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October 2011 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.

Health Benefit's of Grass-fed Meats

Oct 22, 2011

Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products

   There are a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised and feedlot-raised animals.  To begin with, meat from 100% Grass-fed cattle, sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, and it will be if the animal is on a 100% Grass-fed diet, it can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. In fact, 100% Grass-fed Beefalo can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk without the "gamey" taste.  Of course the taste will have allot to do with what the animal’s diet consists of.  If all your cattle have access to is branches and berries, of course their going to be "gamey", not to mention malnourished! 

   Our Beefalo and Duroc Pig’s are on rotational pastures that consist of mostly orchard grass with alfalfa, red & white clovers, tall fescue and timothy.  We have found that this is the perfect combination of grasses and legumes to keep consistent weight gain’s of approx. 2.5/lbs. per day on our cattle and gives them the perfect amount of marbling for flavor and tenderness.  This combination of grasses and legumes also help’s reduce significantly the amount of grain we need to supplement our pig’s and chicken’s diet’s.  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.  And with the holiday’s quickly approaching, willpower to eat the right things will be at a minimum for most of us!  For those of you with the ability to control yourself/diet at the holiday buffet’s, and stick to an all Grass-fed product diet, you could lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to grass-fed meat, our national epidemic of obesity has a much better chance of diminishing.

   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 also 50% 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, ADD (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.

   Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer.  Studies show that 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.  Unfortunately, there are allot of people that have extreme sometime fatal allergic reactions to these foods.  The good news for those folk’s, is that Omega-3’s are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the green leaves of grass/forages.  60% 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.  20% have blood levels so low that they can’t even 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.

Grazing Stockpiled Forages

Oct 16, 2011

Every 30 days of grazing stockpiled forage provides a cost savings that is practically equivalent to increasing your calving rate by 8-10%!  30 days of winter feed is usually the minimum producers can expect from stockpiling forages like Tall fescue in the Southeast if both new growth and subsequent grazing are well managed.  Further North (like where we’re located in North/East PA), stockpiled forages offer 2,000-2,500 lbs. of forage on a dry matter basis.  With fertilizer, production can be increased by 1,000-1,500 lbs./acre. This is for forages such as tall fescue and/or orchardgrass mixed with legumes like Red/White Clover or Alfalfa.   Letting cows harvest the forage (rather than making hay out of it, and then having to feed it to them), is where the obvious savings occur especially now that Diesel is on the rise AGAIN!  

Stockpiled forages also provide flexibility.

One stockpiling advantage is it assures grasses will be replenishing and storing carbohydrate root reserves during the critical fall period, which will build stronger root systems.  If the grass to be stockpiled is Tall fescue, this may be the best use for it.  Cattle that reluctantly graze fescue in August and September find fescue in November & December to be very palatable.  In addition, fescue will maintain its forage quality and tonnage better than other cool-season pasture grasses throughout the winter.

Stockpiling success

The key is to start from scratch.  Either by grazing the pasture to the recommended minimum height, mowing a last cutting of hay or brush hogging the forage to a consistent height.  The primary stockpiling strategy for tall fescue is to fertilize pastures from mid August to early September.   Apply 40-50 lbs./acre of nitrogen.   Apply the same rate of N for Bermuda grass 6-8 weeks before the first expected frost.  If a tall-fescue pasture contains 35-40% legumes, extra nitrogen isn't required.  If legume levels are less than that, apply up to 50 lbs./acre of N.  The later in the season you begin stockpiling, the less forage you will grow, but the quality of it will be better.

Economic potential

Just turning cattle out to graze stockpiled forages may only utilize 30-40% of the stands.

50-60% utilization may be accomplished with rotational grazing, 65-75% with "frontal grazing".

"Frontal grazing" is when you start your cattle in the part of pasture where water is available and move the grazing front further from the water every few days.  Allow cattle enough forage for 3-4 days and then move the temporary fences. That will almost double the amount of utilization you can get.

When pastures contain legumes "flash grazing" can also increase utilization.  "Flash Grazing" is when you allow your cattle to graze long enough to utilize the legumes (which they consume quickest), then pull them back off until you're ready to utilize the grass stockpiled there.

If one of your goals is maintaining the sod in your pastures/paddocks (and it should be), you have to be concerned about crowding it too tightly and you may need to remove cattle from the pasture during a muddy period such as what we’ve been dealing with in the North/East since the September Hurricane’s!

In the North/East, most producers will delay grazing stockpiled forage until at least the end of October. Many can graze it into December.   Making the decision to stockpile forage is about balance. There's the balance between available forage and the nutritional needs of cattle, as well as balance between management goals, resources and alternative strategies.

 

Measure What You Have

Measure your pastures forages canopy height at various locations within the pasture with a grazing stick that you can obtain through your local NRCS or FSA office. They are yardsticks that also include numeric tables with a range of estimates for pounds of dry matter (DM) per acre inch based upon the stand's density.   If you’ve never seen someone use one before it saves ALOT of frustration on the part of the producer if you/they ask someone at the NRCS/FSA Office (the Grazing Specialist if one is still available), to show you how to use the information on the stick.

Now get out there and $AVE CA$H by Grazing GRASS!!

