How is our beef different from 99% of other beef?  We keep the herd in MOTION.  This requires planning, implementing and tracking.  Grazing guru Joel Salatin says it this way, “I’m just the orchestra conductor, making sure everybody’s in the right place at the right time.”  His way of saying we are practicing “precision agriculture” 3 R’s; right place, right time and right amount.

The high-tech “precision ag” tools we use every day:

  1. Braided poly/stainless steel/tinned copper wire
  2. Electric pulse fencer
  3. Grazing Schedule – digital maps

The poly wire (1) and electric fencer (2), keeps the herd IN the right place.  Our grazing schedule is the tool that keeps everything in MOTION (right time).  Folks have developed many different techniques to create and keep up a grazing schedule.  We do it with digital maps, very simply, in what is called a geographic information system (GIS).

DS Family Farm Grazing Schedule in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

DS Family Farm Grazing Schedule in a Geographic Information System (GIS).

The most important part of our Grazing Schedule are the principles behind our moves.  We use the GIS to help us follow these principles:

  • Provide a fresh pasture break nearly every day of the year.
  • Prevent re-bite on any fresh grass regrowth.
  • Graze, followed by plant rest AND recovery.
  • Rotate date of use each year.
  • Current animal needs, including wildlife.

Here is a simple example how our Grazing Schedule works:

Deciding where to move next using digital maps.

Deciding where to move next using digital maps.

  • View on left, today end of March 2017, the herd is near the large solid orange triangle.  The yellow lines outline the paddocks we have grazed this winter (no grass to graze in these small blocks).  The larger open areas with question [?] marks are where we could go next.
  • In the view on the right, I turned on black lines and “dates” that show our grazing during this time period from a year ago.  Last year at the orange triangle (where the herd is now) we grazed in June meeting our principle of not grazing at basically the same time of year.  I have placed a yellow [X] over areas that have a [?] mark in the left photo.  We want to avoid these areas based on the timing we grazed during the previous year and some other factors.
    • So the remaining open areas in the right view are options for where we will graze next.

If you look again at the right view map, note that our “moves” or “paddocks” are rarely the same (yellow lines versus black lines).  Most cattle grazing across the country is on permanent pasture areas getting grazed the same year after year.  At DS Family Farm our cow herd grazes different patterns across the landscape every year, creating chaos and diversity.  We feel this is better for the grass, animals, wildlife and overall ecosystem of our pasture.

We schedule cows to move! This is why we call our beef “Pasture Grazed” and not just “GRASSFED”.

Grazing paddocks 2014 - 2017, chaotic and on the move.

Some grazing paddocks, 2014 – 2017, chaotic and on the move.

 

Visit our farm if you are curious about how we care for the herd and pastures.  Public roads boarder two sides of the farm, so drive by inspections are possible any day of the year.  Please call ahead to make sure we are around if you would like to see the herd first hand.

Annual Farm Audit

If you are not able to visit the herd or wouldn’t know what to look for, we are glad to have an annual inspection to verify our beef herd as:

  • Animal Welfare Approved
  • Certified Grassfed
Who is inspecting who?

Who is inspecting who?
Kim Alexander recently visited the herd as part of our annual Animal Welfare/Certified Grassfed audit.

Auditor Kim Alexander visited the farm this year.  This was our second audit and a new auditor comes each year.  Kim walked the pasture and inspected the herd.  The audit is completed every 11 months.  This allows inspectors to view the operation during different portions of the year (growing season versus non-growing season).  Following the field review, we spent some time going over plans and records for our beef operation.

Auditors Know Their Stuff

Kim just doesn’t check boxes as an auditor, he practices what he reviews on his own farm.  What a great opportunity to have an experienced grazer like Kim come and look over our operation.  We shared some ideas and gained some insights to what we are doing and how we could improve.

Change Is Good

We have a few years of grazing under our belt now but every year is different.  What worked last year may not work this year.  When working with mother nature we need to be ready to adapt.  The factory where we produce beef for your table is not a climate controlled building with a consistent stream of incoming parts.

Change Is Required

That is what Kim was checking on.  Are we ready to provide for our herd when the unexpected happens?

  • Records document what happened.
  • Records help us compare from year to year.
  • Plans make us consider our pasture and our herd.
  • Plans make us prepare for emergency situations.

