Jul 24, 2014
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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.

Feeding your livestock Trees!

Jul 09, 2014

 Silvo Pasturing?

 

   Prior to 1940, farmers turning their pigs out into the wooded areas of their farms in the Southeastern part of this country was a very common practice.  In the winter the pigs were than brought back to the farm "proper" and fed left-over corn stalks and other crop residues.  The hardwood species of tree’s such as the mighty oaks and chestnuts throughout the Appalachian region provided nut’s which pig’s love, and fortunately do very well on.  Pigs are still fed chestnuts but by a much smaller percentage of producers, and those pigs that are, are reported by consumers to be the sweetest tasting pork they’ve ever had.  The tall broad branched Chestnut tree’s also provided much needed shade during the sweltering heat of the summer.   Another nut favored by pigs and their producers are Acorns.  Pig’s fed acorns are very low in saturated fat and high in healthy Oleic Acid, which is another advantage for producers and consumers alike.   In Spain this type of pork sell’s for up to $40 per pound!!  Unfortunately you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in this country willing to pay $15 per pound for healthy Pork.  Sorry, but don’t let the prior mentioned statistics burst your bubble.

 

   If you’ve seen the movie FOOD INC., than you know who Virginia farmer Joel Salatin is.  He is the best example of a sustainable farmer that I can think of.  If you ever have the time to hear him speak or visit his farm DO IT!  You’ll be glad you did.  Joel say’s that pigs are excellent at taking recently logged forest land and transforming it into lush pasture.  He also stated that pig’s love the roots and bark of left-over saplings and will eat the left behind roots and bark from cut trees.  But you need to get them out there as soon as possible, because pigs are "ground oriented", he stated that they will ignore anything over 24" high.  Joel’s oldest pig pastures have self-produced a mixture of perennial ryegrass & crabgrass.  He has no idea where the seeds came from because he didn’t seed the pastures with those varieties.  And those pig pastures are the only pastures on his sprawling Virginia farm with perennial ryegrass.  Pretty cool huh?

 

   In a silvopasture the air temperature difference on a hot day is up to 20 degrees lower, compared with the temperature just a few feet away where there are no trees.  In cold weather it would be the opposite: warmer near the trees and colder farther away.

 

   And this is by far the best reason to try silvopasturing, horn fly problems will be reduced to almost nonexistent by the birds and microorganisms attracted in this grazing environment.

 

   So if you have land that has been logged recently and in most cases the pitch of land is much steeper than you would like to try and mow with your brush hog & tractor, try a forest hog!  Berkshires, Hampshires, Yorkshires and our favorites Tam-Roc PIGS, are best suited for this kind of land clearing.  For a silvopasture grazing system to work successfully you must have a commitment to intensive forage, livestock and timber management.  And last but not least, an intensive livestock grazing rotation is a must to keep your silvopasture healthy & productive for the next 50-100 years!

Shade your Cattle

Jun 28, 2014

 To shade or not to shade?

 

   With the extremely short transition from winter to Summer in the Northeast, and the extreme drought in the South West over the last couple of years, many producer have been struggling with the question of how much shade do my cattle need?

 

   I recently read an article about research that was done in Australia where drought, heat and wild fires have also been a big problem for a long time.  Researchers looked at the effect of shade on body temperature and overall performance of cattle, primarily in feed-lots where shade isn’t usually even offered!

 

   164 "Angus" steers were separated into 20 pens.  10 of the pens were shaded with an 80% solar block shade cloth, and 10 pens were left un-shaded.  Water and dry matter consumption were closely monitored and measured as was body temperature every 30 minutes via an implanted transmitter.  Ah!  Modern technology.  I guess it’s better than being the guy or gal that needs to do continual rectal temperatures on 164 cattle for 120 day’s!  And some of us thought milking 2 or 3 times a day was fatiguing!

 

   After the 120 day study, the cattle were harvested and data was collected.  The shaded cattle had heavier "hot" carcass weights.  That is because the shaded cattle also showed to have higher dry matter intake, average daily weight gain and gain-to-feed ratio.  It (the shade), didn’t however effect the loin muscle area, fat depth or marbling score of the carcasses.   The un-shaded cattle did consume 51% less feed.

