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September 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.

Something to be Proud of

Sep 25, 2010

Something to be proud of

 

   Cattle and beef production represent the largest single segment of American agriculture. In fact, the USDA says more farms are classified as beef cattle operations (35%) than any other type.   USDA’s 2007 Census of Agriculture classified 687,540 farms as beef cattle operations.  The future of our industry depends on producing a safe, wholesome and nutritious food tailored to the needs of our consumers.   For many farmers and ranchers, raising cattle is a family tradition.  Some of us may be first generation, some of us may be 3rd, 5th or even 9th generation cattle ranchers.  There’s more to raising safe, wholesome, quality beef cattle than just turning your bull out to pasture in late summer with your heifers and cow’s.  It takes knowledge by trial & error, knowledge by learning from other producers, desire, integrity and honesty.  Most farms and ranches in the United States, including cattle ranches, are family owned and operated.  Even the largest farms tend to be family farms. More than 97 percent of beef cattle farms and ranches are classified as family farms.  When it comes to beef cattle production, most operations are smaller than you might think.  According to USDA, the majority of beef cattle operations (79%) have less than 50 head of cattle.  Although cattle farms and ranches are spread across the United State, nearly a third of cattle operations are located in the Plains states.

 

   We all strive to provide safe, high-quality beef for our consumers both stateside and over-seas at an affordable price while sustaining and improving resources under our close watch/care.   Beef production methods have evolved to achieve this goal, resulting in new management protocols and technologies specifically through programs like The Beef Quality Assurance Program (BQA) and NCBA’s MBA Program.  Both of those programs help us meet consumer demand.  And now a day’s, consumers demand quality animal care otherwise known as BQA.  As Beef producers, the best way to produce safe, wholesome and nutritious beef is to simply combine the latest scientific advances (see NCBA’s web-site and the Center for Beef Excellence site), with time-honored family traditions which most of us already posses.  If you’re a first generation farmer/rancher/producer, there’s no better time than the present to start cementing family traditions for following generations.  Every family started as first generation "somethings"!  Right?  Why not start a family tradition of producing Beef with the guidelines set forth by the BQA program?

 

   If your not a Beef producer and don’t have the opportunity of becoming one, but like to learn as much as you can about what you eat and where it really comes from and how it get’s there?  The following is a brief synopsis I found on the Explore Beef.org web-site…

   Beef production begins with a cow-calf producer who maintains a breeding herd of cows that raise calves every year. When a calf is born, it weighs 60-100 pounds. Beef calves are weaned at six to 10 months of age when they weigh 450-700 pounds.   Calves leave their ranch or farm of origin between six and 12 months of age. Younger or lighterweight calves may be sent to a backgrounder or stocker who continues to graze them on grass or other forages until they are 12 to 16 months old.  Both the cow-calf and stocker segments graze cattle on range and pastureland that is largely unsuitable for crop production. In fact, about 85 percent of U.S. grazing lands are unsuitable for producing crops, and grazing animals on this land more than doubles the area that can be used to produce food.

   After the calves are weaned, some are sold at an auction market.   A cow-calf producer may also choose to keep the best females to add to the breeding herd. Some animals may not be sold at an auction market, and instead will go directly from the cow-calf producer to the feedlot or from the backgrounder/stocker to the feedlot.   Most beef cattle spend approximately four to six months in a feedlot just prior to harvest where  they are fed a grain-based diet.  At the feedlot (also called feedyard), cattle are grouped into pens that provide space for socializing and exercise. They receive feed rations that are balanced by a professional nutritionist.     

   Feedlots employ a consulting veterinarian, and employees monitor the cattle’s health and well-being daily. Feedlots are efficient and provide consistent, wholesome and affordable beef using fewer resources. The time cattle spend in a feedlot is often called the "finishing phase."  Some producers choose to finish cattle on grass pasture. The beef derived from these animals is "grass-finished" (sometimes called "grass fed").  This is a significantly smaller segment of modern beef production because it requires unique climate conditions, and it takes the cattle longer to reach market weight.  All cattle—whether they are grass-finished or finished in a feedlot—spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass pasture.

   Once cattle reach market weight—typically 1,200-1,400 pounds and 18-22 months of age, they are sent to a processing facility to be harvested. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors are stationed in all federally inspected packing plants and oversee the implementation of safety, quality and animal welfare standards from the time animals enter the plant until the final beef products are shipped to retail and foodservice establishments for consumers to purchase.

   There, that was fairly painless right?  If you’re a consumer and you have any other questions about where you food comes from and how it got there, log on to ExploreBeef.org.  Above all, don’t be afraid to stop at a farm or ranch and ask a producer about how they raise their Beef and why?  Ask as many producers as you can find, you may be surprised how many different way’s of raising Beef there are. 

  Beef production affects the U.S. economy. According to USDA, producers of meat animals in 2008 were responsible for more than $66 billion in added value to the U.S. economy, as measured by their contribution to the national output.  Now that’s Something to be Proud of!

Time to check pasture fertility

Sep 09, 2010

Time to check soil conditions and fertility

   Without testing your soil, it is impossible to know how much fertilizer you will need to apply to your pastures and fields this fall.  If your not careful, you may over apply amendments and that’ll put an extra punch in your pocket!  Not to mention also potentially damaging the environment.  However, not applying enough amendments will mean a shortage of vital nutrients.

   A soil test, which is minimal in cost if you work with your local FSA office.  And in most cases the FSA office will pay for if you stress the importance of not over applying, seeing as how that could be "detrimental to the environment".  The staff at the FSA can help you decide which nutrients are required allowing a more targeted approach to fertilizer use, saving you both time and money.  Something all of us have little to no amount of.

   Improving soil fertility will also improve late season growth, increase perennial ryegrass and white clover content, decrease weed competition and increase nutrient uptake prior to winter hibernation.  What more could you want from your forages?

   This time of year, avoid prolonged periods of very heavy grazing.  Instead use short four to five week rest periods, ideally encouraging clover & alfalfa recovery prior to that first killing frost of the fall/winter.  White clover is a perennial legume. The key to its survival and production is its multi-branded creeping stem called a stolon, which provides sites for new leaves, roots and flowers.   White clover fixes nitrogen into the ground - converting it to nitrates.   Livestock are likely to consumer 20 -30 per cent more white clover than grass (especially pig’s), assuming equal access - which leads to increased live weight gains.

   White clover will increase the crude protein content of first cut haylage by one per cent for every 10 per cent increase in the amount of clover in the sward.   The root system of white clover and sunken crown alfalfa can also help tackle soil compaction, allowing freer movement of nutrients and water.   The optimum amount of clover in a field is 30% of the total dry matter.  At this level, clover can fix 150kg N per acre into your pasture soils per year!  To reach 30 per cent clover growing, the sward needs to look more like there is 50-60 per cent clover at its peak growth in August & September.

   Ideally grass/clover should follow cereals, roots or brassicas, as these will have reduced nitrogen levels in the soil which in turn encourages clover establishment.   In mixed swards, seed rates should be 2-4 kg per ha (150 clover seedlings per metre squared), with broadcasting or "frost seeding" in February or March being a more reliable method than drilling in the late summer or early fall.  The best time to "Frost seed" clover is early in the morning when the ground has heaved or "honeycombed", so when the sun hopefully warm’s the top few inches of the heaved soil it will close over the seed ensuring a good seed to soil contact.

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