How can soil, grass, animals and sunlight equal healthy people?

There are many pieces to this puzzle.  When you begin to look at the big picture it is quite simple and natural.  Take time out from your busy schedule to do some reflection and study on this topic and we think you will agree that it makes sense.

From Healing Quest, a nice 7 minute introduction to the Grass Fed Movement:

Geophagia Calves

Calves in sandpit enjoying a natural earth lick.

There is actually a term for eating the earth, geophagia (geo = earth; phagia = eating).  So what are the health benefits?

  • Minerals
  • Clay absorbs toxins

This article from Answers covers more topics than geophagia, scroll down to the section “Eating Dirt” for a little further reading.

Our pastures contain remnants of past glacier activity in this part of Nebraska.  As the glaciers receded, sand, gravel and boulders were deposited across our farm.  The exposed “sand pit” the calves are visiting in the photo above has very fine sand with clay.  We have a few of these open sand areas across the farm where the vegetation is sparse.  When the cattle move into these areas they take advantage of the naturally available minerals and clay.

Licking clay off calf

Momma cow cleaning “dirt” off her calf.

As you can imagine, we and the cows, prefer vegetative cover and not bare soil patches in our pastures.  Since the majority of our pastures are covered with grass, we can count on the local badger population to create small exposed earth patches all across the farm.  When our herd encounters these badger earth piles, they will paw, scratch and lick the earth.  During fly season the cattle will use their hooves to throw the “dirt” onto their bellies and backs as fly repellant.

In addition we offer clay as part of our mineral program to allow animals to self medicate when bare earth is not available.  A quick search of the internet will give you ideas on how to add clay to your medicine cabinet also.

Please leave a comment if you have experience with the health benefits of clay as part of your diet.

Native pollinators need a constant food supply throughout the growing season.  Various plant species take their turn to offer pollinators needed flowers.  Below we highlight three flowers that we are currently enjoying in our pasture.

Driving by a prairie you would easily notice the maximilian sunflowers, but would you see the butterfly?

sunflower

Take a walk among the tall grass and forbs and this time of year you can find the small white flower of heath aster.

asterflower

A new find this year in our pasture is prairie gentian.  Wondering how I missed this showy purple flower in past years?

Prairie_Gentian_plant

Prairie Gentian Flower

Could it be that the reintroduction of grazing, hoof action and disturbance has stimulated the seed to sprout?  Or possibly the result of the drought we experienced in 2012?  Probably a result of multiple factors that we don’t understand, but none the less, beautiful to look at and the cows thought they tasted great.  Not to worry, we left patches of these flowers ungrazed so they could go to seed for future enjoyment.

These photos are ok for an armature like myself.  If you have not taken the time to view Chris Helzer’s Prairie Ecologist blog, you are missing out on world-class photos related to prairies’!  Take the opportunity to check out his close up photos of insects, flowers and all things prairies’.

Broilers on fresh grass.

Broilers on fresh grass.

Prior to our start with cattle, we practiced pasture animal production using poultry.  Specifically chickens known as “broilers”, birds bred and raised for their meat, not eggs.  Pasture poultry production is a fairly easy process.  Day old chicks arrive in the mail.  Their first few weeks are spent inside, protected from the elements.  At around three weeks of age the young birds move to a portable (floorless) shelter.  The shelter provides protection from weather but more importantly, security from predators.  Without a floor, the chickens are free to pick and scratch through grass and excrete their waste right onto the soil.  The shelters are moved daily to a fresh patch of grass.

Fresh grass is the key to chicken health.  They do consume grains for a large part of their diet, but you would be amazed at the amount of grass a chicken will eat.  In addition to grass and grain, chickens love to feast on any unsuspecting bug.

In the end, a healthy pasture raised broiler in your grill, skillet, oven or crock pot will translate into a happy healthy family.  Email us for current or future availability of pasture poultry.

This past week we hit a dip in our efforts to produce grass-fed beef.  We have experienced dips during the past two years but this one was a little more significant.  In a matter of a few days we had an outbreak of pinkeye among the cows.  As soon as we recognized the problem we acted quickly to manage the situation and it seems we have things turned around.

What caused the problem?  A number of factors most likely, but in the end it was a lack of management on our part.

1)      Non aggressive fly suppression

2)      Slower cattle moves

3)      Cattle grazing low vigor forages due to recent weather conditions and past land history

We could have managed each one of these factors differently and the results may have been the same.  Based on this experience, we will be more careful to avoid all three factors coming together at the same time in the future.   When it comes to disease, prevention is always cheaper (and less stressful) than treatment.