The Efficiency of Grazing Cattle

Working on time management skills? You might just learn a thing or two from a cow. In the 1940's Cornell University studied cattle to see how they spent their time each day.  Andre' Voisin's book, Grass Productivity  has the detailed study on the efficiency of grazing cattle.

The university studied cow-calf pairs on pasture. Observers learned that cattle graze for a little less than eight hours per day. No over-time for bovine. They never exceed eight hours of grazing time.

Spend time Wisely

The cattle spent about seven hour per day ruminating (chewing their cud). The time differed slightly depending on the fiber content of the forage. Some ruminating is done lying down and part standing up.

Cattle lie down for slightly less than twelve hours per day. Cows divided these 12 hours into nine rest periods of varying length.

The cattle in the study didn't deviate in their daily routine. When they replicated the study in other countries the cattle showed the same results. In areas with hotter daytime temperatures the cattle spent no more than eight hours grazing, but they did it at night. The slight variances  by breed or heredity weren't much different, they didn't change the study's results.

Quality is Everything

Here's where the efficiency of grazing cattle matters.; If cattle spend eight hours grazing each day quality is everything. If they're grazing poor pastures without nutrient dense forage they're basically spending eight hours eating junk food. Eight hours of quality forage, either pasture or hay, boost the cattle’s health. Feeding quality produces quality results.And how they're grazing matters, too. MIG grazing improves soil quality and prevents erosion.

If you're spending eight hours at something be sure to get the greatest return from those hours. Junk in - junk out. Quality counts. With organic production It's about quality not quantity.

The Efficiency of Grazing Cattle

 

 

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New calves, kid goats and lambs

When there are new calves, kids or lambs the entire herd likes to check out the newest members. The bull calves and 'freemartin' heifers are wearing red tags this year, the heifer calves have yellow tags.

'Know Your Farmer Know Your Food'

'Farm to Table'

Really great slogans.  But, what’s really  happening on the farm that’s producing food for your table?

Close your eyes. Imaging a farm. Do you see lush pastures. Animals grazing. Pigs sleeping in the warm sunshine surrounded by shade trees and green grass.

I drove past a farm yesterday with a new van parked out front. The signs on the side read, 'Farm to Table’ and ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’. This particular farmer has several confinement hog houses.

Do they qualify for the ‘Farm to Table’ campaign? Of course. They’re farmers. They sell direct from their farm to customer’s tables.

Do they fit the model for the ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’ campaign? Yep, they do.They sell at farmers markets. Customers get to know them.

But, DO YOU, as a customer picture something different when you support a farm?

Are you thinking of pigs in a pasture or hogs crowded inside of a building.

Are you thinking of cattle grazing under a blue sky and sunshine or steers stuffed under a shed roof with just a few square feet to move around.

Across the mid-west farmers markets are re-opening for the season. I suggest that you really get to know your farmer. Ask questions. Things aren’t always as they seem

How familiar are you with these terms:
Free Range vs Cage Free

Pasture raised vs Confinement

Organic vs 'Beyond Organic'

The California Supreme Court ruled that producers who mislabeled products as organic are open to lawsuits as protection from fraud in the organic industry.
I’m not sure whether the farms that label themselves as ‘Beyond Organic’ will have to change their advertising but it 's food for thought.

And remember; If we are what we eat most of us are fast, cheap and easy. Lets change that!

Know Your Farmer Know Your Food

 

How to Improve Soil Nutrients

Salt the Earth

I spent the last couple of days getting the garden ready. The asparagus bed, pumpkin patch, vegetable garden and orchard trees have been salted to Improve Soil Nutrients.

I read about how to improve soil nutrients and the benefits of sea salt for boosting trace elements in an article from Acres USA, January 2003. This winter I re-read the book Sea Energy Agriculture by Maynard Murray, M.D.

Dr. Murray presents evidence of the declining trace elements of soil. When commercial fertilizers are applied only the basic elements are returned to the soil. The abundance of these; nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and lime initially increase crop yield, however, they block uptake of necessary elements.

The science behind Sea Energy Agriculture is that the chemistry of sea life is naturally disease resistant and nutritionally superior. Sea salts added to soils are properly balanced between trace elements and sodium chloride. The application rate is important, too. The application is reasonable to restore the soil’s missing elements without rendering it useless like Carthage after the Romans salted the earth.

The best defense against disease is good nutrition. That nutrition starts in the soil. Plants take up the minerals which are then distributed to the end consumer whether human, livestock or wildlife. These end crops are nutrient dense and superior in trace elements.

In the past I’ve tried getting the geese to weed the asparagus beds. Instead of pulling out the grass they pulled up all the strawberry plants in the next bed over. This year I’m experimenting by using a high rate of Redmond Salt  to kill the grass in the asparagus bed. The heavier application won’t hurt the crop, instead it will restore elemental nutrients while inhibiting the invasive grasses.

