Year round grazing on pasture presents some interesting situations for us grass farmers.  In this past post from July 2015 we demonstrated the results of planned animal impact on a wetland site heavily used through the non-growing season.  Below we show what we had to deal with this past spring when Mother Nature gave us a wet spell.  Here we show the results we see in our pasture now.

Background information for sites shown below:

  1. We know April – early May can be wet, we planned to be here!
  2. This site had about a year of rest since the last graze.
  3. This site needed some animal impact!

The red arrows identify the same objects in the photos from different dates.

Animal impact following spring rain event 2016.

  • After moving them into this patch we obviously had a significant rain event.
  • Before moving into the next patch, we achieved significant animal impact.
  • Cattle are happily grazing on fresh/clean pasture.

What this site looks like now.  You can barely see the nearest rock!

Follow up site visit for animal impact 2016 fall.

  • Our future plan for this site is to avoid the next wet season.
  • Will graze this fall or winter and feed some hay on the site most likely.
  • We will utilize the cattle to lay the large grass stems on the ground.

Below are two more photos of a site nearby.  More severe impact as a result of the prolonged wet period we experienced this spring.

Animal impact following spring rain event 2016.

  • Almost looks like a tilled field!
    • “Cow Tilled”
    • Site absorbed a significant amount of kinetic energy.
      • Hooves and Raindrop energy impact.
  • Remember, this site had heavy sod from brome and native grasses.

Energy into the site released a significant amount of energy through grass growth over the past four and a half months!

Follow up site visit for animal impact 2016 fall.

  • The reason for the selfie?
    • I am six feet tall, some big bluestem seed heads are over my head!
  • This tall rank (lignified) grass will not make good cow food.
    • We will use cows to pick out what they want and;
    • Stomp the grass stems to the ground
      • This is how we add CARBON to the soil.
      • Grass stems stomped on the soil feeds our soil livestock (microbes).
      • We should grow even more grass here next year.

What a wonderful cycle.  Are you worried about too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?  This is how we use cattle to cycle carbon from the atmosphere into grass.  Some carbon is quickly returned to the air, but a significant amount of carbon is transferred into the soil.  Once in the soil we have a great chance of getting the carbon into a stable form (humus).  The more carbon we can extract from the air and put into our soil the more grass we can grow to extract even more carbon!

The best part about this cycle is that cows produce calves while they are doing this work.  Every once and awhile we take a grown calf (steer or heifer) to the butcher.  This gives you the opportunity to participate in the healing of our environment.  Just eat some grassfed beef and support our work and other grass farmers like us.

Here is our line up for 2016 Pasture Grazed Steers.  These are mature pasture grazed beef!

The steers pictured below:

  • Are over two years old (older animals mean more flavor).
  • Have never stood on concrete.
  • Spent everyday of their life in pasture.
    • Never confined to a dirt/mud/manure lot.
    • Never grazed in cropland or crop residue.
  • Have been in the same herd and at their mothers side since birth.
  • Only consumed forages, never fed grains.
  • Never given an antibiotic or artificial growth hormones.
  • Lived under the sun by day and stars by night, never in a building.
  • Will be harvested off actively growing green forage.
  • All forages consumed are Non-GMO.
  • Are Animal Welfare Approved
  • Certified Grassfed.

Contact us if you would like to try some real beef!

2016 grassfed pasture grazed steer2016 grassfed pasture grazed steer2016 grassfed pasture grazed steer2016 grassfed pasture grazed steer2016 grassfed pasture grazed steer

Notice the horizontal lines along the belly in some of the above photos.  These lines are called “Happy Lines”.  Happy lines indicate good fat cover and Happy Beef!  Based on last years harvested steers, the meat from these steers should have an excellent fatty acid profile!  The Omega 6 to 3 Ratio should be excellent.  The CLA content of beef is a result of consuming actively growing green forages at the time of harvest.  The forages in our pasture this year are excellent.

We are blessed to have had the opportunity to raise these animals.  Please pray that the harvest and processing of these animals will go well and that they will provide health to those who consume their meat.

Maybe you have heard of the “Know your farmer, know your food” movement.  In the consumer – farmer connection YOU are the best inspector to find out how your food is raised.  We have an “open door” policy here at the farm.  Visitors are always welcome to contact us for a visit.  Come see first hand how animals can be successfully raised on pasture alone to the benefit of all.

