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July 2010 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.

Meat, Eggs & Dairy

Jul 25, 2010

Health Benefits of Grass-fed Meats, Eggs and Dairy

   There are a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised and feedlot-raised animals. To begin with, meat from Grass-fed cattle, sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, it can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. In fact, grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk.

Research shows that lean beef actually lowers your “bad LDL cholesterol levels.

   Because meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, it is also lower in calories. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. The greater the fat content, the greater the number of calories.) As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains constant, you'll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to grass-fed meat, our national epidemic of obesity might diminish.

   In the past few years, producers of grass-fed beef have been looking for ways to increase the amount of marbling in the meat so that consumers will have a more familiar product. But even these fatter cuts of grass-fed beef are lower in fat and calories than beef from grain-fed cattle.

   Extra Omega-3s. Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body.    For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly.   People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.  Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack.  Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well.   People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.

   Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer.  In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading.   Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.

   Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture.  The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae.  Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s.  When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat.  Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.

   When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s.  Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.   It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids.  Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected.   Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.    

The CLA Bonus

   Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called "conjugated linoleic acid" or CLA.  When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets.  (A steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA ,as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)

   CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer.      In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA—a mere 0.1 percent of total calories—greatly reduced tumor growth.  There is new evidence that CLA may also reduce cancer risk in humans.    In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet, had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels.  

   Switching from grain-fed to Grass-fed meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk category.   Research done at  Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following Grass-fed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat.  You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.

   Vitamin E. In addition to being higher in omega-3s and CLA, meat from Grass-fed animals is also higher in vitamin E.   The meat from pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements.  In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties.  Most Americans are deficient in vitamin E.

   All the information I just shared with you is not just my opinion, it’s fact’s proven through multiple studies at multiple U.S. Universities over a number of years.  I’m not stating that feedlot Beef and other meat’s aren’t healthy for you and your family.  I’m simply stating that research has continued to prove that Grass-fed meat is better for you.

  And as always, don’t “kill the messenger”.  I’m just relaying information to you that is available to anyone who is interested in looking for it.  The way we raise our cattle, hog’s and poultry is a personal preference.  Just as we know there are folks who will only eat grain-fed Beef.  Again that’s their personal preference.  We don’t demean or slander those who do things in ways other than how we do.  That’s why we expect the same open mindedness from the readers of this blog.  If you don’t like what is spoken about on this blog, don’t keep reading it.  If you do find the information helpful, your welcome.  And thank you for continuing to come back week after week.

Grazing, Density & New Regulations

Jul 18, 2010

Grazing and Stocking Density 

From time to time, I have the opportunity to attend grazing field days at neighboring farms or grazing conferences at Penn State University Ag Center in State College, PA.  And when it comes to the "round-table" or "open forum" time of the get together, I hear statements like "My Dad used to graze 100 cows on this pasture all season and now I run out after four months with only 90 cows. What's wrong with my pasture?"  Often, there's nothing wrong with the pasture, the main problem is actually how we count the cows.

A hundred years ago, most cows were straight English, often easy-keeping Herefords that rarely weighed over 1,000 lbs. We have Registered Red Angus & BEEFALO that we have been breeding for a smaller frame size than the current industry standard.  And from all we’ve heard over the last few years, SMALLER IS BETTER!  The basic idea is to get back to the basics!  As in what frame size/carcass size Cow’s & Heifers your ancestors used to have 50-60 years ago.  They eat less, which means they’re more efficient when converting forages to meat.


   Today, it's not unusual to have 1,400-lb. cows or even larger with February calves weighing 300 lbs. when they start grazing.  That's a big change, going from a 1,000-lb. cow with a 100-lb. calf 100 years ago, to a 1,400-lb. cow with a 300-lb. calf today. That's 1,100 lbs./pair vs. 1,700 lbs./pair.  Cattle tend to eat 10-15 lbs. of green grass for every 100 lbs. of body weight. So, today's cow-calf pairs eat almost 50% more when they start grazing than the pairs of years ago ate. 


