Conventional vs. Grass-fed Cattle

The beef industry prides itself on giving consumers a choice. Without our faithful consumers, there would not be the drive for demand of a beef product that our industry continues to see. As an industry, we listen to our consumers, and because of that, we not only ensure our beef is safe, wholesome, and nutritious, but also allows every consumer the choice in beef product they not only prefer, but also feel is best for themselves and their family.

Conventional raised beef and Grass-fed beef are both raised by producers to ensure a savory and enjoyable eating experience. No matter the way the animal is finished, all cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass and eating hay. This is also known as back grounding. After this stage in life, producers decided the best way they believe to finish or feed out their cattle to market weight. This decision is largely based on geographic location in the United States, primarily based on the weather and feed availability. A vast majority of farmers in the Midwest choose to finish their cattle on grains such as corn and silage, primarily because of the geographic location of the Corn Belt as well as the seasonal growing periods. Personally, it is not ideal for my family to grass-feed our cattle because of the cold and snowy winters which stunt the pasture grass growth, so it is not economical to choose to raise the cattle strictly on grass and forages.

cattle in grass

All cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass.

 

However, in warmer climates, such as in Sacramento, California, grass continues to re-germinate and grow which allows producers to maintain a grass-fed program for their animals. An abundant and array of grass growth as well as climate and water fall is important when a producer chooses to raise and finish his cattle out on grass.

lifecycle card

During the back-grounding phase of the beef cattle lifecycle, cattle graze on grass. The last 4-6 months determine whether cattle will be finished/fed out as conventional or grass-fed.

 

For our consumers, it is important to remember that conventionally raised beef cattle and grass-fed cattle offer a choice. There is a consistency of beef production, and our main goal as beef producers is to produce a safe, wholesome, and nutritious beef product that no matter the way it was fed out or finished, still provides the body with essential vitamins and nutrients. It is also important to remember that all beef cattle spend the majority of their lives grazing on grass and it is the last 4-6 months, mainly based on geographic and resource availability that determines how the producer chooses to finish or feed-out his cattle to market weight.

The next time you visit the grocery store to make a choice on which beef to buy, remember, all beef is healthy and nutritious and offers your body an excellent source of protein!

steak[1]

All beef is an excellent choice of protein to include in your daily diet!

Above all else, Beef, it’s what’s for Dinner!

Demi

 

Checking Cows

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, our animals depend upon us to ensure all of their needs are met. First thing every day we check our cattle. There are a number of things we are looking for when we do this:

  • That they are there! This is a constant concern with animals. Even if your fences are in perfect condition, a number of things could happen that could cause it to go down during the night (wildlife going through a fence, fence posts breaking, gates left open). We want our cattle to stay in because they are safe in the pasture.

    It is

    Happy cows!

  • Is there enough fresh water? In the winter, this means we break the ice so the cattle can drink water. We always provide ample water to the cattle, no matter what time of year it is.

    Ample fresh water is always available to our cows!

    Plenty of fresh water is always available to our cows!

  • Look for injured/sick animals. We check for sick or injured animals in order to fix the problem as soon as possible. We assess the animals and determine if there is any need treatment and what kind of treatment they may need.

    It's important to look at every animal in the herd.

    It’s important to look at every animal in the herd.

  • Is there plenty of salt and mineral available to the cattle? Salt, calcium, and phosphorous are some of the minerals that we provide to our cattle. We supplement them to ensure they are receiving adequate nutrition in their diet.
  • Is the fence in an acceptable condition? Fences need constant monitoring to make sure they are still in the proper condition to do their job.

    Keeping cattle in is very important to keep them safe.

    Keeping cattle in is very important to keep them safe.

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Get Along, Little Doggies

In order to ensure our cattle always have access to fresh feed, it is necessary to move them to fresh pasture. This is quite an ordeal. First thing in the morning, we were busy saddling horses and getting everything ready to move the momma cows and their calves. To ensure a move with limited stress on the cattle and all of us, my dad went through and made sure all of the gates that needed to be closed were closed, and that the gates that needed to be open were open. He also checked to make sure there was plenty of water waiting for the herd for when they arrived. After everything is ready to go, we set out to round up the cattle from the pasture. We check every valley and hilltop in the pasture to ensure no calves or cows get left behind.

