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

 

 

Save

Save

Save

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!

3

Preventing Bird Flu in your Flock

How to kill tens of thousands of chickens with the flip of a switch

Preventing Bird Flu in your FlockClean living conditions prevent disease; Sunlight kills viruses, fresh greens boost immunity and exercise improves health. These are the benefits for poultry raised on pasture.

Inside poultry confinement buildings ventilation fans run 24 hours a day. Without these fans the birds die relatively quickly from ammonia fumes and the heat that’s generated from the high density of bodies within the building.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has announced that the federal government is preparing for a bird flu outbreak this fall that could be twice as bad as the one this spring.

The USDA is calling for shutting down the ventilation system if there's another outbreak of Avian Flu.  The policy is designed to help farms more quickly keep the virus from spreading.

USDA officials said that teams hired to euthanize birds in Iowa and Minnesota fell behind on destroying infected birds this spring due to the size of the flocks. The new euthanasia policy initiates a 24 – hour “stamping-out.” If no other method of killing would meet the 24 hour deadline federal and state officials, along with the producer, agree to shut down the ventilation system.

For chickens in pasture it's a different story. There is no switch to flip. No ventilation fans to shut down. Just sunshine, fresh air and green grass. Pasture pens are open to allow chickens access to all three. The tops are partly covered to give shade along with protection from the rain. The bottoms are open to the grass.  The birds aren’t crowded and they live outdoors during the optimum growing season; May – October.

Before dropping that carton of eggs or package of conventionally raised chicken into your grocery cart the next time you're at the store remember these words from Jo Robinson, author of Pasture Perfect;

“... a chicken that looks stressed and abused on the day of slaughter looks just fine when cut into uniform pieces and wrapped with plastic. The words on the label are targeted to calm any concerns one might have about the meat. This chicken is “Fresh, All-Natural, and Locally Grown!”

Instead of buying confinement chicken make a healthier decision. Find a farmer who raises pastured poultry. The health and taste benefits far surpasses the cost.

 

2

Organic Certification...Done

Organic Certification
Forest Hill Farm's organic certificate

There are 19,474 organic farmers in the United States. We're proud to be one of them. If you think about it there aren't even enough of us to fill a football stadium on any given Sunday. We're a small group who share our customer's appreciation in healthy living. We value the environment more than the bottom line and believe the health of water, soil, and wildlife are our shared responsibility.

Every year I look forward to our annual organic re-certification visit. Our inspector is great, his name is Gary.  He's a wealth of information and very pleasant to visit with.

 Gary  shared a link to a video featuring Roy Thatcher. Gary inspects Roy's organic farm, too.

I appreciate Roy's hard work and ethics - especially regarding quality. While most farmer's biggest concerned is yield, organic farmers greatest concern is quality. We do our absolute best to provide products that are good for our customers and of the highest quality. I couldn't have said it better myself,  thanks, Roy!

Enjoy the video.

2

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.

IMG_20150926_105613381_HDR

1

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

1

DSCN2304

Good morning, piglets! The first of our sows farrowed Sunday morning. 10 healthy piglets were enjoying breakfast when I went to the barn. They'll stay inside for 8 - 10 days until they're big and mobile enough that eagles won't prey on them.

Our goal is to raise healthy hogs. We've been concerned about PEDV virus. The confinement hog operations in the area spread manure on the fields and there's always manure on the roads. We've been careful about washing the truck's tires and not allowing visitors for a few weeks to make sure there isn't any contamination brought to the farm. The experts say that PEDV  is deadlier in the cold months, but we're not taking any chances. Also, we don't use a feed mix with blood plasma products, just grain and fresh pasture for our pigs. There's a possible link between feeding blood plasma and PEDV. Wasn't anything learned from Mad Cow Disease? Cows are herbivores, but someone had the bright idea to feed young calves bovine meat and bone meal. The hog industry feeds porcine plasma to young pigs that aren't old enough to start eating a grain based diet. I'm proud to go against the grain of conventional farming.

Are you looking to make a change in your diet?  Grass fed, organic beef might be the answer.

It's important to know where your beef is coming from. Did you know, 4 of the top 5 sellers of grass fed beef purchase cattle who have been fed distiller grains and soybean hulls? What else might these cattle have been fed? Many sellers of grass fed beef are buying, rather than raising cattle in order to keep up with demand. Is your beef coming from a farmer, or someone who procures their beef? It's time to go organic.   EatWild.com has a list of farmers who are committed to raising animals on a grass based diet. Be careful though, some farmers have a few steers on grass, but they buy the majority of what they sell. It's labeled with their farm's name and shipped to them for distribution; however, the steers never set foot on their farm.

Another reason to buy organic beef - Inputs. This story is just starting to unfold. Merck, the maker of Zilmax is trying to downplay the relation of their product with downer cattle. Conventional farms use additives including; hormones, antibiotics, larvicides (the list goes on), to promote weight gain and profits, not health. If you wouldn't sprinkle any of these products on your breakfast cereal why would you accept your farmer using them on their livestock's feed?

Just more food for thought.

Dinner
Dinner

 

 

 

 

Grass Fed Beef - it's the dieter's choice
Grass fed, Angus, T-bone steak

Grass Fed Beef - it's the dieter's choice

A diet of grass based meat works as well as a popular diet program without having to buy packaged meals, attend meetings, or calculate points. Grass fed products are leaner than grain fed products, they also have fewer calories. Grass Fed Beef - it's the dieter's choice

The typical amount of beef eaten in the U.S. annually is 67 pounds. Changing from grain fed to grass fed beef will save you 16,642 calories per year. A six-ounce beef loin from a grass-fed steer may have 92 fewer calories than a six-ounce loin from a grain-fed steer. Source: Pasture Perfect by Jo Robinson

A lesson from Jim:

Jim was in trouble. His wife's car was in terrible shape. She drove her friends to weight management class every Wednesday, she was tired of breaking down. Her car had high mileage, bald tires, rust around the fenders. She'd been hinting for months that she wanted a new car for Christmas. Instead, Jim had been shopping for a bass boat. His wife was really angry.

She gave him a lecture on thoughtfulness and generosity, “To make up for your thoughtlessness, before the end of the day tomorrow, I expect to find a gift in this driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in six seconds AND IT BETTER BE HERE!

The next morning Jim got up early for work. When his wife got up she found a note on the bathroom mirror that said, “Look in the driveway”.

She looked out and saw a wrapped box, much too small for a car, maybe it had some keys inside. She ran out to the driveway confident that Jim had finally come through.

When she un-wrapped the box she found a bathroom scale with a note that said, '0 to 200 in less than 6 seconds. Enjoy!'

She thanked him when he got home, he's still walking with a limp. Jim could have saved himself by getting his wife a newer car and a grass fed steer. She could have lost 9 1/2 pounds just by changing the diet of the beef she eats. 9 1/2 pounds - that's more than the average person looses on a structured weight loss program.