This month we started a farm email newsletter to keep our customers up to date.  Feel free to subscribe by using the form on our Contact page.

Among other items in this past email newsletter we asked the question, can cows live on grass alone?

Most cattle can live on grass alone, but the challenge is to raise healthy cattle that get to a level of “finish” (fat enough) to harvest and provide a quality eating experienceUltimately it is about YOU, providing YOU our customer, with a healthy product.  Many cattle today are no longer able to do this on grass alone.

Over the past 75 years cattle have been bred and managed to consume high starch (corn/grain) diets.  If you have not yet read Michael Pollan’s NY Times 2002 POWER STEER article, you really ought to take the time to do so.  This is an excellent story/explanation of how conventional beef reaches the supermarket.

grass type bull

BUDDY! Our herd bull thrives on grass. 75% Red Angus and 25% Devon.  100% Pasture Grazed!

In the uphill battle to find grass type cattle to start our herd, here is a review of the path we traveled:

  • Pharo Cattle Company
    • Hearing Kit speak back in 2002 opened my mind to what we now call DS Family Farm.
    • Sign up for Kit Pharo’s newsletter, excellent info!
  • Terry Gompert
    • Past UN-L Extension agent and HMI instructor.
    • Check if any recordings are still available from UN-L in Knox County such as:
      • 2007 Ultra High Stock Density Event
      • 2009 Holistic Grazing Management
  • Stockman Grass Farmer publication
    • Excellent resources, CDs, DVDs, Books.
  • Grassfed Exchange
    • All things GRASSFED.
    • Recordings of their past events are a wealth of information.
  • Hidden Valley Ranches in the Nebraska Sandhills
    • We met Gary and Cathie Morris at the first Grassfed Exchange in 2010.
    • In 2011 we brought 10 heifers and a bull from their Ranch to our farm.
    • Previously Gary and Cathie had worked with grass cattle guru Gerald Fry.
  • In addition we visited and learned from a number of great local farms.
There are a lot of cattle herds in the vast ALL GRASS Nebraska Sandhills, but most of those herds produce cattle that end up in feedlots and finished on corn.  The Devon cattle influence and breeding program that Gary and Cathie implemented provided us with a great starter herd of cattle that thrive, reproduce and finish on an all grass diet.
With that said, here at DS Family Farm we are still learning and improving.
  • We are starting to add cows raised on our farm to the breeding herd.
    • Animals born and raised on our farm will out perform cattle raised elsewhere.
  • Our forages are improving:
    • Cattle were a missing part of our farm.
    • Cattle cycle nutrients, improving the soil and future grass.
    • Improved soil holds more water to grow more grass.
  • All with a goal to improve the level of “finish” on our harvested beef!
    • Our Ultimate Goal, providing a better product for you our customer.

So yes, it is possible for cows to live on grass alone.  Do your research and enjoy the journey!

Our cattle arrived as yearlings in July 2011, ten heifers and one bull.  May 9, 2013 our first calf was born.  This firstborn calf was a true miracle, a gift from God, which has now been repeated a number of times over the past three calving seasons.

Our firstborn calf at mom's side on 5/9/13, a gift from God.

Our firstborn calf at mom’s side on 5/9/13, a gift from God.

In the Old Testament the firstborn refers to animals and belong to the Lord.  Firstfruits refers to what comes from the soil.  Both the firstborn and firstfruits are a gift from God, we cannot create livestock or crops, only God.  To claim a calf or a grape is the result of evolution is not observable science.  It has been observed over the past 100 years, billions of chicken eggs have hatched in the USA and every time a chicken comes out, no evolution into a different “being”.

Sure we work to be good stewards of this cow herd.  We plan daily access to water, mineral and forages but beyond that, God and the cows do the rest.  When we have intervened, with good intentions, the results have been mixed.  What looked like benefits of our intervention at the time, long term has resulted in handicaps.   For one explanation of this reality see “Antifragile” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  We are always trying to move toward the natural order that God has designed.  This is difficult, we humans like to get involved and think we are doing some good when we just cannot anticipate all the variables.

grassfed beef

Firstborn calf grazing with mom at his side as a grown steer 10/10/15. Our herd is mainly polled. This firstborn calf is the only animal to express horns to date.

Back to our Old Testament discussion.  This claim by God for the firstborn was to point people toward the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  Prior to Jesus death and resurrection, people had God’s promise of a Savior to look forward to for their salvation.  Today we have the historical truth (evidence based on manuscript, archeological, prophecy and statistics) to look back that the promise has been fulfilled for our salvation.

On October 13, 2015 our firstborn calf will be butchered as a 29 month old steer.  We thank God for the opportunity he gave us to raise these animals and pray that the harvest will reach those who are in need of the nourishment provided.  All glory to God, Amen.

Update on the grass-fed steers we will be providing you fall 2015 (Report 1).  Remember our “grass-fed” beef is also known as “pasture grazed” beef.  The term grass-fed is pretty well-known, but we also refer to our beef as “pasture grazed”.  Why pasture grazed?

  • Cattle pictured below have lived their entire lives on pasture, never confined to a feed lot.
    • During the non growing season our cattle are on stockpiled pasture, never confined to dirt lots.
  • Yes these cattle are 100% grass-fed, never fed corn, any other grain or grain by products.
  • Our pastures contain diverse covers of grass, forbs, shrubs and trees.
    • Cattle choose the diet they need, want or crave.
    • Diversity is important, more than just “grass”-fed.

Pasture grazed beef steers offering fall of 2015 with photo of mother cow following each steer and the bull used (last photo):

pasture grazed steer

Steer #14 – born 5/9/13 – Cow #3 (first calf born in our pasture grazed beef operation)

Cow #3 - 1/2 Angus - 1/2 Devon

Cow #3 – 1/2 Angus – 1/2 Devon

Pasture grazed steer

Steer #12 – born 5/9/13 – Cow #2

Cow #2 - 1/2 Angus - 1/2 Devon

Cow #2 – 1/2 Angus – 1/2 Devon

grass-fed steer

Steer #18 – born 5/21/13 – Cow #7

Cow #7 - 3/8 Angus - 5/8 Devon

Cow #7 – 3/8 Angus – 5/8 Devon

grass-fed steer

Steer #17 – born 6/22/13 – Cow #6

pasture grazed cow

Cow #6 – 1/2 Angus – 1/2 Devon

Herd Bull - 3/4 Angus 1/4 Devon

Herd Bull – 3/4 Angus 1/4 Devon

WARNING – Flavor comes from two primary sources, diet and age of animal.  These steers will be harvested the first of October, around 28 months of age.  The flavor should be pronounced!  The beef from these steers will have a flavor unique to our farm.  Please contact us if you have any questions.