (in the form of chickens for our community to eat). No closed loop there. But that doesn't mean that we can't do everything possible to reduce what we bring onto and take off our land in other ways. And most of it's pretty easy - we compost our waste (yes, even our humanure); we buy food in bulk, using our own packaging, so we don't generate much rubbish; we grow as much food as we can, so that nutrients cycle around our land; we collect and use our own water and solar energy. None of these are closed loops, but they're a conscious effort towards localising energy production and usage on our property.
And then we got 2 chook guard dogs from a local sheep farmer, and were very surprised to discover we had a closed loop on our property after all. Without even trying.
The inputs required for pets has weighed quite heavily on my mind since reading a bit about the ecological footprint of pets in the West. This information came as a bit of a shock to me, and was something I'd never even considered, in a whole life of pet-loving. But with our pastured chicken enterprise booming, we were wiling to take the plunge into dog ownership in order to fortify our fox defences.
|Tiny dog teething on a chook feeder|
The first 2 dogs we got - Bell and Sock - are brother and sister kelpie-collie cross sheep dog rejects. This means that they're trained for farm work, but didn't quite make the grade for intensive large-scale sheep farming. The most recent addition to our working dog family is a little thing called Violet Tiny-Dog Von Hungry Face. She's also a farming dog, whose parents are integral to the workings of our friends at Symphony Farm, and, when she's big enough, she will also be doing her part to deter hungry foxes from our chickens.
So the dogs are working for us, protecting our chickens (and herding the chicks who have strayed from the group), their waste doesn't leave the property, and all that they require in the way of inputs (ie. food) is some chicken feet/heads/gizzards/necks, which are left over from our chicken processing. An additional bonus is that the completely unrefined, fresh and unprocessed nature of their diet means that they're healthy and non-smelly. Yay!
And while they're not cats (card-carrying 3rd generation crazy cat lady right here...) they are kind of cute, in their own doggy way.