Evan

We believe in using all kinds of “horse power”

 

During the move, there were two of us on horses and two pickups or four wheelers helping with the move. One vehicle went ahead of the herd to ensure there was no traffic coming on the roads. We also had a vehicle at the back of the herd that would stay back on hills to ensure traffic was not coming from the other direction. Evan and I were on the horses. Our job was to make sure the herd was moving at the correct pace (not too fast or too slow). If the herd moves too fast, the cattle will get worn out and stressed. If the herd moves too slowly, it can be a hazard on the roads. We were also in charge of making sure the herd stays together. The wheat fields we passed seem very appealing to a cow, and it’s our job to make sure they do not damage neighbors’ fields. If it is needed, we also are in charge of turning the herd to change direction. Horses have a much easier time getting around the herd to turn them than vehicles do.

Western “traffic jam”

Western “traffic jam”

Once the cattle arrive in their new pasture, we make certain that they find water. Once everyone is settled, we start heading home. At the end of the day, even though we were all exhausted and cold, we still made sure that the horses and cattle had plenty of fresh water and feed. We are responsible for the health and well being of these animals, and their needs come before our own.

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

5 Things Ranchers Do To Protect Their Cattle in Winter

 

Since I am from the great state of Oklahoma, I have the blessing of experiencing all four seasonal weather patterns: winter, spring, summer, fall and usually every imaginable thing in between. I have an appreciation for all seasons. Each season seems to offer a different type of feeling “in the air”. For example, folks often associate new beginnings with spring and folks often associate winter with fireplaces, holidays and snow. For beef producers however, each season presents many unique challenges.

Winter

snow2.jpg

“Enduring” M-C Photography

 

 

Winter in Oklahoma as well as in many states is often unpredictable. One-inch snow predictions have a miraculous way of turning into two feet. It may be 20 degrees outside but feel like -3 with the wind blowing. And it is not uncommon for a 50 degree warm front to be followed by 10 degree temperatures and an ice storm.

Even though cattle are gurus at surviving many different climates, extreme temperature fluctuations can weaken their immune systems and put their health at risk. When it is warm one day and freezing cold the next day, respiratory problems are notorious for setting up camp in the animal’s lungs.

Ranchers do everything they can to facilitate the needs of their cattle in fluctuating temperatures. For example:

  • Ranchers break ice on ponds to make sure they have access to clean, fresh water.
snow5.jpg

Dad breaking ice in an ice storm last winter.

 

  • Ranchers can unroll round bales on top of snow and ice to provide a more comfortable surface for the cattle to lay on.
  • Ranchers can set out round hay bales to act as wind breaks before a big storm or when the wind is forecasted to be especially strong.

The mama cows were protected from the strong winds because of the round bale and the trees.

 

  • If the snow and ice arrive during calving season, ranchers often make more frequent trips into the pasture to check on newborns and make sure they are active and keeping warm.
  • To maintain body temperatures in extreme cold, cattle often require high-quality, balanced rations to meet their needs. Ranchers are very deliberate when it comes to formulating rations (or cow Happy Meals), to make sure the cattle are getting the nutrients they need, in the correct amounts.
snow4.jpg

“Resilient” M-C Photography

 

Please join me next Sunday as I review the weather challenges presented by spring. Thank you for reading!

God bless, folks!

Kalyn McKibben

Blonde Beef Babe

 

 

The Benefit of Trees

Every spring, we plant thousands of trees on our farm. We have many reasons for doing this:

The plastic tarp helps give the trees a better shot at growing, because they don't have to compete with grass and weeds for nutrients and space.

The plastic tarp helps give the trees a better shot at growing, because they don’t have to compete with grass and weeds for nutrients and space.

  1. Trees provide excellent habitat for wildlife. Biodiversity is preserved on the land because of the wildlife.
  2. Trees help improve the land by controlling erosion in the soil on the slopes of hills. Trees are just one of the many erosion control methods we utilize to maintain and improve our land. We also incorporate terraces, grazing techniques, and cover crops to mention a few of the other ways we prevent erosion.

