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October 2012 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.

Stockpiled Forages

Oct 26, 2012

Stockpiled Forages $ave Ca$h.

Every 30 days of grazing stockpiled forage provides a co$t $aving$ 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 cattle harvest the forage (rather than making hay out of it), and then feeding it to them, is where the obvious savings occur especially now that Diesel is at a record high around here of $4.30 a gallon!  

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.   In the Southeast the chief 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 fences. That will almost double the amount of utilization you can get.

When pastures contain legumes "MOB grazing" can also increase utilization.  "MOB Grazing" is when you allow your cattle enough space to graze what they can utilize in a few hours.   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.  In the North/East, most producers will delay grazing stockpiled forage until at least the end of October. Many can graze it into December.   The length of time obviously depends on the size of the pasture and number of animals.  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.


Silly Rabbit, Candy's for COWS!

Oct 02, 2012

Silly Rabbit, Candy’s for COWS!

I recently read an article that was quite disturbing. It dealt with how cattle producers are feeding their beef and dairy cattle "alternative" feedstuffs to help them get through the lack of forages and hay due to this past year's drought.

As reported on MSN Healthy Living, "Candy for breakfast, lunch and dinner might be a five-year-old’s dream, but it’s the new reality for dairy cows in some parts of the country.  This summer’s drought has driven up the cost of corn feed, forcing farmers to look for cheaper and more plentiful alternatives.  And they’ve found them in the form of gummy bears, marshmallows and even cookies.  It’s Halloween every day on Mike Yoder’s farm in northern Indiana, where his herd of 450 cows feasts on a colorful mix of candy sprinkles—the kind usually seen atop birthday cakes and ice cream sundaes.  These treats provide an adequate substitute for the starchy sugar content cows usually get from corn."

I’m not kidding, folks! This is seen as a reasonable alternative for grass, hay and, yes, even the "C" word, CORN. I’d feed $12 corn to my animals before I’d feed candy! If this garbage isn’t fit for human consumption, why would you feed it to animals that will be processed for HUMAN CONSUMPTION?

Kentucky rancher Joseph Watson mixes candy with ethanol byproducts and a mineral supplement, according to

Kansas dairy farmer Orville Miller is replacing 5% of his cattle feed with chocolate. However, there are many who think this feed additive is not only wacky, but also wrong. An article published on American Public Media's Marketplace website says, "Some groups criticize farmers and ranchers for feeding livestock chocolate and the like. Marilyn Noble at the American Grassfed Association says, 'Cows were meant to eat grass, not candy.'"

Amen, sister! Grass is more natural for any animal, including humans, when candy is the alternative.

I really should end this blog at this point. It’s probably the shortest one I’ve ever written. But if I continue, I’m sure I’ll end up ticking off quite a few people/producers who think candy and Mountain Dew is an acceptable feed source for cattle.

God help us if this is an acceptable way to raise "Quality" beef and dairy products. Let’s hope there aren’t any diabetic consequences as the meat and dairy products from these animals enter the world's food supply! I’m glad my family and I raise all our own meat on GRASS pastures, not concrete and candy.


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