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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17 On the Green!

You have probably heard about the havoc our current economy has wreaked on beef prices and milk prices and so on and so on. Normally on a dairy farm the female calves are kept and raised to be milk cows someday and the bull calves are sold either for a young 4H student or maybe to a family that want to try their hand at raising a cow or two. Normally we have a call waiting list by our phone of people looking for a calf to buy.

With the high price of grain and hay people aren't wanting to tackle that big of a project lately and as for the market? Well just to give you an idea, we took 4 young bulls in and after the fees the market would charge to sell livestock for you in their auction not only would we have not received one red cent we were going to end up owing the market a $17.00 handling fee!

Needless to say, we loaded our "boys" back up and they came home with us. Now what to do with them? We couldn't really afford to invest a lot in them since basically they were not ever going to have a "career" on a dairy.

Forced to think outside my normal box I came up with an idea. I have been reading a lot about grass fed beef and the health advantages it offers. It seems whats old is new again. I hadn't fully realized that beef wasn't grass fed anymore. I guess the way it is done currently is the cows are on pasture up until market age and then they are sold off of the ranch to a "finishing lot" where they are stuffed to their gills (sorry for the fish analogy) with grain. The problem with that is there is a mounting body of evidence that grains esp. corn and wheat (the ones primarily used in feed lots) are inflammatory foods for the body of a mammal. The logic follows that if mammal(cow) eats it and then it is consumed by another mammal (human) we end up being the recipient of inflammatory food. There is a lot more to it then just the above. You can google "grass feed beef" and come up with fascinating study after study covering highly entertaining reads about long chain fatty acids and the benefits to the human body if you have insomnia some night OR you can just keep reading this blog and learn all about it here along with me as this is a first and I am learning as I go.

I wish I had a big red velvet curtain to pull down and a big TA DA to go with it but consider yourself the first to know that I am officially in the GRASS FED COW RAISIN BUSINESS!

One thing this economy has taught, is that sometimes if you want a job you need to create it yourself. These little bull calves needed a job in the worst way! Something to justify their existence. A bovine purpose in life!

Here is what I did.

We had one grassy pasture that was empty. We turned the bulls into steers and put them out there. They had grass, hay, water and just a mere dusting of grain on the very coldest of days so they could survive. My reasoning was this...even is third world countries where conditions are dire there are still cows. You have seen them in National Geographic and so have I. Now I doubt those third world cows are getting fed high quality custom mixed dairy feed ration from the U.S.

In fact I'm almost sure they are not. I think they are surviving on foraging. Its not ideal but it is better than the alternative, right? Another thing... I grew up watching Bonanza and The Big Valley and remember them driving the cows down from the mountains in the fall where they had foraged all summer.

So forage we did.

Meanwhile I needed a place to start feeding them a high quality nutritive grass (instead of just pasture grass) if I was serious about trying to raise a high quality cow. Alas for the horses their wonderful home was the perfect place so I moved them and their hay ring to another field and we planted rye in that well fertilized horse pasture. every few days I would go measure the grass. It needed to be six inches high for foraging. Finally this week the day came!

The steers were rounded up and loaded for the trip from that far back pasture up to the front of the farm. They had no idea how life was about to change. From subsistence to abundance. Add in the fact that they had never seen a house or any other of the trappings of civilization and you can imagine the culture shock.

They hesitantly stepped out of the stock trailer in one bunch. They look sturdy but skinny, young but "tough" like little Ninja warriors or like the "Lost Boys" fresh off the island in Peter Pan.

I made a small pen with a water trough, hay, a protein lick and minerals. In researching this I learned that they cannot go from sparse conditions to lush grass all at once. My plan was to let them out for a couple of hours a day until they got acclimated.

When I first opened the gate on all the greenness they were a little hesitant. What is that???

They licked it instead of eating it...

Once they caught on they REALLY caught on! Didn't even mind eating in the rain.


To everyone but the horses that is! Cast out of "their" old stomping grounds and replaced by short little varmints of a lesser god...their expressions were incredulous. They stared across the fence with disbelief.
Can you say "WHAT THE HECK?"

With everyone settling in all that remained was for Mr Blue to take the ride back to the farm in an empty cattle trailer.

One of his favorite things to do!


  1. What a super idea. In these lean times we have to get creative. The calves are so cute. I especially like the tan one in picture 3 who looks a little like a dog. :)

  2. Ah...what good eyes you have!

  3. I agree with Journaling Woman. Tough times bring out the entrepeneur in us! Great idea, and I hope it serves you well.

    I read about the trashing of strawberry fields in FL. It made me sad, but I do understand the plight of the farmer. I would gladly sign off any injury liability if I could pick and take home all those strawberries for free or nominal cost! (I'll take a cow too!) LOL

    I do feel sorry for the farmer though. All that work (and other investments) lost. :(

    I miss seeing you around! Have a great day, Indie! ((hugs)) xxoo