If you are curious about the different plans and records we keep, just drop us an email.  We would be happy to share with you what we are doing.

We advertise our beef herd as “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Certified Grassfed by AWG“, but what do these labels mean?  I don’t know about you, but when it comes to checking out claims, I turn to Consumer Reports.  In August 2015, Consumer Reports published a “Beef Report“:

Cover of August 2015 Beef Report. Current Consumer Report information is available at: http://greenerchoices.org/

Cover of August 2015 Beef Report. Updates available at: http://greenerchoices.org/

Let’s take a look at some of the report findings:

Consumer Reports – Sustainable Beef-Production Practices:

  • Cows are ruminants—their natural behavior consists of grazing. Allowing beef cattle to graze on well-managed pastures from birth to slaughter (often referred to as 100 percent grass-fed) is at the core of sustainable beef production. What’s good for animal welfare is also good for the environment and for consumers.
  • … pastures can only feed herds of a certain size, and in a properly managed pasture, the stressful and crowded disease-promoting conditions of the feedlot are eliminated. Healthier, less stressed animals need fewer antibiotics and other drugs to stay healthy.
  • Soils of grazing land can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Managing cattle carefully to ensure that pastures are grazed moderately means restoring soil quality and cutting greenhouse gases by keeping carbon in the soil as organic matter rather than releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
  • More water is conserved in grass-based systems compared with conventional ones.
  • Grass-fed beef isn’t just better for animals, public health, and the planet; it may be healthier for individual consumers as well.

If you have followed our past blog posts, the above findings are familiar information.  It is nice to have the credibility of Consumer Reports back up what we know as common sense observations in the natural world.

OK, but what about labels?

The 2015 Beef Report had plenty to say about labels.  From “Highly Meaningful” labels to labels that have no meaning at all.  Please refer to the full report for all the label categories.  A quick look at the first two labels under the “Highly Meaningful Labels” as “Verified” we find:

  1. Animal Welfare Approved
  2. Certified Grassfed by AWG

In a January 26, 2017 update at http://greenerchoices.org/, Certified Grassfed by AWG, is one of the four “labels to look for” when “choosing grass fed”.

Curious to read more?

Our farm is third party reviewed for Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed by AWG.  For more information on these specific labels we direct you to these resources:

  • A Greener World (AWG) — “North America’s most trusted and transparent farm certifier.”
  • Animal Welfare Approved (Program of AWG), remains the only label in the marketplace to ensure the following:
    • Meaningful, verified, outdoor pasture and range based systems–not just a door at the end of a building or an outdoor concrete run
      • No cages, crates or feedlots–ever
      • Verified environmentally sustainable farming and ranching
      • Responsible stewardship of public resources like air, water, soil and antibiotics
      • Independent farms/farmers meeting the highest animal welfare standards in the U.S. and Canada
      • Prohibit the use of hormones (like rBST), animal byproducts or routine antibiotics
      • Industry-leading high welfare handling and management from birth through slaughter
      • Independent standards for the inspection of slaughter plants
        • (January 2017 AWA Press Release)
  • Certified Grassfed by AWG
    • Guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100 percent grass and forage diet, raised outdoors on pasture or range, and managed according to the highest welfare and environmental standards on an independent family farm.

This is all good and well, but remember:

We invite you to come see the farm and our animals for yourself.  Join other past visitors of our farm.  We urge you to know your farmer and your food.  We prefer to be certified by YOU, our customer.

Back in the day I remember hearing “take a look at yourself in the mirror”.  Today one could probably just say, “take a look at yourself in your selfie”.  Whatever your choice (mirror or selfie), why don’t you take a look at yourself?  What do you see?  Hello – your microbiome!

Healthy microbiome = Health.

Human or animal, all rely on the micro organisms we carry around for our survival. Healthy microbiome = Health.

We are looking at a huge walking micro organism ecosystem.  The same goes for the dog next door or the cow in our pasture.  How you look and feel has a great deal to do with the state of your “microbiome”.

Our goal should be to keep the good “bugs” we carry around happy.  With a healthy supply of good microbes surrounding us, it is hard for bad bugs to make us sick.  The foods we consume will have a huge impact on the bugs living inside of our stomachs.  With most of our immune system linked directly to our gut, our mental and physical health is directly linked to the company we encourage to live within us.

