Recently we posted a short video (YouTube link) to the DS Family Farm Facebook page showing how we provide fresh water to the cow herd in subzero weather. Late December 2017 through early January 2018 we had a 17 day stretch with temperatures below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit) and many stretches below 0 degrees F (-18 degrees Celsius).  The system worked fine and we finally sold the propane tank heater we were keeping around for backup.

The secret is to keep the water surface protected from the WIND!  Since the video generated some questions on how the system exactly works, below is our “How To install a Subzero Frost Free Tank”:

Step 1:  Start with a heavy-duty tire from your local shop.  A few years ago we were able to get a used tire for two-dozen donuts!  The tire shop workers were glad to see us coming.

used tire for tank

Use sawzall (reciprocating) saw to cut holes in one tire sidewall (for cattle to stick their head into). Not an easy task, best accomplished with help of teenage boys!  Do not cut the entire side wall off!

Step 2:  Place and level tank in pasture.  We place the tire tanks on a ridge, in a fence line dividing two pastures.  We also drill a hole near the bottom of the tire and insert a pipe with a valve.  From the valve we run poly pipe over the ground and gravity flow water to portable tanks throughout the pasture (not during winter).

place tire tank

Level spot for tire tank. Once in coming water pipeline is trenched to tank, place geotextile fabric around tank and add crushed rock on the fabric providing a solid area for cattle traffic.

Step 3:  Bring water source (trench in pipeline) up through the bottom of the tank and also add overflow outlet tube/pipe if you like.  Next add concrete to plug the bottom of the tire hole to create a “tire tank” that holds water.

plugging tire to hold water

After pipes are brought up through bottom tire hole, pour concrete to seal the bottom of the tank!

Step 4:  The tank pictured below serves as our freeze proof tank (see diagram at end of this blog post).  The pump only runs when we have sunshine!  The photo below was taken during a long cloudy stretch of weather a few years ago.  A series of 12 volt batteries connected to the controller will run the pump without solar power.  Just once or twice a year we may run out of stored water before the sun shine’s again.  (Solar panel in background of photo below).

tank filling

Water running out fill pipe. Overflow tube is white tube near fill pipe. Float switch wires visible.

Step 5:  During winter, add a cover with flaps and cattle simply raise the flap to reach water.  In southeast Nebraska we are blessed with consistent sunshine during winter.  Even on cloudy winter days the solar panel will usually generate enough power to pump water and keep the tank recharged with fresh warm water.  If the air temperature reaches near or above 32 degrees F, this system works without any problems.  If temperatures are well below freezing, a layer of ice may form overnight on the water surface.  Cattle usually break the ice on their own and drink but the float switch may be frozen in the ice layer above the water surface.  We have to break the small layer of ice and allow the float switch to fall to the “ON” position for the pump to run.

cows lift flap

Tire tank cover. Cattle lift flap to drink. Fresh water keeps tank warm and prevents freezing.

Overview of entire system:

freeze free tank

The bleeder valve allows water to drain back down the fill pipe. Without the bleeder valve, water above the frost line could freeze solid after the pump stops.  A frozen fill pipe would cause all kinds of problems!

One last note on our system:

We actually run two tanks from this single well/pump setup.  A valve near the well (below the frost line) allows us to direct water to either tank pipeline.  With a float switch in each tank, we inserted a three-way switch to the controller.

  1. With the controller switch in the top position, the float switch at the top tank controls the pump.
  2. With the controller switch in the bottom position, the float switch at the bottom tank controls the pump.
  3. With the controller switch in the middle position, neither float switch controls the pump!  Pump is always “ON”.

What is the advantage of being able to switch the pump to always “ON”?

  • Answers:
    • In very cold weather, with the switch always “ON”, when the sun shine’s, the pump is running water.
    • Any extra water just runs into a pond at the “overflow tube” outlet (to daylight on diagram).
    • If a layer of ice forms overnight, the new fresh “warm” water will thaw the ice layer.
    • This gives us one more option to make sure the cattle always have access to fresh water.

In summary, protect the water surface from the wind and recharge fresh (warm) water daily.  Do your research, information from Canada is very helpful.  We also like these ideas:

  • Add a thermal “heat tube” under the tank
    • Based on our experience, not necessary if you have adequate recharge in our environment.
  • Frost free “nose pump”
    • Yes, cattle pump water when then need it with their nose!

Unfortunately, our beef is not normal.

Looking at a “normal distribution” of HOW all beef is raised in our country, we are definitely weird!

Normal is for the masses, we like being weird!  No status quo around here.  Actually, if you look at the pattern of nature and IF you consider nature normal, then yes we are normal.  That is why we say, “unfortunately, our beef is not normal”.  We hope in the future that pasture raised beef will be the norm, until then, we choose to be weird.

Fortunately our weird is some folks normal.  We are currently seeing great demand for our beef and are happy to spread the word and connect interested customers with other weird beef producers.

Weird vs Normal beef:

Weird vs Normal Beef

The problem with normal food.

Seth Godin points out that “Normal diets made it easier for mass food manufacturers to generate a profit.”  We have seen the results of the Standard American Diet (standard = normal).  Our society has reached a point where some of the masses are realizing that their diet is directly linked to their overall health and they are seeking out healthy/weird food.

“We are all on a diet, be on a healthy one!” – Dr. Joseph Mercola

Being weird is not easy, as Godin also points out, “Do the hard work – be real.”  For real health, you are going to have to do some work!  Raising REAL BEEF, in natures image requires some hard work and commitment.  Give us a call and come see some Weird Beef.  As Dave always says:

“Be Weird!” – Dave Ramsey

(If you have comments, please leave a message on the DS Family Farm FaceBook Page.)

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.

 

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)