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.
Apr 20, 2012
BEEFALO & CATTLE STOCKING RATES
Traditionally pastures have been stocked based on the number of cattle per acre per season. This approach has presented problems in the past because of variation in the cattle’s ages and weights. Weights of beef cattle have changed dramatically in the last 15 years because of genetic "improvements" and/or cross breeding such as the Beef Cattle breed known as BEEFALO.
Bigger cows tend to wean heavier calves, but bigger cows and calves also consume more forage. Consequently, range/pasture conditions have suffered where cattle numbers or days of grazing per pasture have not been reduced. However, BEEFALO have been studied over the last 30-40 years, and have proven to be the best foragers. Full-blood BEEFALO consist of 37.5% Bison genetics and are extremely winter hardy, have low birth weights, and wean & finish at heavier weights in less time than "traditional" Beef cattle. They also aren’t as selective when grazing as other breeds of Beef Cattle. When their done grazing a pasture/paddock, it looks consistently grazed over the entire area. They don’t pick and choose forages, they eat everything! As far as forage conversion goes, BEEFALO have consistently proven themselves to be the best converters of forage to meat that the Beef cattle industry has developed. Still in relatively small numbers, herds of BEEFALO are growing due to consumer demand.
The majority of BEEFALO producers are located in Kentucky and the Northeast region of the United States. BEEFALO have lower healthy birth weights, which is perfect for first time heifers. BEEFALO’s weaning weights are comparable to the most desirable Angus Breeds on the commercial market today. Beefalo calves finish 2-3 months earlier than "traditional" more common breeds of Angus cattle which is of course the most desirable trait for cattle in any size operation. They are the perfect design of winter hardiness, and grass-fed genetics available today. Our Registered BEEFALO cattle are 37.5% Bison. The balance of their genetics are Red Angus, Hereford, Charolais & Limousine.
They are the most versatile cross-bed Beef cattle available to producers today. We have had no calf mortality since starting our herd and our 26 month old Purebred BEEFALO BULL is defiantly not sterile, which most uneducated folks believe is a characteristic of the BEEFALO Breed. He has produced many heifer calves already this season! We have also never lost a calf. Calf mortality is another common misconception of the breed.
Getting back to stocking rates based on Animal units. The AU equivalent for beef cattle is easily estimated by dividing the average shrunk weight of the class or herd of animals by 1000. Animal unit equivalents for cattle can be based on their average weight for the grazing season or adjusted at monthly intervals. Cows with an average weight of 1200 lb would be equal to 1.2 AU. Our BEEFALO Calves begin foraging when they are about 4 weeks old. By the time our calves are 3 months old they spend as much time grazing as our older heifers & cows. It is generally recommended that the average calf weight should be added to the average cow weight to calculate AU equivalents for pairs when the average age of the calf crop is 3 months.
Yearling cattle with an initial weight of 550 lb and a seasonal gain of 220 lb would be .66 AU (550 + 110)/1000 for the season. Monthly estimates could be calculated by dividing total gain into monthly increments or by using response surface information for seasonal gains in locations similar to your production environment. About 60 to 70 percent of the total summer gain in growing cattle generally occurs in the first half of the summer grazing season. Animal performance in response to a given stocking rate is variable over years because of differences in forage allowance. It must be remembered that cattle graze forage, not acres. Consequently stocking rates often need to be varied from pasture to pasture and from year to year to provide adequate amounts of forage for all livestock.
For more information about the BEEFALO Breed, check out our farms web-site.