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August 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.

Get ready NOW for Old Man Winter

Aug 29, 2010

Tips to help you (and your herd), beat old man winter.


Plan ahead now for winter feeding/grazing!   Once bad weather hits, many chances of finding "economical" hay and baled grasses are at a minimum.  If you need to make supplemental hay purchases,  chances are so does everyone else!  And with the way hay isn’t growing this year (at least in the North/East), hay will be very expensive to buy when you run out in January or February.

Here's an example of how to roughly estimate your herds hay/grass needs as an initial way of checking the adequacy of your banked hay in your hay mow.

If you do any grazing, winter is the best time of the year to review your grazing program!  There will be some variation with consumption and nutrient levels, but knowing if your cattle are consuming 15 pounds compared to 25 pounds of forage dry matter is a BIG difference!

Now is the best time of the year to review your paddock layout and size each paddock.  I suggest that you put posts that will section off 1, 2 and/or 3 acre paddocks, depending on the size of your herd.  This way you can use temporary fencing to graze paddocks of a specific size.   This is essential as you determine forage quantities before and after grazing. 

By utilizing the figure of 1" growth per acre equals approx. 200-400 lbs. of forage dry matter (depending on forage species), you will be able to arrive at a reasonable figure of lbs. of dry matter consumed.  Than you can determine a "ballpark" figure of nutrients recieved from grazing.

As I’ve stated previously, if you are just developing your grazing program, start with an aerial photo of your grazing area to see how animal movement and paddock layout could best be managed.  Next using temporary flags or stakes, outline each paddock and the animal alleyways with proposed gates.  Permanent fencing and gates for the animal alleyway can be erected when you feel the system is working.  Good luck and let's get going because snow could be on the way within the next month & a half in our neck of the woods!

Animal Health
It's no secret that cows need more nutritional energy in colder weather. Ruminant nutritionists have used the rule of thumb that a cow's energy requirements increase 1% for each degree the wind chill is below the 32°F. lower critical temperature (LCT) for cows with a dry winter hair coat.

Research indicates energy requirements for maintenance of beef cows with a wet hair coat is much greater. Cows exposed to falling precipitation and having wet hair coats are considered to have reached the LCT at 59° F. In addition, the requirements change twice as much for each 1° change in wind-chill factor -- with the energy requirement actually increasing 2% for each degree below 59° F.

This amount of energy change is often impossible to accomplish with feedstuffs available on ranches. In addition, this amount of energy change in the diet of cows accustomed to a high roughage diet must be made very gradually to avoid severe digestive disorders.

Therefore, the more common-sense approach is to provide a smaller increase in energy requirements during wet cold weather and extend the increase into improving weather to help regain energy lost during the storm.

Cows on large "Ranch" style operations (500 head +), consuming 16 lbs. of grass hay/day and 5 lbs. of 20% "Range Cubes" can be increased to 20 lbs. of grass hay/day plus 6-7 lbs. of range cubes during the severe weather event. Extending this amount for a day or two after the storm may help overcome the energy loss during the storm in a manner that doesn't cause digestive disorders.

For a feeding period of............................................... 3 months

Number in your herd.................................................... 25

Weight of each cow/heifer/steer................................1,100lbs.

Daily intake..................................................................2 1/2% of total body weight (approx. 27 1/2lbs a day!).

Take the length of the feeding period, multiplied by the number of cattle, multiplied once again by the hay intake per pound.......That's 61,875lbs!!!

Not taking into account any waste hay that can't be fed.  (figure approx. 10%)

100% Forest-Fed?

Aug 20, 2010

Ever Try "Forest-Fed Pork"?

   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.   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 to burst your bubble, 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 back 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 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.

   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 DUROC PIGS, are best suited for this kind of land clearing.  Tamworth pig’s that we spoke about a few weeks ago are not because they don’t root.  Keep the Tamworth’s on pastures you want to keep looking pretty.  They graze well and keep your pastures well groomed.  I still haven’t been able to find a percentage of diet intake a Tamworth can derive strictly on pasture.  But just as with chickens and cattle, fresh grass is the important ingredient to create that special flavor.

Pig’s on Pasture is Possible

Aug 10, 2010

   Pig’s on pasture is possible. Our Duroc Pig’s are pastured from the time their weaned (approx. 6 week’s old), until there are taken to the processor. Their have been allot of 100% grass-fed Pig’s claims out there. And allot of those claims have been "called out" or dis-proven as not being 100% grass-fed simply due to the producers either lack of education or simple dishonesty. I remember when we first started looking into attempting pure unadulterated 100% grass-fed/pastured pigs.  We went to some supposedly 100% grass-fed Pig producers web-sites and saw photo’s of the farmers feeding the pig’s grain on the ground from a bucket!      

   Our family had raised "pastured" pigs since settling in this country back in 1726. But they had always been supplemented with grain, especially in the long North-East PA winters when forages were not available to graze. But we were determined to find a way to limit the amount of grain required by the pigs to continue to grow and at the same time not jeopardize their health. We weren’t interested in finishing them as soon as possible to make a quick buck by the time they reached maturity (250/lbs. by 6 months of age), if it would take an extra month or 2 to reach that optimal weight we were comfortable with that as long as they stayed healthy. We than started looking at other breeds that may be better adjusted to living mostly on grass. It took awhile, but we found the Tamworth breed was best suited to survive strictly on a 100% forage diet.   Due to what we found in the past we decided to do additional research on this breed to make sure the few success stories we found about the Tamworth breed were not just isolated incidents. 
   Coincidently my wife knew someone through a past work associate that owns Tamworth Pig’s and has been successful at raising them on a 100% grass-fed diet. I still wasn’t convinced. So we made an appointment to go see them. It was a few hours south of us, but it was still within our state so I knew we were due to experience close to the same climates throughout the year. My main concern wasn’t with could they survive on 100% grass pastures 6 months out of the year during the forages normal growing season, I was wondering how they stayed healthy during the winter on either stockpiled forages or stored dry hay.
   The Tamworth is probably the purest of the modern breeds of swine, they have been improved more largely by selection and care than by the introduction of the blood of other breeds. Fortunately the class of men who had undertaken the improvement of some of the other breeds, by sacrificing almost everything to an aptitude to fatten, did not undertake the Tamworth; hence the preservation of the length and prolificacy of the breed. For a number of years previous to 1870 the breed received comparatively little attention. About that time the bacon curers opened a campaign against the then fashionable short, fat and heavy shouldered pigs, which they found quite unsuitable for the production of streaked side meat for which the demand was constantly increasing. The Tamworth then came into prominence as an improver of some of the other breeds, in which capacity it was a decided success owing to its long established habit of converting it's food into lean meat. Tamworth pigs are especially hardy and tolerate our harsh winters quite well. They are known for their vigorous rooting ability and we are using them to reclaim brushland for use as pasture and hay production. The Tamworth originated in Ireland where they were called "The Irish Grazer". About the year 1812 it is said that Sir Robert Peel, being impressed with the characteristics of them, imported some of them and started to breed them on his estate at Tamworth, England. They have been bred quite extensively ever since they were imported into that country.
   Unfortunately the last paragraph you read was about all the information I could find on-line about the Tamworth Breed. But have no fear if your interested in additional information about these potentially promising pastured pig’s, I will continue my quest to find out if it is truly possible to raise 100% grass-fed pig’s! Tamworth or otherwise. If you or someone you know has experience with the Tamworth breed or another breed of purely pastured pig’s please share your experiences with all of us. Thanks in advance and stay tuned for additional information as it becomes available.


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