 

   So if your looking to create a comfortable living arrangement for your cattle and not just looking for way’s to cut feed cost’s this summer, shade your cattle.  Give them the option to find relief.  If the option is there you can take the guesswork out of trying to figure out if your cattle need shade or not.  If they seek comfort/shade than obviously they need it, right?  It just like during the cold temperatures of February and March for most of us this past "Polar Vortex" of a winter.

 

We have had both Pure-bred Red Angus & Full-blooded Beefalo cattle on our farm, and when winter is dishing out it’s worst the Angus are the first ones in the barn.  The BEEFALO are the last one to seek shelter if at all.  What I’m saying is, some breeds of cattle are able to adapt to extreme conditions because they have been in one environment or region for many generations.  If you buy cattle from outside your local region, you need to expect them to have some difficulty adjusting.

 

Another cold weather breed that is winter hardy by genetics are Highland cattle.  Just looking at them and there "coat" is an obvious indicator.  The same is true on the other end of the temperature scale.   Senepol cattle evolved on the Caribbean Island of St. Croix when N'Dama cattle were imported for Senegal, West Africa in the 1800's. The island of St. Croix is the largest and southernmost of the U.S. Virgin Islands, located approximately 1,200 miles southeast of Miami, Florida.  Now that’s HOT!  The N'Dama, a Bos taurus breed, was well suited for the Caribbean because of its heat tolerance, insect and disease resistance and ability to thrive on poor quality forage.

 

   Shade is not often conveniently placed for rotational grazing systems. Often some paddocks have shade while others do not. The following alternatives can be used for shade in a rotational grazing system.

- Natural shade is the lowest cost alternative, but is not often in the proper location and care must be taken to avoid killing trees with too high a cow density.  Strategic plantings can be used over time to create a natural shade environment.  Placing shade trees on the west side of pasture areas is most desirable.

- Permanent shade can be provided by constructing barns or sheds, but is not often in the proper location in the grazing system and can be costly.

- Portable, low-cost shades can be built from 2.5" pipe and welded into a frame sturdy enough to take the abuse from cattle.  For rotational grazing, the frames can be made portable and moved with the animals, or moved to different locations to avoid high manure build-up in a particular location. For covering, shade cloth will allow air movement while providing shade.  Use 80% shade cloth for such structures.  Another option that provides additional insulation value and complete shade is to use sheet metal or woven wire with straw or

hay for insulation.  However, the construction and maintenance of these type roofs for portable shades is greater.  Frames should have a skid-type bottom member to allow moving from paddock to paddock if necessary.  Dimensions of 10'x20' are practical maximums for portable shade size.

Solar v.s. Diesel Powered Cattle?

Jun 09, 2014

What are "solar powered cattle"?  Solar Powered Cattle are Beefers that are raised on a non-grain diet and raised completely outdoors from birth to butchering on nothing but a 100% Grass/forage based diet.  They are low input and high output cattle that will far out live & out produce their grain fed & confinement produced distant relative cattle.

 

The opposite of Solar Powered Cattle would be Fossil Fueled or Diesel Powered Cattle.  Why because it costs a lot more to raise cattle on grain that utilizes a lot of fossil fueled equipment & an obscene amount of chemicals than on grass which uses you to move them from one pasture to another.

Do you think it is natural for cattle to eat grains such as corn & soy?  I’ll make it easy for you, No it is not!  Cattle were not designed to eat corn because their systems can not digest corn in grain form or in a silage form.  Research is proving that the health concerns long associated with eating beef result not from eating beef, but rather from eating corn-fed beef. 

