Sep 22, 2014
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December 2013 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.

Winter Wonderland

Dec 14, 2013

 100% SNOW Fed?


Recent snow and ice storms, including the storm currently dumping on the Northeast coupled with power outages have been a real challenge for livestock and livestock producers.  Like we really need any more challenges, especially this time of the year!


These conditions have kept a lot of livestock from getting enough drinking water. Beef cattle, for example, need 8 to 10 gallons per day.  A milking dairy cow drinks about 30 to 50 gallons of water each day.

Water weighs 8.35 lbs/gal, so a milking dairy cow may consume as much as 420 pounds of water daily.

Therefore, the intake of water on a per pound basis is far greater than that of protein, carbohydrates, fats and minerals a cow consumes in what we normally think of as "ration." This means what we usually focus on (dry matter intake) accounts for only about 12% of the cow’s total nutrient intake; while water accounts for about 88%!  That is why water IS the most important nutrient in a cow’s total daily intake.


Producers might be tempted to think their cattle can survive by eating snow as a water source, but even when a lot of snow is available, cattle need water.


In general, cattle do not adapt to eating snow as a water source very quickly.  They can, but not overnight. 


The BIG issue is that the snow is in wind-packed drifts and/or has melted and is now refrozen, you will not get most cattle breeds or many other livestock species to consume this kind of snow as it is too hard on their mouths.  BEEFALO on the other hand, are very easily adaptable to breaking through hard pack snow for forages and/or water.  Our Beefalo have broken through 3" of ice with their noses to get to water.


If cattle stop drinking or have severely reduced levels of water consumption, they will reduce their feed intake, and this will lead to disaster in this very cold weather.  Cattle, pigs, chickens etc. need to keep eating to produce enough energy and heat to keep from suffering frostbite and hypothermia.


There are many reasons why cattle producers could consider allowing their cows to graze snow in winter for their water requirements.  Lengthening the grazing season, without the need for extensive water system enhancements, is just one of the many compelling reasons.  Any time you can get your cows to feed themselves it reduces winter feeding costs and improves your bottom line. 


Whatever your reason, it is important to go into it with your eyes wide open, and armed with knowledge.

If snow is abundant and not icy, crusted over or packed into hard drifts, dry, pregnant cows can consume adequate amounts of snow to satisfy their water needs.  It is important that you know the body condition score (level of fat reserves) of your cows. It is best to start out the winter with a body condition score above three on a scale of one to five.

Brace Yourself for SPRING!

Dec 05, 2013

 Increase your GRASS Profit$


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 the profitability of your forages.


-          Consult your neighbors/grazing experts about the specifics of your local area before proceeding.

-          Attend "Local" grazing conferences.  This is the time of the year when most of them are held.

-          Stockpile some forages.   Next August begin setting aside a supply of forage ( an extra pasture), to use after forage growth has ended in the fall. This practice is also referred to as "deferred grazing."


Forages adaptable to stockpiling include perennials such as…


-          Tall fescue

-          Orchardgrass

-          Ryegrass


Overseeding/Frost seeding 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 bales,  your wife will complain the whole time your unloading the wagons!  Up here in the North-East sometimes dry-down 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 over-all pasture quality.   The legumes that work best, no matter where in the country you live, are red and white clovers.


Cool season pastures. "Cool season grasses 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.  Kinda like growing lettuce and broccoli in your garden.


Rotational grazing.   A rotational grazing program such as what we use on our farm/ranch, uses several pastures or "paddocks" with one being grazed while the others are rested for a minimum of 3 weeks.  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, remember "stockpiling forages".   For those of you who supplement your cattle with feed, STOP!

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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