Both  SEA-90 and  Redmond Salt are certified organic (OMRI listed). The difference is where the sea mineral solids are sourced. SEA-90 is from an estuary where sea water is captured and dried. Redmond salt is sourced from deposits in Redmond Utah.

As an experiment both products are being applied separately to the orchard trees and garden. Here on the farm there are two areas with heirloom apple trees, two areas with peach trees and one group of cherry trees of three different varieties. I don’t know whether the difference between the two products will be significant, we’ll find out at the end of the growing season.

Redmond salt is sold by a local supplier, which is convenient. There aren’t any SEA-90 suppliers in our area so I bought enough for half of our vegetable garden and half of the orchard trees through Amazon.

Last fall the pastures were salted with Redmond salt, 50 pounds per acre, to improve the balance of the soil.  This spring we’ll repeat the salt application. We’ve seen great promise in pasture growth using sea solids and the livestock prefer grazing the fields where it’s been applied.

How to Improve Soil Nutrients
Peach Trees

Here's the Schroeder -Thomas Splint Update.  A few years ago one of our calves broke his hind leg,  you can read about it here

This is calving season on many farms so and we get quite a few questions about how to make a Schroeder -Thomas Splint.

The splint that Keith welded worked great for our calf. However, I recently got an email from Tracie asking for more information on the splint. I was happy to share more pictures along with a few other details.

Tracie was kind enough to send an email with a picture of their Schroeder-Thomas Splint.  I think that Tracie may have improved on the design. Using a cable to make the upper ring that supports the frame at the hip is a great idea. The cable is flexible which makes it easier to  adjust and customize to fit to the animal better.

Tracie also added a can Koozie to hold the foot inside the frame. We had used a block of wood to support the foot and held it in place with Vet Wrap and duct tape. With the foot inside the Koozie it can be help in place with Vet Wrap or tape, too.

The key to making the splint is fitting it to the animal. Careful measurements are needed for the length and the circumference at the hip.

As a side note; all the surfaces of the frame that come in contact with skin should be padded to prevent sores from forming. This is especially important during fly season.

The spring weather is too erratic here in Iowa. Some years there's been snow on the ground late into April. Spring weather is too cold and the grass too sparse for grazing so now calving is schedule to begin in May.

Schroeder -Thomas Splint Update
Schroeder -Thomas Splint Update Tracie's updated design

Update: April 11, 2016

Recently I've been emailing with Summer from North Dakota. They have a calf with a high, rear leg fracture. The frame they designed has an adjustable base with clamps to make the foot platform slide up or down.  Summer was kind enough to share several pictures of their splint. They did a remarkable job with their calf named, Superman. He's fortunate for their loving care.

Thanks for sharing, Summer!

A new Study on Organic Farming confirms quality is the key ingredient.

A newly released study concluded that Organic meat and dairy products are healthier; more nutrient rich than meat and dairy products from conventionally raised animals.

Professor Carlos Leifert of the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at the University of Newcatle reports that Organic meat and dairy has 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s are linked to better immune function, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved neurological development.

Researchers, led by Leifert, found that organic crops had 60% higher key anti-oxidants and lower levels of the toxic metal cadmium than conventionally produced crops.

We're organic farmers because we believe it's the right way to farm, not because it's the popular way. In fact, it's only become popular in the last few years. Organic farming is about quality over quantity. Organic farming is better for the animal, better for the environment, and healthier for the consumer.

“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.” -Mahatma Gandhi

Additionally, other studies have shown that Organic grass-fed beef is the best source of lean protein.

Did you know that the average Weight Watcher customer looses six pounds in two years? That’s less than half a pound per month. They count calories, buy expensive pre-packaged food and anxiously step on the scale.  They’d get better results by switching to grass-fed beef.  And they wouldn’t have to make any other dietary changes. I highly recommend reading  Pasture Perfect, by Jo Robinson.

Organic, grass-fed beef is better for kids, too. Studies show that pesticides lower IQ scores. Evidence suggests that genetically engineered food may contribute to Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, and allergies in children. Organic food is clean. It's pesticide free.

Read the study on organic farming here:

Nafferton Ecological Farming Group

study on organic farming

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Red Meat - In The News

The safety of Red meat is in the news, again. Health concerns about red meat, along with processed or grilled meats is brought up periodically. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) is weighing in -

As an organic meat producer I believe our farm is distinctly different; Organic, grass- fed beef is healthy.  The practice of MIG grazing improves meat quality, restores the environment, and is beneficial to the life-cycle of livestock, crops, and soil. Quality is more important than yield.

A  customer shared this podcast from WGN Radio in Chicago. The guest, Dr. Michael Fenster is a cardiologist and chef. This doctor highlighted interesting issues and omissions in the latest study. Some of these include:

Antibiotic use in animal feed
Dying gut bacteria
Grass-fed, grass-finished beef
Heritage breeds of pastured hogs
Artificial additives in food
Genetically engineered crops and Glyphosate
Hormones in meat
Safe Food Labeling; House Resolution 1599
and much more...