During World War II farmers were producing more corn than the American population was consuming and so, started feeding the surplus corn to cattle. They soon found that cows eating corn fattened up much quicker than cows eating grass.  Seventy-five years ago it took a cow four to five years to reach a slaughter weight of 1,200 pounds.  Today it takes 13-15 months, thanks to corn, antibiotics, growth hormones and protein supplements

But corn consumption in cattle causes many problems, because quite simply, cattle were never meant to consume corn.  Cattle on pasture have Ph neutral (Ph of 7) stomachs.  A corn diet dangerously raises the acid level in the cow’s stomach creating health conditions such as acidosis, necessitating medications and antibiotics which create prime conditions for the existence of E. Coli

The very dangerous strain of E. Coli 0157:H7 was isolated in the 1980’s and arose because cattle were being fed grain and not their natural diet of grass. When we hear of the all-too-common re-calls of beef because of E. Coli contamination it is because of the animal’s grain-fed diet

Feeding cattle on corn fundamentally changes the meat they produce, greatly increasing levels of unhealthy Omega-6 fatty acids and decreasing levels of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.  This change greatly impacts the healthiness of meat for human consumption.

When cattle are 100% Grass-fed or raised on pasture, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is exactly where it should be for a healthy animal and therefore a healthy human eating that animal.  Since cattle cannot properly process grains, when they are corn fed, the ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 is completely opposite of what is natural.  Corn-fed cattle have 15%-50% less Omega-3 fatty acids in their meat than grass fed cattle creating meat that is much less healthy of us to consume.

Corn provides a cheap means of feeding a large number of cattle in a feedlot situation.  Although this feedlot diet is economically beneficial, it causes severe health problems in the cattle. The prior mentioned digestive problems and their dangerous outcomes beg the question: is it ethical to raise cattle on a corn-based diet? Although we will never be able to conclude whether animals feel emotions, such as happiness, we do know they experience pain and science has shown that a corn based feedlot diet causes pain in cattle.

If scientific research shows that a corn-based diet is inhumane, why does this practice continue? The answer lies in the government policies that surround the production of corn in the United States. These policies require that farmers continuously increase production in order to make even the slightest profit. Thus these government regulations encourage the overproduction of corn. This corn must go somewhere and industry has found a way to incorporate it into traditionally corn free products, including corn-fed beef. Since the over production of corn originated from government regulations, it may appear that fixing this problem may also have to originate from government policy.

However, this is not necessarily the case.  As consumers, Americans can vote with their wallet by refusing to buy corn fed beef and supporting 100% Grass-fed cattle farms, we can point out that we do not support the inhumane production of meats.  If we regain contact with the way our food is produced, we can help improve the health of the animals we eat, our health, and the health of the environment.

Ahhh, Memories.

Jun 05, 2014

 Grazing Memory

 

   Livestock do not graze randomly, they prefer some grazing sites over others. This tendency can cause grazing distribution to be uneven throughout your pastures/paddocks.  If uncorrected, grazing distribution problems increase grazing pressure on areas that are used.  When managing grazing cattle, you should aim for the greatest utilization of all forages over as much of a pasture, paddock or ranch as possible.  Livestock preference for some sites over others is influenced by a number of factors we will cover today and in the coming weeks.

 

   A few factors that influence grazing preferences include plant types (grasses, legumes, weed’s etc.), plant species, forage quantity, forage quality and/or palatability, weather, soil, topography, water sources or the distance between them, and fencing.  The greater the differences among these specifically considering vegetation, topography, etc., the more likely your Cattle, Pig’s, Sheep/Lambs etc. are to concentrate on some areas and avoid others.   Although it may be easy to identify water distribution problems, those problems may be difficult to correct because of cost associated with burying freeze proof lines or simply water availability.   Causes of other distribution problems may be harder to identify.  For example, distribution problems may be harder to pinpoint if they are associated with forage preferences or human activities.

 

When making decisions about grazing distribution, there are several factors to consider:

2 of them being animal behavior & distance to water.

 

Animal Behavior

   Animals decide where to graze based on their perceptions of what’s available.  When we turn out or cattle into "New" paddocks every week, they quickly explore the "New" offerings and develop map-like representations of the locations of different areas within that pasture.  Even though they’ve been on these pastures as recently as 4 weeks earlier, some of the forages and the abundance or lack of them will vary throughout the growing season.   Based on their long-term memory, animals may return to areas previously grazed to search for forage.  Their expectations of an area based on long term memory change more slowly than changes in forage quality and quantity.   Animals may revisit areas where forage has been exhausted, but where they have found forage in the past, until they learn that forage is no longer available.   Grazing animals appear to use their short-term memory to recall which areas they have recently visited.   They will use this memory in the near future to avoid or return to these areas.  For periods of up to 8 hours, cattle can vividly remember areas where they have recently foraged.

