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April 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.

Rotational Grazing

Apr 28, 2012

Rotational Grazing

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 and 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 "first cutting" off your pastures in the spring prior to turning out your cattle, it’ll take forever to dry and bale. And if you do small square bales, your wife will complain the whole time you're unloading the wagons! Up here in northeast Pennsylvania, drydown can sometimes take as long as five to six days depending on the relative humidity and overnight temperatures. Summer pastures overseeded 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 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. Due to the summerlike temperatures we had in March, our cool-season grasses are growing remarkably well, and early in the North and East. They 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 dryland conditions, not drought-stricken areas, 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 the one on our farm/ranch, uses several pastures, with one being grazed while the others are rested. We divide our pastures into smaller areas called paddocks (approximately 2 acres each) and move our cattle from one to the next determined by the rate of forage regrowth, which is directly related to weather or the lack thereof. 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 (selective grazing).

Extended grazing. We leave our herd on pasture into the fall and winter, utilizing perennial pastures held in reserve (stockpiled forages). For those of you who supplement your cattle with grain, 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 is that the cost of hauling manure is reduced. Nutrients are returned to the land naturally to be used by growing forages while in the rest cycle of your rotational grazing program.

 

StockingRates

Apr 20, 2012

BEEFALO & CATTLE STOCKING RATES

   Traditionally pastures have been stocked based on the number of cattle per acre per season. This approach has presented problems in the past because of variation in the cattle’s ages and weights. Weights of beef cattle have changed dramatically in the last 15 years because of genetic "improvements" and/or cross breeding such as the Beef Cattle breed known as BEEFALO.  

   Bigger cows tend to wean heavier calves, but bigger cows and calves also consume more forage. Consequently, range/pasture conditions have suffered where cattle numbers or days of grazing per pasture have not been reduced.  However, BEEFALO have been studied over the last 30-40 years, and have proven to be the best foragers.  Full-blood BEEFALO consist of 37.5% Bison genetics and are extremely winter hardy, have low birth weights, and wean & finish at heavier weights in less time than "traditional" Beef cattle.  They also aren’t as selective when grazing as other breeds of Beef Cattle.  When their done grazing a pasture/paddock, it looks consistently grazed over the entire area. They don’t pick and choose forages, they eat everything!  As far as forage conversion goes, BEEFALO have consistently proven themselves to be the best converters of forage to meat that the Beef cattle industry has developed.  Still in relatively small numbers, herds of BEEFALO are growing due to consumer demand. 

   The majority of BEEFALO producers are located in Kentucky and the Northeast region of the United States.  BEEFALO have lower healthy birth weights, which is perfect for first time heifers.  BEEFALO’s weaning weights are comparable to the most desirable Angus Breeds on the commercial market today.  Beefalo calves finish 2-3 months earlier than "traditional" more common breeds of Angus cattle which is of course the most desirable trait for cattle in any size operation.  They are the perfect design of winter hardiness, and grass-fed genetics available today.  Our Registered BEEFALO cattle are 37.5% Bison.  The balance of their genetics are Red Angus, Hereford, Charolais & Limousine. 

   They are the most versatile cross-bed Beef cattle available to producers today.  We have had no calf mortality since starting our herd and our 26 month old Purebred BEEFALO BULL is defiantly not sterile, which most uneducated folks believe is a characteristic of the BEEFALO Breed.  He has produced many heifer calves already this season! We have also never lost a calf.  Calf mortality is another common misconception of the breed.

   Getting back to stocking rates based on Animal units.  The AU equivalent for beef cattle is easily estimated by dividing the average shrunk weight of the class or herd of animals by 1000.  Animal unit equivalents for cattle can be based on their average weight for the grazing season or adjusted at monthly intervals. Cows with an average weight of 1200 lb would be equal to 1.2 AU.  Our BEEFALO Calves begin foraging when they are about 4 weeks old.  By the time our calves are 3 months old they spend as much time grazing as our older heifers & cows.  It is generally recommended that the average calf weight should be added to the average cow weight to calculate AU equivalents for pairs when the average age of the calf crop is 3 months.

