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April 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.

Prescribed Grazing Management Part 2

Apr 23, 2010
Prescribed Grazing Management Part 2
 
Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (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 system also result in time savings because the majority of work which might otherwise require human labor is transmitted to the herd.

Prescribed Grazing Management Part 1

Apr 18, 2010
Prescribed Grazing Management Part 1
(information available from the NRCS Rangeland and Pasture Management Handbook)
 
   The Natural Resources Conservation Service provides assistance to Ranchers & Farmers who wish to apply grazing management to their operations. The primary conservation practice used is prescribed grazing.  

Prescribed grazing is the vegetation management practice that is applied to all land where grazing is a planned use. The grazing may be from domestic livestock, semi-domestic animals (buffalo and reindeer), or wildlife. This practice has been developed to incorporate all the methods and concepts of grazing management.
 
Prescribed grazing
the controlled harvest of vegetation with grazing or browsing animals,
managed with the intent to achieve a specified objective.
 
   The objectives developed with the Rancher/Farmer during the planning process determines the level of planning and detail necessary for the application of prescribed grazing. The minimum level of planning for the prescribed grazing practice includes enough inventory information for the landowner to know the proper amount of harvest to maintain enough cover to protect the soil and maintain or improve the quality and quantity of desired vegetation.  The available forage and the number of grazing and browsing animals must be in balance for effective management of grazing lands. This is done by developing a feed, forage, livestock balance sheet. This part of the inventory identifies the available forage from the land and the demand for forage by the livestock and wildlife.  It identifies where and when shortages or surpluses in forage exist.
 
   Grazing is one of the major forces in defining what plant species will dominate a site.  Different grazing
pressures by different grazing and browsing animals favor different plant species.  If the grazing is severe,
undesirable plants are generally favored. Grazing management can be planned and applied that favors a particular plant community or species. This can be done to meet the objectives of the landowner and the needs of the resource.  Grazing management has been successfully planned and applied that has favored the
re-establishment and increase in woody plants along riparian areas while still providing quality forage for the grazing animal. Where plants have died possibly due to overgrazing, recovery depends upon establishment of new plants. Although plants of the original community are invigorated by the reduction of grazing pressure and may suppress the successor species, the seedlings of the original species can become established in competition with the undesirable species only under favorable conditions.
   Rate of plant re-growth following grazing is dependent on the amount of leaf area remaining for
photosynthesis and the availability of active axillary buds to initiate new tillers.
 
    Every management unit has certain characteristics that influence the distribution of grazing. Among these characteristics are soil, topography, size of pasture or feed-lot, location of water, fences, riparian areas like tree and shrubbery plantings available through NRCS/FSA Grant Programs like CREP, natural barriers such as strips of grass a minimum of 30’ wide that animals are not granted access to, and the kinds and distribution of plants.   In addition, weather conditions, insects, location of salt and minerals, type of grazing management being applied (frequency and severity of grazing such as “MOB” Grazing), and habits of the grazing animals affect the pattern of grazing use.  For these reasons it is impractical to prescribe grazing use for every part of a large grazing unit, rotational paddock, feed-lot or to prescribe identical use for all enclosures of a farm or ranch.  Determining the key grazing area(s) in each enclosure and planning the grazing to meet the needs of the plants in the key area are more practical.  If the key grazing area of a unit is properly grazed, the unit as a whole will not be excessively used.  The key grazing area in a management unit is a relatively small area within the grazing unit. This key area(s) is used to represent the grazing unit as a whole.   Most plant communities in a grazing unit consist of several plant species in varying amounts.
 
   Even though the entire plant community is of concern to management, to attempt to attain the desired use of every species would be impractical. It is more practical to identify a single species (or in some situations two or three) as a key species to serve as a guide to the use of the entire plant community.  If the key species within the key grazing area is properly grazed, the entire plant community will not be excessively used.
  
