Aug 21, 2014
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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 & Weaning are on the way

Aug 21, 2014

 The next 2-3 months can be a stressful time of the year for the cow, the calf and the farmer/rancher.   Probably the most critical weaning decisions a farmer/rancher needs to make are gauging when and where to wean.  USDA's National Animal Health Monitoring System (NAHMS) reports that the average weaning age of beef calves in the U.S. is a little over seven months of age. Over three-quarters of these producers reported weaning calves between 5½ - 8½ months of age.

   The interesting part of the NAHMS survey is that producers reported a lack of flexibility in selection of weaning time. Relatively few ranchers indicated that cow condition, forage availability or market price drove the decision of when to wean calves.

 

   The objective of a weaning program is to get the calves separated from their mothers and on their own as efficiently and painlessly as possible. This should be when lactation declines and calf gain begins to decrease.  Another tell tale sign is when the cow starts pushing the calf off of her udders.

 

   Diets for weaned calves can be purchased or farm/ranch-developed. The advantage to purchased feeds is they're more likely to be balanced for energy, protein, fiber and minerals. In addition, many of them can contain medications recommended by a veterinarian or nutritionist.  On an operation such as ours, there is no guess work involved.  By the time our cow’s naturally wean their calves between 6 & 8 months of age their rumens are developed enough to properly process the forages in our pastures.  We never separate our calves from their mothers, when needed we will separate the younger heifers from the bull, but they stay with their mothers to do away with the stress of weaning which directly relates to the loss of daily gains this time of the season.


Some important considerations in weaning management include:

·        
Dust - Dust causes severe irritation to the respiratory tract. If you keep calves in pens, sprinkle the pens with water to keep dust down when using wood shavings.  The same is especially advisable in pig pens.  Wheat straw is a better bet, but if shavings are all you have access to, keep the pen's dust-free! 

 

        
Bawling - This is another irritant to the upper respiratory tract.  Not to mention your neighbors or weekend house guests.  To minimize bawling, separate the calves from the cows so they can't hear each other.  A good start would be to keep them out of site.  Either over the hill (if you have any), or on the other side of the barn.  Or better yet, if you have the option, on another farm.  Some producers are fortunate to have multiple facilities/farm locations.

·        
Dehydration - Some calves are not acquainted with water troughs and are so busy bawling they don't take time to find the water and drink. Use of a water source similar to one they may have been around may help.   We've seen producers that use nipple waterers that are primarily utilized in pig production with the end of a nipple from a calf bottle secured over the end.  Place a water trough directly under the nipple and they'll learn how to drink out of the trough by experimentation!

·        
Feed change - A change in diet from milk replacer to calf starter/grower grain to strictly grass/hay/pasture, requires the growth of different organisms in the rumen to digest the feed. This change can take up to two weeks.  This is obviously only for producers that separate the calves from the heifers/cows such as in a dairy setting or Beef feed-lot.  We don't separate our calves because that is what has worked best for us and our cattle.  We allow the calves (steers or heifers), to naturally wean themselves from the udder to the pasture.  In doing so, we relieve any weaning stress on the calf.


Weaning strategies

There are about as many weaning strategies as there are ranchers. Over the past 10-15 years, the beef industry has become more aware of the value of pre- and post-weaning calf health management and marketing management. It's worthwhile to explore the various "cookbook" weaning programs and regimes available.

 

·       One concept that's been getting a lot of attention is fenceline weaning, which allows cows and calves to have several days of fenceline contact, but calves are unable to nurse through the fence. This requires adequate facilities to allow for feeding and watering the calves, and the fence must be tight enough to prevent the calf from getting back in with the cow.

 

·       Early weaning is a management practice sometimes used during drought conditions, or when forage quantity is less than desirable.  Early weaning is often used to improve cow condition for rebreeding, particularly when forage is limiting.  Research shows mixed results on the economics of early weaning.

 

·       Extended weaning may make sense in times when feed costs are high and when grazing forages aren't a limiting factor. A Florida study shows that fall-calving cows can nurse calves for up to two months beyond a standard weaning age of 7-8 months and significantly increase calf weaning weight without affecting cow reproduction.


For more information go to:

·         http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/AN048

·         http://beef.tamu.edu/academics/beef/pub/health/vac_vaccine.pdf

·         www.extension.org/pages/Early_Weaning_Strategies

 

Why do you still question me?

Aug 11, 2014

 Pure & Simple

 

100% Grass-fed meat contains more antioxidants, omega-3’s, CLA, TVA, trace minerals, and vitamins than any other food, including "conventional" meats derived from livestock that are fed a grain diet such as corn, soy & silage.

 

As you’re about to learn, consuming 100% Grass-fed meat is one of the best ways to prevent disease, improve brain function, lose weight, and be more heart healthy.

 

Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential component of nerve tissue.  They modify how the body responds to stress and control numerous other metabolic processes.  Most people eat too many omega-6 fats and not enough omega-3.

