Sep 22, 2014
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August 2014 Archive for 100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

Winter & Weaning are on the way

Aug 21, 2014

 The next 2-3 months can be a stressful time of the year for the cow, the calf and the farmer/rancher.   Probably the most critical weaning decisions a farmer/rancher needs to make are gauging when and where to wean.  USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) reports that the average weaning age of beef calves in the U.S. is a little over seven months of age. Over three-quarters of these producers reported weaning calves between 5½ - 8½ months of age.

   The interesting part of the NAHMS survey is that producers reported a lack of flexibility in selection of weaning time. Relatively few ranchers indicated that cow condition, forage availability or market price drove the decision of when to wean calves.

 

   The objective of a weaning program is to get the calves separated from their mothers and on their own as efficiently and painlessly as possible. This should be when lactation declines and calf gain begins to decrease.  Another tell tale sign is when the cow starts pushing the calf off of her udders.

 

   Diets for weaned calves can be purchased or farm/ranch-developed. The advantage to purchased feeds is they're more likely to be balanced for energy, protein, fiber and minerals. In addition, many of them can contain medications recommended by a veterinarian or nutritionist.  On an operation such as ours, there is no guess work involved.  By the time our cow’s naturally wean their calves between 6 & 8 months of age their rumens are developed enough to properly process the forages in our pastures.  We never separate our calves from their mothers, when needed we will separate the younger heifers from the bull, but they stay with their mothers to do away with the stress of weaning which directly relates to the loss of daily gains this time of the season.


Some important considerations in weaning management include:

·        
Dust - Dust causes severe irritation to the respiratory tract. If you keep calves in pens, sprinkle the pens with water to keep dust down when using wood shavings.  The same is especially advisable in pig pens.  Wheat straw is a better bet, but if shavings are all you have access to, keep the pen's dust-free! 

 

        
Bawling - This is another irritant to the upper respiratory tract.  Not to mention your neighbors or weekend house guests.  To minimize bawling, separate the calves from the cows so they can't hear each other.  A good start would be to keep them out of site.  Either over the hill (if you have any), or on the other side of the barn.  Or better yet, if you have the option, on another farm.  Some producers are fortunate to have multiple facilities/farm locations.

·        
Dehydration - Some calves are not acquainted with water troughs and are so busy bawling they don't take time to find the water and drink. Use of a water source similar to one they may have been around may help.   We've seen producers that use nipple waterers that are primarily utilized in pig production with the end of a nipple from a calf bottle secured over the end.  Place a water trough directly under the nipple and they'll learn how to drink out of the trough by experimentation!

·        
Feed change - A change in diet from milk replacer to calf starter/grower grain to strictly grass/hay/pasture, requires the growth of different organisms in the rumen to digest the feed. This change can take up to two weeks.  This is obviously only for producers that separate the calves from the heifers/cows such as in a dairy setting or Beef feed-lot.  We don't separate our calves because that is what has worked best for us and our cattle.  We allow the calves (steers or heifers), to naturally wean themselves from the udder to the pasture.  In doing so, we relieve any weaning stress on the calf.


Weaning strategies

There are about as many weaning strategies as there are ranchers. Over the past 10-15 years, the beef industry has become more aware of the value of pre- and post-weaning calf health management and marketing management. It's worthwhile to explore the various "cookbook" weaning programs and regimes available.

 

·       One concept that's been getting a lot of attention is fenceline weaning, which allows cows and calves to have several days of fenceline contact, but calves are unable to nurse through the fence. This requires adequate facilities to allow for feeding and watering the calves, and the fence must be tight enough to prevent the calf from getting back in with the cow.

 

·       Early weaning is a management practice sometimes used during drought conditions, or when forage quantity is less than desirable.  Early weaning is often used to improve cow condition for rebreeding, particularly when forage is limiting.  Research shows mixed results on the economics of early weaning.

 

·       Extended weaning may make sense in times when feed costs are high and when grazing forages aren't a limiting factor. A Florida study shows that fall-calving cows can nurse calves for up to two months beyond a standard weaning age of 7-8 months and significantly increase calf weaning weight without affecting cow reproduction.


For more information go to:

·         http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/AN048

·         http://beef.tamu.edu/academics/beef/pub/health/vac_vaccine.pdf

·         www.extension.org/pages/Early_Weaning_Strategies

 

Why do you still question me?

Aug 11, 2014

 Pure & Simple

 

100% Grass-fed meat contains more antioxidants, omega-3’s, CLA, TVA, trace minerals, and vitamins than any other food, including "conventional" meats derived from livestock that are fed a grain diet such as corn, soy & silage.

 

As you’re about to learn, consuming 100% Grass-fed meat is one of the best ways to prevent disease, improve brain function, lose weight, and be more heart healthy.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential component of nerve tissue.  They modify how the body responds to stress and control numerous other metabolic processes.  Most people eat too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3.

 

CLA is a type of naturally occurring trans-fatty acid that improves brain function, causes weight loss, and reduces your risk of cancer.  What a steer eats dictates how much of these compounds are in the meat. 

 

Recently researchers compared the fatty acid compositions of three kinds of feeding.  Each group contained 18 beef cattle.  The 1st group was fed grains for 80 days before slaughter, group #2 was fed "by-product feedstuff" for 200 days, and group #3 was 100% Grass-fed.

Group #1: Short Term Grain Feeding (80 days)

Group #2: Long Term Feedlot Rations* (150-200 days)

Group #3: 100% Grass Feeding (Life time)

*The "Feedlot" rations were made of 50 percent barley and/or sorghum (a type of wheat) and some form of cottonseed/protein mix:  A mixture of grains.

 

Results

The 100% Grass-fed cows had more omega-3’s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Just 80 days of grain feeding was enough to destroy the omega-3 content of the beef.  CLA content plummeted in the same amount of time.  The longer the animals were fed grains, the lower the quality of the meat.

The omega-3 quantity in grain-fed meat was so low, it didn’t qualify as a meaningful dietary source.

The 100% Grass-fed meat has enough omega-3 to be considered a good source of n-3 fats.  The total amount of omega-3 we need is small if you have a good omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.  Therefore, eating grass-fed meat along with some fatty fish may be enough to cover your omega-3 needs.

Grain feeding significantly reduces the omega-3 and CLA content of meat.  The feedlot cattle had the lowest levels, the grain-fed cattle were in the middle, and the grass-fed cattle had the most.

 

The longer an animal is fed grains, the lower the nutrient content of the meat.

 

Summary

Grain-fed beef is much lower in omega-3’s and CLA

The longer steers are fed grains, the lower the omega-3 and CLA content.

Feedlot cattle have the lowest amount of omega-3‘s.  Regular grain-fed cattle are slightly better.

The last part of a cow’s life is the most critical in terms of fat quality.

Meat can be a good source of omega-3’s, if it’s 100% Grass-fed.  Grain-fed meat has lower levels, so you’ll need to eat a lot of cold water ocean fish or take fish oil supplements to reach your daily omega-3 requirements.

100% Grass-fed meat has more healthy fats than grain-fed meat.

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