A recent webinar put on by the folks at the Society for Risk Analysis pointed out that our unique microbiome will decide how our body reacts to:

  • drugs
  • food additives
  • minerals (such as heavy metals)

That is why there are so many “side effects” listed in drug commercials, our microbiomes react differently.  The Food and Drug Administrations prior testing on drugs and food additives for “safety” have not accounted for the biology living within us.

So what’s safe to eat?

Refer back to our “Traditional Food” post.  Keep it simple and eat foods that our Grandparents would actually recognize as food.  When you learn more you will probably want to encourage those good bugs in your microbiome.

Microbiome Care

With most of our mental and physical health directly linked to the microbes in our gut, take care of them with traditional foods.

Eating locally raised foods is a great place to start, including grassfed beef.  Eating right can be an important part of your overall life/health plan.  For a holistic approach to life consider the 7 spokes in Zig Ziglars Wheel of Life:

  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Family
  • Financial
  • Personal
  • Career

Here’s to a happy healthy YOU (microbiome).

All disease begins in the gut. – Hippocrates

In an earlier post we introduced the benefits of bone broth as part of a healthy diet.  Here we focus on bone broth as it relates to gut health.  “Tens of millions of Americans suffer from digestive disorders.”  This statement from Nourishing Broth book, hits home, really close to our home.  It was Doug’s struggles with acid reflux that started us down the path of learning about grassfed beef and real food as the true source of healing.

gut health

The health of our gut affects our entire being.

Back in 1937, Dr. Francis Pottenger and others may not have known the exact science behind the healing power of bone broth, but these were a list of gut related conditions they knew broth would relieve:

  • nervous digestion, slow digestion
  • diarrhea, gas formation
  • heartburn, vomiting
  • children allergies

We brought up Dr. Pottenger in a prior post.  (If I just could have understood in elementary school how his cat research related to my health, oh how much pain could have been avoided!)

So what has happened over the years that millions of folks deal with gut issues daily?  For one thing, broth went out of style.  With the advent of antacids and other pills to pop, broth was just “old school”.  Broths disappearance and the appearance of the modern standard American diet (SAD) and our guts were primed for trouble.

Current science points out a number of digestive power components in broth.  First of all it is rich in glycosaminoglycans, used by the body to form healing mucus.  The mucus in our intestinal tract protect us from foreign substances entering our body including food, microbes, heavy metals and toxins.  When our mucus secretion becomes depleted, the result is a “leaky gut”.

Have you heard the term “microbiome”?

Early on in our cattle operation we learned that cows cannot digest grass!  A cow is entirely reliant on trillions of bacteria (microbiome) within their gut to digest grass.  The bacteria break down the grass and release nutrition to the cow for life.  We have a number of visual techniques to quickly diagnosis the status of a cows microbiome on a daily basis.  Guess what, we are entirely dependent on trillions of microbes everyday to stay alive also.  When our microbiome is happy we, are happy.

The mucus in our digestive system provides a safe home for our microbes.  The mucus protects the bacteria from our bodies normal process that tries to expel them.  The presence of the bacteria stimulates production of mucus, a wonderful cycle, that is if our bodies are healthy.  The happy beneficial microbes help us absorb and transport nutrients across the gut barrier within our body.  Unfortunately a compromised “leaky gut” allows foreign microbes and toxins to keep us in a state of inflammation or disease.

As science learns more about our microbiome, pharmaceutical companies will surely look to develop pills to help manage and promote healthy gut microbes.  WHY WAIT?  Broth is a tried, true traditional food added to all gut healing diets to help address:

  • allergies, candida, parasites
  • bloating, gas, acid reflux
  • constipation, diarrhea, IBS
  • and all other leaky gut issues…

Looking for more information?

  1. Broth Is Beautiful – WAPF
  2. Why Broth Is Beautiful – WAPF
  3. Book – “Nourishing Broth” (information used in this post)

Want to try making your own broth?

  1. Certified Grassfed Beef BONES at DS Family Farm, drop us an email!
  2. Dr. Axe Beef Bone Broth Recipe (try it in your crock pot)