 

CLA is a type of naturally occurring trans-fatty acid that improves brain function, causes weight loss, and reduces your risk of cancer.  What a steer eats dictates how much of these compounds are in the meat. 

 

Recently researchers compared the fatty acid compositions of three kinds of feeding.  Each group contained 18 beef cattle.  The 1st group was fed grains for 80 days before slaughter, group #2 was fed "by-product feedstuff" for 200 days, and group #3 was 100% Grass-fed.

Group #1: Short Term Grain Feeding (80 days)

Group #2: Long Term Feedlot Rations* (150-200 days)

Group #3: 100% Grass Feeding (Life time)

*The "Feedlot" rations were made of 50 percent barley and/or sorghum (a type of wheat) and some form of cottonseed/protein mix:  A mixture of grains.

 

Results

The 100% Grass-fed cows had more omega-3’s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  Just 80 days of grain feeding was enough to destroy the omega-3 content of the beef.  CLA content plummeted in the same amount of time.  The longer the animals were fed grains, the lower the quality of the meat.

The omega-3 quantity in grain-fed meat was so low, it didn’t qualify as a meaningful dietary source.

The 100% Grass-fed meat has enough omega-3 to be considered a good source of n-3 fats.  The total amount of omega-3 we need is small if you have a good omega-6 to omega-3 ratio.  Therefore, eating grass-fed meat along with some fatty fish may be enough to cover your omega-3 needs.

Grain feeding significantly reduces the omega-3 and CLA content of meat.  The feedlot cattle had the lowest levels, the grain-fed cattle were in the middle, and the grass-fed cattle had the most.

 

The longer an animal is fed grains, the lower the nutrient content of the meat.

 

Summary

Grain-fed beef is much lower in omega-3’s and CLA

The longer steers are fed grains, the lower the omega-3 and CLA content.

Feedlot cattle have the lowest amount of omega-3‘s.  Regular grain-fed cattle are slightly better.

The last part of a cow’s life is the most critical in terms of fat quality.

Meat can be a good source of omega-3’s, if it’s 100% Grass-fed.  Grain-fed meat has lower levels, so you’ll need to eat a lot of cold water ocean fish or take fish oil supplements to reach your daily omega-3 requirements.

100% Grass-fed meat has more healthy fats than grain-fed meat.

Grass is Good

Jul 28, 2014

 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

-          Ryegrass

-          Ladino (red) Clover

 

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 "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 bale’s they will be sooooo heavy, your wife will complain the whole time your unloading the wagons!

Up here in North-East PA sometimes drydown 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 pasture quality.   The legumes that work best, no matter where in the country you live, are red and white clovers.   But you also 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 fall-like temperatures we’ve been having recently, our cool season grasses are growing remarkably well, only problem is that we get rain every 3-4 days which isn’t conducive with making dry hay.  Cool season pastures 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.

 

Rotational grazing.   A rotational grazing program such as what we use on our farm/ranch, uses several pastures with one being grazed while the others are rested.  We divide our pasture into smaller areas

called paddocks (approx. 2 acres each), and move our cattle from one to the next, determined by the rate of forage re-growth 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 the costs 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.

Feeding your livestock Trees!

Jul 09, 2014

 Silvo Pasturing?

 

   Prior to 1940, farmers turning their pigs out into the wooded areas of their farms in the Southeastern part of this country was a very common practice.  In the winter the pigs were than brought back to the farm "proper" and fed left-over corn stalks and other crop residues.  The hardwood species of tree’s such as the mighty oaks and chestnuts throughout the Appalachian region provided nut’s which pig’s love, and fortunately do very well on.  Pigs are still fed chestnuts but by a much smaller percentage of producers, and those pigs that are, are reported by consumers to be the sweetest tasting pork they’ve ever had.  The tall broad branched Chestnut tree’s also provided much needed shade during the sweltering heat of the summer.   Another nut favored by pigs and their producers are Acorns.  Pig’s fed acorns are very low in saturated fat and high in healthy Oleic Acid, which is another advantage for producers and consumers alike.   In Spain this type of pork sell’s for up to $40 per pound!!  Unfortunately you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in this country willing to pay $15 per pound for healthy Pork.  Sorry, but don’t let the prior mentioned statistics burst your bubble.

 

   If you’ve seen the movie FOOD INC., than you know who Virginia farmer Joel Salatin is.  He is the best example of a sustainable farmer that I can think of.  If you ever have the time to hear him speak or visit his farm DO IT!  You’ll be glad you did.  Joel say’s that pigs are excellent at taking recently logged forest land and transforming it into lush pasture.  He also stated that pig’s love the roots and bark of left-over saplings and will eat the left behind roots and bark from cut trees.  But you need to get them out there as soon as possible, because pigs are "ground oriented", he stated that they will ignore anything over 24" high.  Joel’s oldest pig pastures have self-produced a mixture of perennial ryegrass & crabgrass.  He has no idea where the seeds came from because he didn’t seed the pastures with those varieties.  And those pig pastures are the only pastures on his sprawling Virginia farm with perennial ryegrass.  Pretty cool huh?