The connection between healthy food and overall health continues to grow. Our herd continues to grow, too. The steers are sold out for this year. In January we'll start taking orders again. The details will be posted in the January newsletter.

Listen to the podcast here

 

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Hope floats in her Heifer Hot tub

floating a calf
calf is floated to relieve a back injury

One of our late season calves got stepped on. She has a large area on her spine that's swollen and very sore. Keith took her to the vet and they started her on a protocol of anti-inflammatory medication. She can stand with help but isn't steady on her feet yet. One of the problems with cattle is the blood pressure in their legs builds up the longer they're down. In order to keep her circulation strong , without added pressure, we've made a floating tank for her.

The University Of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine uses tanks to float cattle after surgery.

We're using a stock tank with an old beach towel as a sling to cradle her and keep her upright. The tank gets filled half way with hot water and topped off with cool water until it's the perfect temperature. Cold water would shock her, the water has to be warm. She floats for about 45 minutes a couple of times each day. Everyday she's getting stronger. Time will tell if she'll fully recover but for now Hope Floats.

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Oxymoron: Fat Cattle and Lean Hogs

Livestock producers continue to defy nature. Cattle are naturally lean. They're grazers. They eat grass. They move through fields and glean forages while trampling the ground leaving behind a covering of vegetation and manure. This ground cover retains soil moisture which prevents evaporation and drought conditions. It's natural for cattle to graze and fertilize as they move forward through a pasture.

Unfortunately the new model for raising cattle is a mono-slope building where steers get stuffed into confinement and fed a high grain diet. Typically these buildings are designed to a maximum capacity where each animal is allotted 22-24 square feet, which is roughly the size of a dining room table. I can't imaging a steer standing in the space of the table and being comfortable, let alone healthy. Another issue, many of these mono-slope buildings are built above a manure pit; in other words, the cattle are eating while standing above a pit filled with their own waste. Imagine if you ate all your meals on the toilet. Gross. Leave it to science to try to change the natural inclination of a species.

"In America today, you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops." - Paul Brooks

Another example of poor animal husbandry is lean hogs. Hogs, by nature, are fat creatures. They're fatter than cattle. Think lard and bacon. Hogs are great at converting legumes and grains into meat. We raise Gloucestershire Old Spots, which were bred to clean orchards of fallen fruit, and Berkshires. Today's confinement hog facilities get paid a premium for raising lean hogs. The producers achieve this by feeding Ractopamine  (brand name PayLean) which is a drug designed to cut the fat in hogs. Leave it to science to lean out hogs by chemical intervention.

I have an idea. Let's feed cattle on grass, in pastures, grazing and moving. Let’s raise hogs in fields where they feed on green legumes; alfalfa, forage peas, rape seed, fallen fruits (like apples) and vegetables along with a grain ration. Lets allow hogs to be fat and cattle lean. That's how each one of these animals is designed. So, rather than going against nature or fighting the natural inclination of a species, let's work with the natural capacities of each.
Food for thought.

 

Oxymoron: Fat Cattle and Lean Hogs

Sometimes, I forget....

...I forget what store-bought eggs taste like, how pale the yolk is.

...I forget that store-bought chicken doesn't have flavor, that the flesh is pale, the texture rubbery. Pastured poultry is superior to conventionally raised in every way.

pastured poultry
pastured poultry

...I forget that pasture raised pigs don't smell bad, the meat is tender, juicy, and the fat is beneficial.

...I forget that most families don't cook with lard. They've never tasted homemade pie crust or biscuits.

...I forget that walking out your front door to pick cherries, raspberries, gooseberries and apples, from the trees you've planted, is a luxury. It's a special benefit of arranging your life differently than most people choose to do.

raspberries
raspberries

...I forget that fresh garden produce is a choice. It's trading your time, planning, and labor in exchange for a plentiful harvest.

I forget that there's nothing sweeter than homegrown peaches or the sight of baby ducklings chasing after a bug.

I forget that most livestock producers don't believe in the restorative powers of MIG grazing. Instead of planning a grazing program they allow their animals to forage randomly. This creates a barren pasture, soil depleted of nutrients, and not enough organic matter or cover crop to control evaporation. These poor decisions, made by many farmers, are a choice. A choice that negatively impacts water quality, wildlife, and climate.

There have been several visitors to the farm recently who've enjoyed the beautiful views and learning about grass based farming. Many of them recall memories of their grandparents farms which were like ours in many ways.

Their grandparents had pigs in the pasture and chickens pecking in the yard. Small orchards provided fruit and cider. Large gardens fed the family and everyone worked together. Picnic tables were sheltered under shade trees where cool breezes relieved the heat of the day.

Sometimes I take for granted that each day is my own. I'm greeted by beautiful surroundings with the people I love and the life we've chosen. Our farming practices are intentionally organic.