Raising "Natural" BEEF
More and more producers are finding that they can receive a premium for cattle raised naturally.
"Raising cattle naturally is a method that has attracted consumer demand," says Mr. Karl Hoppe, North Dakota State University Extension Service area livestock specialist at the Carrington Research Extension Center. "Not to be confused with organic beef production, the US Department of Agriculture has specific standards for raising cattle naturally."
The "naturally raised claim for livestock" standard was published in the Federal Register in January 2009. The USDA’s naturally raised claim can be used for meat produced from livestock that meet the following conditions:
No growth-promoting products were administered to the animals.
No antibiotics (other than ionophores used to prevent parasitism) were administered to the animals.
No animal byproducts were fed to the animals.
For your Beef Cattle to be considered as being raised "naturally", calves cannot be implanted with ear implants that stimulate growth via hormones. Calves also cannot be treated with antibiotics individually or as a group via their feed or water.
This time of the year, cattle should be provided a mineral mix or mineral block while grazing pasture. If the mineral mix/block contains steamed bone meal as a calcium and phosphorous source, these calves no longer will be considered naturally raised since they had access to an animal byproduct while grazing with the cows. Try a standard Mol-Mag block. Most Feed Mills or Ag Supply Stores such as TSC will have multiple Mineral blocks to choose from.
If a calf is sick, it should be identified and separated from the naturally raised calves and treated with antibiotics or other appropriate therapy. But once the sick calf is treated with antibiotics, it no longer is considered to be naturally raised and cannot be sold as such.
Vaccinations that prevent disease and sickness are allowed and encouraged for naturally raised cattle. If you have a "Closed Herd", meaning you don’t import/introduce cattle into your herd from outside sources, you might elect to not even vaccinate your cattle. On the other hand if you do buy cattle and introduce them into your herd, especially from an auction/sale barn, it would be in your best interest and your cattle’s too, to vaccinate them and your entire herd! There’s allot of nasty stuff out there, and if you don’t have a trusted source (registered cattle herd with papers), for your cattle, your taking a chance by not vaccinating them and quarantining them for at least 2 weeks when bringing them onto your farm/ranch/feed-lot.
The type of feed program, such as grass, corn, hay or silage rations, does not affect the naturally raised claim. However, feeds that contain animal byproducts are not allowed. Animal byproducts can come from a variety of sources, including a commercial protein supplement, mineral mix or animal fat. Most feed manufacturers have products that are identified as natural for use in raising cattle naturally. But if you want to take the guesswork out of feeding your calves and cow’s try 100% Grass-fed! It’s better for your Cattle, You & The environment. Not to mention your customers/consumers.
Providing an ionophore to improve feed efficiency also is not allowed. Most creep feeds would have an ionophore included to help control bloat and improve feed efficiency, so calves eating a creep feed with an ionophore are disqualified from being classified as naturally raised. Why not leave the calves with their mothers to wean "naturally"? We don’t force wean our calves. They are with their mothers their entire lives. They generally wean them selves by the time their 6 months old. That eliminates ALLOT of stress on the calves, cow’s and us! Not to mention you can save a considerable amount of money by not needing milk replacers & creep feed. Leave them on pasture! GRASS is best.
Raising cattle naturally is a lifetime claim. Therefore, producers need to keep records of treating sick calves and all your other cattle too! Because those calves & cow's cannot be sold as naturally raised.