 

   In a silvopasture the air temperature difference on a hot day is up to 20 degrees lower, compared with the temperature just a few feet away where there are no trees.  In cold weather it would be the opposite: warmer near the trees and colder farther away.

 

   And this is by far the best reason to try silvopasturing, horn fly problems will be reduced to almost nonexistent by the birds and microorganisms attracted in this grazing environment.

 

   So if you have land that has been logged recently and in most cases the pitch of land is much steeper than you would like to try and mow with your brush hog & tractor, try a forest hog!  Berkshires, Hampshires, Yorkshires and our favorites Tam-Roc PIGS, are best suited for this kind of land clearing.  For a silvopasture grazing system to work successfully you must have a commitment to intensive forage, livestock and timber management.  And last but not least, an intensive livestock grazing rotation is a must to keep your silvopasture healthy & productive for the next 50-100 years!

Shade your Cattle

Jun 28, 2014

 To shade or not to shade?

 

   With the extremely short transition from winter to Summer in the Northeast, and the extreme drought in the South West over the last couple of years, many producer have been struggling with the question of how much shade do my cattle need?

 

   I recently read an article about research that was done in Australia where drought, heat and wild fires have also been a big problem for a long time.  Researchers looked at the effect of shade on body temperature and overall performance of cattle, primarily in feed-lots where shade isn’t usually even offered!

 

   164 "Angus" steers were separated into 20 pens.  10 of the pens were shaded with an 80% solar block shade cloth, and 10 pens were left un-shaded.  Water and dry matter consumption were closely monitored and measured as was body temperature every 30 minutes via an implanted transmitter.  Ah!  Modern technology.  I guess it’s better than being the guy or gal that needs to do continual rectal temperatures on 164 cattle for 120 day’s!  And some of us thought milking 2 or 3 times a day was fatiguing!

 

   After the 120 day study, the cattle were harvested and data was collected.  The shaded cattle had heavier "hot" carcass weights.  That is because the shaded cattle also showed to have higher dry matter intake, average daily weight gain and gain-to-feed ratio.  It (the shade), didn’t however effect the loin muscle area, fat depth or marbling score of the carcasses.   The un-shaded cattle did consume 51% less feed.

 

   So if your looking to create a comfortable living arrangement for your cattle and not just looking for way’s to cut feed cost’s this summer, shade your cattle.  Give them the option to find relief.  If the option is there you can take the guesswork out of trying to figure out if your cattle need shade or not.  If they seek comfort/shade than obviously they need it, right?  It just like during the cold temperatures of February and March for most of us this past "Polar Vortex" of a winter.

 

We have had both Pure-bred Red Angus & Full-blooded Beefalo cattle on our farm, and when winter is dishing out it’s worst the Angus are the first ones in the barn.  The BEEFALO are the last one to seek shelter if at all.  What I’m saying is, some breeds of cattle are able to adapt to extreme conditions because they have been in one environment or region for many generations.  If you buy cattle from outside your local region, you need to expect them to have some difficulty adjusting.

 

Another cold weather breed that is winter hardy by genetics are Highland cattle.  Just looking at them and there "coat" is an obvious indicator.  The same is true on the other end of the temperature scale.   Senepol cattle evolved on the Caribbean Island of St. Croix when N'Dama cattle were imported for Senegal, West Africa in the 1800's. The island of St. Croix is the largest and southernmost of the U.S. Virgin Islands, located approximately 1,200 miles southeast of Miami, Florida.  Now that’s HOT!  The N'Dama, a Bos taurus breed, was well suited for the Caribbean because of its heat tolerance, insect and disease resistance and ability to thrive on poor quality forage.

 

   Shade is not often conveniently placed for rotational grazing systems. Often some paddocks have shade while others do not. The following alternatives can be used for shade in a rotational grazing system.

- Natural shade is the lowest cost alternative, but is not often in the proper location and care must be taken to avoid killing trees with too high a cow density.  Strategic plantings can be used over time to create a natural shade environment.  Placing shade trees on the west side of pasture areas is most desirable.

- Permanent shade can be provided by constructing barns or sheds, but is not often in the proper location in the grazing system and can be costly.

- Portable, low-cost shades can be built from 2.5" pipe and welded into a frame sturdy enough to take the abuse from cattle.  For rotational grazing, the frames can be made portable and moved with the animals, or moved to different locations to avoid high manure build-up in a particular location. For covering, shade cloth will allow air movement while providing shade.  Use 80% shade cloth for such structures.  Another option that provides additional insulation value and complete shade is to use sheet metal or woven wire with straw or

hay for insulation.  However, the construction and maintenance of these type roofs for portable shades is greater.  Frames should have a skid-type bottom member to allow moving from paddock to paddock if necessary.  Dimensions of 10'x20' are practical maximums for portable shade size.

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