   To start planning your pastures or paddocks for optimal stocking rates, check aerial photos of your farm/ranch.  If your farm has been in your family for a few generations, you can bet at some point there was an aerial photo taken.  It's probably up in your attic!  Make your paddocks large enough so that you can figure approx. 60% of the grass will be consumed by a cow-calf pair in 2 - 3 weeks.  That relates to approx. 3 acres per pair or 6 acres a month.  These numbers are optimal for the North/East part of the country.  Obviously in Montana and the Dakota’s for example, there is less rainfall (around 12” annually), than here in Pennsylvania.   Most importantly, talk to your neighboring farmers or local extension agent to find out what has been successful in your area.  Allot of research continues to be done on "Intensive Rotational Grazing".  There is plenty of info. out there, all you have to do is ask!



    Most importantly when planning your pastures/paddocks be sure to EXCLUDE livestock from streams and stream banks and provide alternative watering facilities and stream crossings to reduce nutrient inputs, stream bank erosion, and sediment inputs.  Research has shown that when cattle are fenced out of streams, there are significant reduction in fecal coliforms, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and total solids in the streams.  Also from the cattle’s standpoint, hoof health and udder health are generally better when they are kept from standing in water.  The prior mentioned guidelines/recommendations are coming from the federal, state, and local level as per the NEW 246-page Chesapeake Bay Foundation Regulations Document released in March.  These regulations primarily impact the North/East region of the country that is within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  There are 20 implementation measures outlined in this document.  At this time it is unclear how these specific measures will play out in Pennsylvania, but it is clear that more regulations are coming and they will impact everyone in the country when other watershed’s include these initial guidelines in there regulations.  My advice would be that if you aren’t already implementing these environmental precautions in your grazing operation to start them now and work out the details ahead of time before your state or region starts putting them into legal practice and your left scrambling to conform to the rules being enforced.

When in doubt, your local extension office or NRCS will be helpful, no matter what your level of experience or knowledge, there is no substitute for getting advice from your successful neighbors and peers.

Cut costs with Gra$$.

Jul 06, 2010

The cost of cattle production is rising and producers seeking to put more grass weight on their cattle are finding that sound pasture management has never been more attractive and/or profitable.


Here are some tips on increasing your forages, with the first one being….

-          Consult county Extension experts about the specifics of your local area before proceeding.

-          Stockpiled forages. Setting aside a supply of forage to use after forage growth has ended in the fall is called “stockpiling” or “deferred grazing.”   When pastures are managed for deferred grazing, a compromise sometimes has to be made between yield and quality, since the highest yield often produces lower quality forage.


   Forages adaptable to stockpiling include perennials such as…

-          Tall fescue

-          Orchardgrass

-          Ryegrass


Overseeding a pasture or hayfield will increase both quantity and quality of forage.  But beware!  As I learned from adding too much clover and alfalfa to our pasture mix, if you plan to take a “1st cutting” off your pastures in the spring prior to turning out your cattle, It’ll take forever to dry and bail.  And if you do small square bail’s,  your wife will complain the whole time your unloading the wagons!  Up here in North-East PA sometimes drydown can take as long as 5-6 day’s depending on the relative humidity and overnight temperatures.  However. Summer pastures over-seeded with Legumes work best for providing a nitrogen source and improving pasture quality.   The legumes that work best, no matter where in the country you live, are red and white clovers.   But you also need to watch for bloat and/or grass tetany in early spring if your cattle have been accustomed to dry hay all winter.


Cool season pastures. “Cool season grasses which obviously aren’t growing in the North/East this week, can help you extend the green period across as much of the growing period as possible and improve livestock weight gain.   Perennial cool season pasture grasses grow in dry land conditions not drought stricken area’s and can supplement native range by providing a month or more of nutritious grazing in the spring and possibly again in the fall.


Rotational grazing.   A rotational grazing program such as what we use on our farm/ranch, uses several pastures with one being grazed while the others are rested.  We divide our pasture into smaller areas

called paddocks and move our cattle from one to the next, determined by the number, size and condition of our cattle, rate of forage growth which is directly related to weather, or the lack thereof and layout of the paddocks.


The practice of rotational grazing can increase net profit

by reducing the cost of machinery, fuel and storage facilities;

and by cutting back on supplemental feeding and pasture waste.


Extended Grazing.  We leave our herd on pasture into the fall and winter, utilizing perennial pastures held in reserve, otherwise referred to as “stockpiling forages”.   For those of you who supplement your cattle with feed, it has been estimated that each day your cattle graze on pasture, your feed costs could be cut in half.


Another advantage to grazing your cattle in rotational pastures/paddocks.  Costs of hauling manure is reduced, and nutrients are returned to the land naturally to be used by growing forages while in the rest cycle of your rotational grazing program.

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