Characteristics of a key grazing area:
• Provides a significant amount, but not necessarily the greatest amount, of the available forage in the grazing unit.
• Is easily grazed because of even topography, accessible water, and other favorable factors influencing grazing distribution. Small areas of natural concentration, such as those immediately adjacent to water, salt, or shade, are not key grazing areas, nor are areas remote from water or of limited accessibility. However, riparian
areas are of special concern when establishing key grazing areas. Riparian areas are of generally small extent in relation to the surrounding landscape. These areas represent a significant resource in terms of forage production, buffering surface water flows, controlling accelerated erosion and sedimentation, capturing and
transforming subsurface pollutants, and providing essential wildlife habitat and local biodiversity.
• Areas of special concern can also be designated as key areas. Areas of special concern could include habitat for threatened or endangered species, cultural or archeological resources, water quality impaired waterbodies, and critically eroding areas.
• Is usually limited to one per grazing enclosure. More than one key grazing area may be needed for an unusually large enclosure, enclosures with riparian areas, enclosures that have very rough topography or widely spaced water where animals tend to locate, when different kinds of animals graze the enclosure, or when the enclosure is grazed at different seasons. The entire acreage of small enclosures can be considered the key grazing area.
 
Key grazing areas should be:
• Selected only after careful evaluation of the current pattern of grazing use in the enclosure.
• Selected to meet the objectives and needs of the resources, livestock, and landowner. Objectives and needs must meet the FOTG quality criteria.
• Changed when the pattern of grazing use is significantly modified because of changes in season of use, kinds or classes of grazing animals, enclosure size, water supplies, or other factors that affect grazing distribution.
 
Degree of grazing use as related to stocking rates
   Because of fluctuations in forage production or loss of forage other than by grazing use, arbitrarily assigning
a stocking rate at the beginning of a grazing period does not ensure attainment of a specific degree of use. If the specified degree of use is to be attained and trend satisfactorily maintained, stocking rates must be adjusted as the amount of available forage fluctuates. When determining initial stocking rates, grazing distribution characteristics of the individual grazing unit must be considered.   Many methods are used to determine the initial stocking rate within a grazing unit. Often the past stocking history and the trend of the plant community are the best indicators of a proper stocking rate. The Multi Species Stocking Calculator in the Grazing Lands Application (GLA) software is one method for determining stocking rates, especially when the area is grazed or browsed by more than one kind of animal.
 
Prescribed grazing schedule
   A prescribed grazing schedule is a system in which two or more grazing units are alternately deferred or
rested and grazed in a planned sequence over a period of years. The period of non-grazing can be throughout the year or during the growing season of the key plants.  Generally, deferment implies a non-grazing period less than a calendar year, while rest implies non-grazing for a full year or longer. The period of deferment is set for a critical period for plant germination, establishment, growth, or other function.
 
Grazing management is a tool to balance the capture of energy by the plants, the harvest of that energy by animals, and the conversion of that energy into a product that is marketable.
 
This is done primarily by balancing the supply of forage with the demand for that forage.
Such systems help to:
• Maintain or accelerate improvement in vegetation and facilitate proper use of the forage on all grazing units.
• Improve efficiency of grazing through uniform use of all grazing units.
• Stabilize the supply of forage throughout the grazing season.
• Enhance forage quality to meet livestock and wildlife needs.
• Improve the functioning of the ecological processes.
• Improve watershed protection.
• Enhance wildlife habitat.
 
   Many grazing systems are used in various places. Prescribed grazing is designed to fit the individual operating unit and to meet the operator's objectives and the practice specifications.  The basic types of grazing
management systems follow. Many others can be developed to fit specific objectives on specific lands.
• Deferred rotation
• Rest rotation
• High intensity—Low frequency
• Short duration

GRASS, it does a body good!!