   Yearling cattle with an initial weight of 550 lb and a seasonal gain of 220 lb would be .66 AU  (550 + 110)/1000 for the season.  Monthly estimates could be calculated by dividing total gain into monthly increments or by using response surface information for seasonal gains in locations similar to your production environment.  About 60 to 70 percent of the total summer gain in growing cattle generally occurs in the first half of the summer grazing season.  Animal performance in response to a given stocking rate is variable over years because of differences in forage allowance.  It must be remembered that cattle graze forage, not acres. Consequently stocking rates often need to be varied from pasture to pasture and from year to year to provide adequate amounts of forage for all livestock.

For more information about the BEEFALO Breed, check out our farms web-site.

www.TheKuhnFamilyFarm.com

GrazingManagementPart2

Apr 20, 2012

Grazing Management  Part 2

 

Management Intensive Rotational Grazing, otherwise known as MIRG, is a BIG part of Prescribed Grazing Management.  It’s a system of grazing in which ruminant and non-ruminant herds are regularly and systematically moved to fresh pasture with the intent to maximize the quality and quantity of forage growth. MIRG can be used with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and other animals. The herds graze one portion of pasture, or a paddock, while allowing the others to recover. The length of time a paddock is grazed will depend on the size of the herd and the size of the paddock. Resting grazed lands allows the vegetation to renew energy reserves, rebuild shoot systems, and deepen root systems, with the end result being long-term maximum biomass production. MIRG is especially effective because grazers do better on the more tender younger plant stems. MIRG also leave parasites behind to die off minimizing or eliminating the need for de-wormers. Pasture systems alone can allow grazers to meet their energy requirements, and with the increased productivity of MIRG systems, the grazers obtain the majority of their nutritional needs without the supplemental feed sources that are required in continuous grazing systems.

Animal Health Risks

   Bloat is a common problem in grazing systems for ruminants (although not for pigs or poultry), that if left untreated can lead to animal death. This problem occurs when foam producing compounds in plants are digested by cows, causing foam to form in the rumen of the animal and ultimately prohibiting animals from expelling gas.  As a side note, Sorry if your eating breakfast while reading this blog.  Just though some of you might be interested in knowing exactly what causes bloat.  The risk of bloat can be mitigated by seeding non-bloating legumes with the grasses.  Animals are especially susceptible to bloat if they are moved to new pasture sources when they are particularly hungry. ESPECIALLY THIS TIME OF THE SEASON, if they’ve only been getting dry hay all winter!   For this reason, It is important to make sure that your cattle are given plenty of free-choice hay while on lush green spring pastures, this will help limit the potential for your cattle to gorge themselves when turned onto new paddocks.

Animal Health Benefits and Animal Welfare. 

   Herd health benefits will obviously increase when any animal has access to open space, sunlight and fresh air.  Freedom of movement within a paddock results in increased physical fitness, which limits the potential for injuries and abrasion often suffered when cattle (specifically Dairy), are never allowed to leave their "free-stall" while in lactation, Sometimes for up to a year and a half!!   Allowing your cattle access to the outdoors (even if only for a few hours between milkings or overnight),  reduces the potential of exposure to high levels of harmful microorganisms like those that can cause mastitis and milk fever.  Outdoor activity also helps cattle keep their hooves naturally maintained, allowing your hoof trimmer more time at your neighbors and potentially cutting your vet bills almost in half too.  The only drawback for most dairy producers is the initial loss of milk pounds per animal.  But the over-all increase in herd health and decreased medical bill’s offsets the loss of production.  

* Although milk yields are often lower in MIRG systems, net farm income per cow is often greater as compared to confinement operations.   Additionally, a transition to management intensive rotational grazing is associated with low start-up and maintenance costs.

   The main costs associated with transitioning to management intensive rotational grazing are purchasing fencing, fencers, and water supply materials.   If a pasture was continuously grazed in the past, than you probably already have half if not most of what you need in the way of fencing and a fencer/charger.   Cost savings to Ranchers/Farmers can also be recognized when one considers that many of the costs associated with livestock operations are transmitted to the cattle.   For example, your cattle actively harvest their own sources of food for the portion of the year when grazing is possible.  

   In the North/East, we have our BEEFALO cattle on pasture year-round, but there are only "green forages" available for consumption April – November.  This translates into lower costs for feed production and harvesting, which are fuel & time intensive endeavors.  MIRG systems rely on the cattle to produce fertilizer sources by way of their manure.  There is also no need for collection, storage, transportation, and application of this manure. Additionally, external fertilizer use such as N. P & K, contributes to other costs such as labor to apply it, purchasing costs, and the time to do it!   It has been demonstrated that management intensive rotational grazing systems also result in time savings because the majority of work which might otherwise require human labor is transmitted to the herd.