    As you can see, the only trees in my area are the ones we planted. Our climate is not conducive to a large number of trees, so we cherish the ones we do have.

    As you can see, the only trees in my area are the ones we planted. Our climate is not conducive to a large number of trees, so we cherish the ones we do have.

  3. Trees also catch snow and keep it from blowing around (I am from windy Wyoming, and this can be a problem!). Once the snow has been “caught” by the tree, it can melt and provide precious moisture to the land.

    You can see the snow drift to the left of the tree compared to the amount of snow caught by the rest of the pasture

    You can see the snow drift to the left of the tree compared to the amount of snow caught by the rest of the pasture

  4. Once a grove of trees have matured, they can be used as a windbreak to provide some shelter for our livestock when they are on pasture. The prairie can be a harsh place, and trees help to stop the wind and protect the cattle from the elements. It should be noted that when a storm is coming, we take the precautions to move our animals to a location with adequate shelter for the conditions.
  5. Trees enhance the landscape, and provide natural beauty to the landscape.

    Beauty

    Sometimes you have to admire how beautiful nature can be.

  6. They convert carbon dioxide into the oxygen we breathe! If that’s not a good reason to plant trees, I do not know what is!

This is just one of the many conservation efforts farmers and ranchers incorporate every day to enhance the land. For more information on beef sustainability, visit: http://factsaboutbeef.com/

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

Christmas and Cattle

Christmas and cold weather are just around the corner, but neither this special holiday nor the lack of sunshine is a day of rest for livestock owners. Taking care of the cattle is still the top priority for farmers and ranchers, and they have no day of rest no matter the date or the temperature.

bale forward

Bringing a round bale onto the lot for the cows

 

It is a Christmas tradition for my dad and me to bed the pens for our cattle Christmas Eve night. Together we throw the straw into the pens and give the cattle fluffy, warm “sheets” for the evening. Although it is a Christmas tradition for us, making sure that all the pens are clean and bedded is a daily task that all farmers and ranchers do, especially for those of us that live in states where we tend to close our pastures off during the winter. With the cows on my farm staying in the barn 24/7 during the winter months, we make sure to scrap the lot and pens to ensure they are clean and free from loose feces matter.

steers

The pen of steers have fresh straw and ample room to move and lay down

As a family, we also feed the cattle together Christmas Eve. Depending on the pen, whether it be our steers, heifers, or breed cows, depends on the feed ration we give them, but the pens receive enough food for all the animals in each pen and there is also enough room for every animal to eat out of the bunk or the hay feeder. Feeding our cattle twice a day and ensuring that there is always access to fresh hay and clean water is also a daily job for all farmers.

mom

My mom feeding our baby calves their mixture of corn, pellets, and oats. We also make sure they have fresh straw, hay to eat, and clean water.

Spending Christmas and sharing this day together is important for my family, but the cattle come first Christmas morning. From the time I could remember, my brother and I were only allowed to open our stocking presents first before dad would head to the farm to feed the cattle. The cattle got to eat before we sat down together as a family to eat our breakfast and before any presents under the tree were opened.

hay

The bred heifers eating fresh hay

Now that I am old enough to understand why I have to wait to open my presents on Christmas morning, it makes me smile knowing that my cattle are enjoying freshly bedded pens, grain, and hay on Christmas morning.

The Christmas season comes but once a year, and every family shares a handful of special traditions, and although our cattle are a part of one of our Christmas Eve and Christmas day traditions, caring for our cattle is more than a one day task. No matter the day or the frigid temperatures that require many layers to be worn to walk out to the barn, farmers and ranchers must do their job to ensure their cattle are safe and healthy.

bale backwards (1)

The cows waiting for their hay

 

Thank you to all the farmers and ranchers for your endless work during the holiday season as well as during the days that it is cold, where sitting by the fireplace is much more appealing. Through rain or shine, snow or sleet, and every day in between, your endless love for your cattle does not go unnoticed!

Happy Holidays!