 

Be consistent with your forage offerings.

 

Introducing animals from one type of vegetation and/or topography to a very different type of range can reduce animal performance until the animals learn the new environment, which can take up to a year.

 

Distance to Water

   Livestock need free-choice access to water and dry hay.  When their water intake is restricted, milk production drops, feed intake is lowered, and gain in offspring is reduced.  More water is needed as increases occur in live weight, lactation, physical activity, and dry matter intake.  Less water is required when the forage has a high water content and for animal species and breeds that use water more efficiently.   When animals are forced to travel great distances between forage and water, they use more energy.    Animals that haven’t been weaned yet are most susceptible to lack of water availability because they are affected by the reduced milk production of the mother, and they are less likely to travel all the way to water with their mothers on hot days.   Water availability is a major cause of poor grazing distribution. Water is the central point of grazing activities. Near water, plants are often used heavily and forage production drops.  The location and number of waterers are the main factors in determining movement, distribution of manure, and concentration of grazing animals.   Watering location should be placed based on vegetation type, topography of your area being grazed, the season of the year, the kind of animals being grazed, and the age of the grazing animals.

DO NOT READ THIS!!

May 20, 2014

 AH HA!  You Looked!!

 

Now that I have your attention, and apparently you don't heed warnings, lets get started with this weeks discussion about Grazing Alfalfa Management

Grazing alfalfa requires top-notch management to ensure optimal stand persistence and animal performance. As with any high-value crop, greater economic return is generally achieved with a higher level of Management.

 

Several factors affect stand persistence in grazed alfalfa. While some of these factors are similar to mechanically harvested fields, others are unique to grazing.

 

Management considerations include,

1) proper soil site selection

2) fertility management

3) insect pests

4) season of use

5) appropriate grazing management.

 

Grazing management for alfalfa persistence can take 2 distinctively different avenues. The 1st is based on continuous stocking with a flexible stocking rate and is most appropriate for grazing tolerant cultivars.

The 2nd approach (and in my opinion, the most important), is to use rotational stocking to regulate extent of defoliation and length of rest period. Management flexibility is also required in this type of system to allow different degrees of defoliation and regrowth depending upon performance objectives. With "optimal" growing conditions, alfalfa may be re-grazed with only 20 to 25 days of rest while environmentally stressful conditions may require rest period of 40 days or more. Typical mid-season rest period are in 28 to 35 day range.

 

Rotational Stocking

Rotational Stocking uses the rule of thumb that grazing animals need to have daily access to forage that is approximately 4% of their live weight (2.5% intake, 0.5% trampling loss, 1% buffer). This figure can be adjusted up if animals require more Dry Matter Intake (DMI) due to size and/or milk production, if animals will receive supplements (dry free-choice hay) during periods of low production.

 

Complementary forages

Alfalfa in the vegetative stage may be very high in degradable protein and low in fiber. Even though we may consider this to be very high quality forage, it may actually produce disappointing animal performance. Including grasses with the alfalfa in the pasture may enhance livestock performance. While pure alfalfa hay may produce better results than alfalfa-grass hay mixtures, the alfalfa-grass mixtures often produce better animal performance than pure alfalfa. This basic difference may be due to grasses in a pasture being grazed at much less mature stages than the same grass as a hay crop. Grasses with rapid regrowth potential such as orchard-grass, fescue, or ryegrass are better suited for pasture mixes with alfalfa than are slower regrowth grasses such as timothy or smooth brome-grass.

Companion grasses also benefit the animal through reduction of bloat potential and reducing potential mud problems. Some non-traditional forages such as crabgrass and quack-grass which are not popular as companion grasses in hay systems work well with alfalfa in grazing situations. Grazing alfalfa greatly increases the flexibility of management and opens broader horizons for livestock producers.

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