  • YOU are WHY we do what we do!
  • YOU are the one making change.
  • YOU deserve to see how your food is raised.
  • YOU are on a mission and we are glad to help.

We have added another layer of inspection at DS Family Farm for YOU the consumer.  For those who may not understand animal husbandry and exactly what it takes to be grassfed, you can now feel confident of DS Family Farm products.  We have completed the process to be certified by the folks at Animal Welfare Approved.

AWA and Grassfed Certified

DS Family Farm appreciates the work being done by Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) and are happy to announce that our farm is now part of the AWA family.

This certification program insures YOU:

  1. Animals raised and cared for based on science and timeless husbandry methods.
  2. Tracking animal welfare from birth to harvest.
  3. The term “Grassfed” is defined, AWA Certified Grassfed means something.

We will continue to promote the term “Pasture Grazed” since our animals live their entire lives on pasture.  Now YOU can rest assured that we do meet a certification standard for grassfed.  Do you want to see what we are talking about?  Please contact us for a farm visit.  Here are some families that have recently visited the farm (photo page):

  • The Spangler Family from Seward
  • The Derbish Family from Omaha
  • The Jay Family from Gretna

Feel free to stop by anytime.  Contacting us ahead of time will ensure someone is around to answer your questions.

Cattle are key to a healthy ecosystem, that is if we manage cattle in natures image.  Nature provides examples of how herds such as the bison of North America or the buffalo and wildebeest of Africa work as keystone species.  An important feature of these large animals is their ability to eat grass.  Much of the grass they eat, comes right back out the back end (POOP) as high quality nutrients that feed soil life and creates new grass.  The process is very simple and efficient.  The hard thing for us humans is to keep it simple.

In elementary school I remember when any type of nutrient cycle (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) was shown as a graphic, the COW was the central or a key part of the process.

nitrogen cycle

The nitrogen cycle, note the cow! As an aside, legumes in our pasture “fix” atmospheric N for free. Industrial fixation of N requires 300 atmospheres of pressure and 1000 degrees F of heat!

Maybe you have heard the bad rap cows have received in the global warming/climate change discussions.  Basically that cows are adding to much methane (green house gas) to our atmosphere.  Here are a few things to think about:

  • Our current cow herd size in the U.S. is about 10 million fewer animals than historic bison herd estimates.  Not even counting the elk, deer and antelope that use to roam our lands.
    • How can fewer animals cause problems today when larger herds of the past built deep rich soils and abundance?
  • Methane from cattle on healthy pastures are quickly mitigated by soil microbes.

I think we can agree that cattle confined to dirt lots eating non-natural diets such as corn will produce more methane than grass based cattle.  So it is not the cattle causing the problem, if anything it is how humans manage the cattle.

Our nutrient cycles are now broken as pointed out in this article from Nature World News “Loss Of Animals’ Poop Disrupts Nutrient Cycles…”.  We need to get animals out of confined feeding areas and back out on the land.  Our lands are starved for the biological active nutrients that could be naturally cycling through large herbivores such as cattle.

Prior to brining cattle to our pastures in 2011, this farm had not had a cow on it for over 30 years.  We have re-established nutrient cycling in our pastures by using cattle in natures image and are starting to see excellent results in the grass we are able to grow!

Want to stay up on the most recent science of how beef can heal our environment?  Check out the Defending Beef FaceBook page.

Image source: UN-L Extension Circular 155.

Have you heard the term “Keystone Species“?  For example, think of the impact the American Bison had on our environment.  Prior to settlement of the central tall grass prairies, most everything relied on the movement of the vast buffalo herds.  Buffalo were a key species.

buffalo

American Bison commonly referred to as buffalo, a keystone species.

The buffalo herds have been gone for more than a hundred years, but the impact they left behind drives Nebraska’s agricultural economy to this day.  We have literally been mining the soil/carbon/organic matter these animals created through their movement years ago.

Here at DS Family Farm we simply try to mimic the pattern nature has shown us through the bison herd movements (and other large herbivore herds around the world).  The only difference is we use cattle, planning and technology.  By following natures example we are rebuilding soil, regenerating prairies and restoring natural cycles within our pastures.

In a series of future posts, we will describe how we try to mimic nature with our Keystone Cows.

keystone species

Without the “keystone” the other stones become misplaced, out of whack or break down.

(Bison photo courtesy of USDA NRCS Photo Gallery)