Demi

A Second Harvest

This is after the stalks have been grazed for a while. You can pick out some corn cobs laying on the ground, as well as the rows where the corn was this summer

This is after the stalks have been grazed for a while.

On my family’s farm we not only raise cattle, we also raise a variety of crops. After we harvest the crops, residue is left on the fields. With corn, the residue includes the corn stalks, husks, and corn cobs.

During the winter, we let our cattle graze on these fields. This allows the cattle to convert the residue into a better fertilizer for the soil. The microorganisms in the manure help to improve the overall health of the soil, making the field better for next year.

When we harvest the corn, there will always be a certain amount of grain that is dropped or knocked down that we cannot harvest. This grain can then grow in the field, even if you change to planting a different crop the next year. This is known as volunteer corn. When the cattle graze the harvested corn fields, they consume the leftover corn in the field, and prevent volunteer corn from becoming a problem in future years.

Although there is no reaping like in the Hunger Games, volunteer corn can negatively impact the yield in a field.

It is called volunteer corn because it was not planted intentionally, it just grows on its own. Volunteer corn can negatively impact the yield in a field.

We really like utilizing the corn stalks as a feed source during the winter. The cows love it, and it gives us more options to feed our cattle.

Happy cows on corn stalks!

Happy cows on corn stalks!

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

More than “Just Beef”

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was lucky enough to go home and spend time with family. My family includes some four legged friends, such as the horses. I managed to sneak in some time to go riding. Kernel and I were off.

IMG_6171

But first…let me take a horse selfie! This is my buddy, Mr. Kernel

I am at peace when I am on my horse, miles away from the closest person. There is something about being able to completely disconnect from the world and unwind in the great outdoors. I was out riding the fences, to ensure they are in good condition to keep our cattle safely in the pasture and off of the road. You never know what you might find on a ride. During our ride, we found three eagles, a herd of antelope, three mule deer, several rabbits, and an assortment of birds. This truly is one of my favorite parts of being able to spend time on the land is seeing all of the wildlife.

Both cattle and the wildlife can thrive off of the same land. This weekend, when I saw all of the wildlife they were just across the fence from some of our mother cows who were grazing peacefully with their calves. The pastureland provides feed and habitat for all sorts of animals.

These trees have all been planted by my family within my lifetime. It is exciting to see how huge they are growing!

These trees have all been planted by my family within my lifetime. It is exciting to see how huge they are growing!

These animals are a great reminder as to why it is critical that we take care of our land, and ensure we leave it in better condition than we found it. I come from the part of the country where trees are scarce to say the least. Every year, my family and I plant trees on our land to provide habitat for wildlife. This summer when I was out planting trees, I found a little reminder as to why it is so important to take care of the land. This is a turtle dove nest that I found below one of the trees. Life as a prairie bird is rough! The prairie does not provide much to shelter the nests for theses delicate eggs. It was really exciting to see the birds actually using the trees to keep their nests hidden.

 I did not want to disturb the nest, so I did not insert anything for scale. The eggs were about the size of a quarter. Pretty tiny for a great big world!

I did not want to disturb the nest, so I did not insert anything for scale. The eggs were about the size of a quarter. Pretty tiny for a great big world!

In the winter, our slithery friends are not out and about, which makes me very happy. Even though I am not a fan of snakes, they play an important role in the ecosystem. I am not a fan of the rattlesnakes that tend to inhabit this area!

A friendly garter snake I found this summer

A friendly garter snake I found this summer

In the end, farmers and ranchers produce much more than just beef. In fact, open space—primarily managed by cattlemen—provides habitat for 75% of America’s wildlife. Just about every time I am outside working, I see wildlife. It is exciting to see on a firsthand basis how we really do share this space with these wild animals.