Grazing Management Part2

Apr 07, 2012

Grazing Management  Part 2

 

Management Intensive Rotational Grazing, otherwise known as MIRG, is a BIG part of Prescribed Grazing Management.  It’s a system of grazing in which ruminant and non-ruminant herds are regularly and systematically moved to fresh pasture with the intent to maximize the quality and quantity of forage growth. MIRG can be used with cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and other animals. The herds graze one portion of pasture, or a paddock, while allowing the others to recover. The length of time a paddock is grazed will depend on the size of the herd and the size of the paddock. Resting grazed lands allows the vegetation to renew energy reserves, rebuild shoot systems, and deepen root systems, with the end result being long-term maximum biomass production. MIRG is especially effective because grazers do better on the more tender younger plant stems. MIRG also leave parasites behind to die off minimizing or eliminating the need for de-wormers. Pasture systems alone can allow grazers to meet their energy requirements, and with the increased productivity of MIRG systems, the grazers obtain the majority of their nutritional needs without the supplemental feed sources that are required in continuous grazing systems.

Animal Health Risks

   Bloat is a common problem in grazing systems for ruminants (although not for pigs or poultry), that if left untreated can lead to animal death. This problem occurs when foam producing compounds in plants are digested by cows, causing foam to form in the rumen of the animal and ultimately prohibiting animals from expelling gas.  As a side note, Sorry if your eating breakfast while reading this blog.  Just though some of you might be interested in knowing exactly what causes bloat.  The risk of bloat can be mitigated by seeding non-bloating legumes with the grasses.  Animals are especially susceptible to bloat if they are moved to new pasture sources when they are particularly hungry. ESPECIALLY THIS TIME OF THE SEASON, if they’ve only been getting dry hay all winter!   For this reason, It is important to make sure that your cattle are given plenty of free-choice hay while on lush green spring pastures, this will help limit the potential for your cattle to gorge themselves when turned onto new paddocks.

Animal Health Benefits and Animal Welfare. 

   Herd health benefits will obviously increase when any animal has access to open space, sunlight and fresh air.  Freedom of movement within a paddock results in increased physical fitness, which limits the potential for injuries and abrasion often suffered when cattle (specifically Dairy), are never allowed to leave their "free-stall" while in lactation, Sometimes for up to a year and a half!!   Allowing your cattle access to the outdoors (even if only for a few hours between milkings or overnight),  reduces the potential of exposure to high levels of harmful microorganisms like those that can cause mastitis and milk fever.  Outdoor activity also helps cattle keep their hooves naturally maintained, allowing your hoof trimmer more time at your neighbors and potentially cutting your vet bills almost in half too.  The only drawback for most dairy producers is the initial loss of milk pounds per animal.  But the over-all increase in herd health and decreased medical bill’s offsets the loss of production.  

* Although milk yields are often lower in MIRG systems, net farm income per cow is often greater as compared to confinement operations.   Additionally, a transition to management intensive rotational grazing is associated with low start-up and maintenance costs.

   The main costs associated with transitioning to management intensive rotational grazing are purchasing fencing, fencers, and water supply materials.   If a pasture was continuously grazed in the past, than you probably already have half if not most of what you need in the way of fencing and a fencer/charger.   Cost savings to Ranchers/Farmers can also be recognized when one considers that many of the costs associated with livestock operations are transmitted to the cattle.   For example, your cattle actively harvest their own sources of food for the portion of the year when grazing is possible.  In the North/East, we have our cattle on pasture year-round, but there are only "greens" available for consumption April – November.  This translates into lower costs for feed production and harvesting, which are fuel intensive endeavors.  MIRG systems rely on the cattle to produce fertilizer sources by way of their manure.  There is also no need for collection, storage, transportation, and application of this manure. Additionally, external fertilizer use such as N. P & K, contributes to other costs such as labor to apply it, purchasing costs, and the time to do it!   It has been demonstrated that management intensive rotational grazing systems also result in time savings because the majority of work which might otherwise require human labor is transmitted to the herd.

NOW GET 'EM OUT THERE AND LET THEM GRAZE!!

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