Apr 09, 2010
100% Grass-Fed MILKERS
Milk from 100% Grass-fed animals is much healthier than ordinary milk. It has a higher concentration of vitamins and antioxidants, fewer “bad” fats, and more “healthy” fats such as omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid).
Typically, forages on grass based dairies include grasses like orchard, Endophyte-free fescue and a legume such as red & white clover or alfalfa. The animals are given free-choice hay and/or haylage when there is not enough high-quality pasture.
There are very few 100% Grass-fed dairies in the United States, but in recent years many more producers are transitioning to all grass due to the over-all improvement in animal health and lower vet and hoof trimmer bills. Heifers & Cows that are 100% Grass-fed may produce less milk, but in the long run the increased vitality of the animals and over-all herd health program improvements far outweigh the small loss in milk production. The more grass in the animals’ diet, the healthier the milk is for you and your family.
All of the dairy farmers should produce milk that is free of antibiotics and added hormones. 100% Grass-fed dairies in the U.S. have been very rare in recent years, but if you go back 60 years, all American dairies were grass-based. They may not have been 100% Grass-fed but they also weren’t as large as they are now. I’ve spoken to a lot of dairy producers in our state and most free-stall housed dairy cattle are kept that way because “it’s too much trouble and takes too much time to bring in 100, 200 or 500 cow’s 2 or 3 times a day for milking”. All too often the producers’ reasoning for confinement cattle is because there isn’t enough time. So herd health suffers because the bank is pushing the producer to “make more milk”, and with the dwindling number of farm kid’s staying on the farm after high school, Mom & Dad are pushed into a corner by the bankers who only care about getting paid, rather than the welfare of the animals that are lining their pockets. You can’t completely blame the kid’s either. Most times Dad isn’t willing to relinquish and decision making to the next generation either! O.K., O.K., I’ll come down off my soap box now, thanks for letting me vent.  
For more information about the nutritional benefits of Milk from 100% Grass-fed cows, read the essay Super Healthy Milk by Jo Robinson.

What's GREEN.

Apr 02, 2010
What’s GREEN.
As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day,
everyone’s doing what they can for the environment – recycling,
cutting back on energy use, biking to work.
 
There are many way’s to be green.
For America’s cattle farmers and ranchers, green
is protecting the land that is both our livelihood and our legacy.
Green is constantly developing new ways to raise more nutrient-rich beef
With fewer resources and with a smaller impact on the environment.
If we all do our part, we can preserve our Earth for this
generation – and generations to come.
 
BEEF. For Earth Day and Every Day.
 
Find out more about our everyday environmental commitment at
 
In November 2006, a report from the United Nations (U.N.) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) titled Livestock’s Long Shadow was released. The report’s primary publicized finding was livestock production accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
However, the statistics cited by Livestock’s Long Shadow differ significantly from those calculated by other reputable organizations, including the U.S.Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the U.S. authority on the environment and climate change. The claims made about global livestock production are not relevant to the United States. Those who claim the FAO report calls for reduced consumption of animal products fail to understand the authors’ intentions.
• The FAO report does not call for reduced consumption of animal products and, in fact, projects a doubling of meat production by 2050.
• U.S. livestock production practices should be considered a model for the rest of the world. According to Livestock’s Long Shadow, intensification provides “large opportunities for climate change mitigation,” “can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation,” and is the long-term solution to sustainable livestock production.
 
 
The report’s estimate for livestock’s contribution to GHG emissions (18%) is a global estimate, and not applicable to the United States or other developed countries.
• The entire U.S. agriculture sector accounts for only 6 percent of annual U.S. GHG emission, according to EPA(http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/downloads09/InventoryUSGhG1990-2007.pdf). Of this, livestock production is estimated to account for 2.8 percent of total U.S. emissions.
• A 2007 study by the University of Surrey, United Kingdom (U.K.), found
that livestock production plus processing accounted for 6.6 percent of U.K. GHG emissions. The 18 percent figure is far higher than the percentage calculated by other organizations.
• Another global estimate of livestock production found worldwide, livestock and manure contribute 5.1 percent to world GHG emissions (World Resources Institute or WRI: http://cait.wri.org/figures.php?page=/World-FlowChart).
This same group estimated that in the United States, livestock and manure contributed 2.5 percent to U.S. GHG emissions.
 
Livestock’s Long Shadow penalizes the livestock industry for emissions from land-use changes, specifically deforestation for feed production and grazing. Globally, a loss of sequestration due to these land-use changes amounts to roughly 2.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year (about 48% of total GHG emissions the report attributes to livestock).
• This type of land-use change does not occur in the United States, which actually has 16 million more acres of forestland than a century ago, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

The most significant change that affects carbon levels in the United States is the conversion of agricultural lands to development, which reduces land available for carbon sequestration.
 
Methane emissions in the United States are on the decline. According to EPA, overall U.S. Methane levels declined 5.1 percent from 1990 to 2007.
• Methane from livestock accounts for only 2.6 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions (EPA 2009).
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