Rachel Purdy
Princess Farmer

California Fires

Smokey sunset

Smokey sunset

This week, I’d like to give a short update on the fires in Northern California, which are currently the largest and most destructive fires in the nation. They are right in my back yard, some less than 15 miles away from my house. Currently, the “July Complex” (which was burning in the he Marble Mountain range that surrounds my valley) has been mostly put out, but burned nearly 50,000 acres, and the “Happy Camp Complex” is still burning. The Happy Camp Complex has now burned around 100,000 acres of wilderness and is only 30% contained. The state and nation have spent nearly $55 million on this fire alone, and there are over 75 crews of firemen on the fire (almost 3,000 firefighters). Though no lives have been lost, hundreds of people have been under evacuation warning and some under mandatory evacuation. Scott Valley (the valley where I live) has been filled with smoke for most of the summer.
Many cattlemen, my family included, send their cattle to the mountains for the summer, and many of those cattle have been in direct danger of the fires. Cattle generally know to stay away from fires and don’t usually burn, but if they’re surrounded, they could have no other option. Naturally, farmers and ranchers with cattle in the mountains have been terrified for the lives of their livestock. Some of our close friends had to go bring their cattle back to the valley prematurely because they were going to be surrounded by fire. The constant threat on the lives of residents and livestock is hard to live with, but the community has responded to this issue with overwhelming support. It’s awesome to see neighbors coming together in a time of crisis.
More information on the fires can be found www.inciweb.nwcg.gov. Keep those in danger and those fighting these fires in your thoughts!

Have a great week,

Emma

 

Cattle improve the land!

TN beef cattle

 

It is common these days to read or hear how this or that enterprise is harmful to the environment or damaging to the land.  Cow-calf operations bring good news for the land and the environment.  It can, in fact, be truthfully stated that cattle improve the land.

The fact that cattle generally maintain or improve the value of rural acreage is one of the basic reasons that property owners often select cattle as an agricultural enterprise.  Since Tennessee has a large amount of pasture-type land, the fact that cattle improve the land is an important reason why cattle are Tennessee’s most economically important agricultural commodity.

The improvements that result from the presence of cattle can be direct, such as nutrient recycling that occurs when grazing cattle naturally spread manure and urine on pastures.

Other benefits to the property are byproducts of good management that beef producers implement because the cattle repay the investment. Examples of the latter are good fencing and routine pasture clipping.

Conversely, pasture land from which cattle are removed often decreases in value.  Fields become overgrown with brush and undesirable tree species.  Fences and barns fall into disrepair and ponds become choked with weeds and are eventually lost.

Following are specific ways that a properly managed cow-calf operation improves property:

 

Cattle pay for maintaining attractive, productive pastures.  It would certainly be possible, with extensive mowing, spraying and fertilization, to keep farm fields as attractive as a lawn, but it would be very expensive.  Why not let cattle do most of the mowing  work by grazing (with only occasional clipping and spraying to control weeds) and get the added benefit of built-in fertilizer spreading?

Well-fenced property looks better and is more valuable. Good fencing is a property asset.  Cows do not build fences but cattle typically provide the financial incentive that encourage property owners to build and maintain fencing.

Cattle ponds improve property, if properly managed.  Cattle sometimes damage ponds by creating cow-paths which harm the dams.  If cattle are fenced out of the ponds, and watered in over-flow tanks, or simply fenced away from the dam portion of the pond, the ponds will last for a long time and can improve the value of the property.

 

Finally, cattle themselves improve the appearance of the farm.  The presence of a well-managed cattle herd indicates that the land is productive and is being managed for an active, profitable agricultural purpose.  This means that the land has production value.  But production value is not all there is to life.  It is esthetically pleasing to see good cows grazing green pastures.   Tennessee is a beautiful state for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that practically anywhere you go, pastured cattle are there and freely available for all to see and enjoy.

 

This is an article written by my guest blogger, Dr. Warren Gill.

Dr. Warren Gill is Director of Agribusiness and Agriscience at Middle Tennessee State University,  which has around 125 beef cows. He and his family also run an eighty cow commercial beef operation on 550 acres near Petersburg, Tennessee, in Lincoln County.  Their cows are Angus and Angus-Hereford crosses. Gill was an Extension Professor and Beef Cattle Specialist for the University of Kentucky and the University of Tennessee for 25 years before becoming head of of the ag program at MTSU 7 years ago.

 

 

Enjoying summer,

Rachael