It's Harvest and Weaning Time

Oct 09, 2011

Harvest time is weaning time in cow-calf country. This can be a stressful time for the cow, the calf and the farmer/rancher. Probably the most critical weaning decisions a rancher or farmer 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. More than three-quarters of producers reported weaning calves between 5½ and 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 as possible. This should be when lactation declines and calf gain begins to decrease. Diets for weaned calves can be purchased or farm produced, such as dry hay, haylage or baleage. The best option is obviously to produce your own stored forages; that way, all your cattle will get a constant diet throughout the year. We produce dry round bales and small square bales from fields that are planted with the same forages that our cattle graze on in our rotational paddocks during the grazing months 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, be sure to keep the pens dust-free! This time of the year is when pastured pigs are most susceptible to pneumonia, and dust from shavings or even dry feed could instigate pneumonia. We add water to our pig rations to make a "mash" of their corn and oat chop so it has a thick, oatmeal-like consistency -- not slop!

Sorry, I got a little off track with the pigs.  Let's get back to things to look out for in your weaning calves.

·        
Bawling - This is another irritant to the upper respiratory tract. Not to mention your neighbors or weekend house guests. To minimize bawling -- unless "fence-line weaning" -- separate the calves from the cows so they can't hear each other. A good start would be to keep them out of sight --either over the hill (if you have any) or on the other side of the barn. 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 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 momma to strictly grass/hay/pasture) requires the growth of different organisms in the rumen to digest the forage. This change can take up to two weeks. This is obviously only for producers who separate the calves from the heifers/cows, such as in a dairy setting. 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.


Why is stress the most important challenge to overcome when weaning calves? Because stress causes the release of the hormone cortisol, a catabolic steroid that has negative effects on the immune system. This not only makes a calf more susceptible to respiratory disease, but decreases the calf's ability to respond to a vaccine. Because of this, it's important to get the first dose of vaccine into the calves while they're still nursing, when stress levels are low.

There are two major groups of vaccines that should be considered to assist weaning: those for clostridial diseases and those for BRD. If you're unsure which vaccine to use, contact your veterinarian.


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 postweaning calf health management and marketing management. It's worthwhile to explore the various weaning programs and regimes available.

 

·       One concept that's been getting a lot of attention is fence-line weaning, which allows cows and calves to have several days of fence-line 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 heifer/cow.

 

·       Early weaning is a management practice sometimes used during drought conditions like what the Southwest has been experiencing this season, 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

 

Beef -- It's Your Story

Oct 03, 2011

BEEF  It’s your story.

Telling the REAL Story of Beef means telling YOUR story of why you produce the world's safest beef.

That story needs to be told at your local farmers markets and on-farm stores. If you don’t have time to attend a farmers market or the desire to open an on-farm store, why not hold a field day or pasture walk on your farm or ranch? Our consumers (meaning everyone’s customers) have questions about how our beef is raised. Depending on your farming or ranching operation, the consumer might be able to see some or most of how you do things before they even reach your doorstep.

Be mindful of how you present your farm or ranch to folks who are driving down your road. In the real estate world, it’s always location, location, location! In the land of lean beef, it needs to be presentation, presentation, presentation! If people drive down your road and see your cattle ankle- or knee-deep in "yuk," chances are they won’t stop and inquire about purchasing any product from you. If they do, that might just mean your neighbor’s farm looks worse than yours! Not only does it look purdy to have a straight fence line and strands of shiny wire, it’s a good way to keep your cattle where you want them. On our farm, it’s also come in handy to keep our neighbors' "free-range" dairy cattle out of our pastures.

We are constantly having folks stop at our farm and compliment us about our "clean cattle" and "happy pigs." Some folks have even asked if they can take pictures of our animals on pasture. I often think, is this that rare a sight?

As beef, pork and poultry producers, we need to take more pride in our animals and the farms they reside on. We all need to give consumers that comfort level of being able to buy local meat and dairy products without worrying about what conditions they were raised abd grazed in and how they were treated before the finished product goes on their family's plate.

When people drive by your farm or ranch and have a smile on their face, that’s a positive image for the whole industry. They might tell some of their friends about how nice your animals look and the pastures they are on.

On the other hand, if they drive by, turn their heads away and hold their breath until they're in the next county, you can bet your career they're going to tell everyone they talk to about how nasty "that place" looked and smelled and how terrible the animals looked.

If someone does approach you about how you raise your animals, remember, every question is an opportunity for you to deliver a positive message about the meat you produce. Don't lie! If you don’t raise your animals in a certain way, don’t tell the prospective consumer that you do, just to make a sale. Another important thing to remember is that in their eyes, you’re the expert. If you don’t know the answer to a question, direct them to a source that can help them, such as your county or state beef, pork or poultry council.

Having the right public image isn’t just good for business, it’s also good for the environment.  As meat and dairy producers, we should be always mindful of doing things on our farms and ranches that will ultimately leave the environment in better shape for the next generation.  Preserving our natural resources is as important to us as it is to most consumers. Grazing cattle and pigs more than doubles the area that can be used to raise high-quality food for our growing population.

Family farms such as ours and yours are the foundation of American agriculture. In fact, 97% of U.S. farms and ranches are still family owned and operated. Many cattle and hog farms have been in the same family for two generations or more. And I’m thankful to say there are quite a few that have more generations waiting to take the reins.

 

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