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

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Head ’em up, Move ’em on – RAWHIDE!  I have to admit this brings back memories of the Blues Brothers more than it does of Clint Eastwood (Rowdy Yates).  To be clear, we are not much for Head ’em up around here.  No whips, yelling or any other commotion near our herd.  Low stress = high quality beef.  (music provided at end of post)

Move ’em ON!

Fresh grass – MOVE – fresh grass – MOVE, is the name of the game at DS Family Farm.  The way nature made the prairies is the method we use to restore and improve our pastures.  Cows have legs and we believe they aren’t made for standing in lots.  So what does Move ’em on look like?  Here is a recent example:

Overview of daily moves. During the growing season a back fence would remain in place after about 3 days (dashed line).

Overview of daily moves. During the growing season a back fence would stay in place after about 3 days (dashed line).  Tap photo for larger view.

In the above photo we start with the herd on November 26th near a water tank.  Temporary wire fences are put up moving away from the tank.  This photo on November 30th, shows the first 4 paddocks have been grazed, cattle have moved into the 5th paddock (most of the cows are just over the hill out of view).  ATV tracks are visible along the future paddock lines, smashed down grass so we can install the fences.  Small square bales are also visible in future paddocks.  This is our non-growing season and we are supplementing the stockpiled grass with hay.  If these moves were during the growing season we would prevent the herd from grazing previous paddocks after the third move (it takes grass about 3 days to start re-growing after being bitten off and we don’t want cows biting off new grass).

Sounds like work?

Paddock setup does take some time but in a few hours we are done with 3 days of moves.  Here’s how automatic Batt Latch gate openers and electric poly wire technology allows the cows to do most of the work:

moves_from_tank

This setup allows us three days off from herd moves.

In the example shown above the cows have just moved into the 11/30 paddock (as you can see they are busy working).  On November 30th we will setup two Batt Latch gate openers on the next two fence lines and a third fence line will stop the cattle from proceeding any further.  We don’t need to show up to work again until December 3rd!

Cows doing the work they love

Don’t get us wrong, we love working with the cows, but this technology gives us flexibility in our schedule.  This setup allows us to do a quick drive by to see if the cows have moved.  Fresh grass and move, fresh grass and move, this is the key to soil health, grassland health, cattle health and ultimately your health.

Cows moved through automatic gate.

Cows moved through automatic gate.

Cows grazing behind Batt Latch gate.

Cows grazing behind Batt Latch gate.

We hope you have enjoyed this post and we invite you to stop by sometime to see our herd in MOTION.  Always pasture grazed, never in lots for your health and ours.  We leave you with some Move ’em on entertainment:

 

Weaning time can be stressful for cow, calf and cowboy.  Traditionally, weaning calves meant to separate the cows and calves by distance.  For example the herd was brought into a corral where calves would be separated from the cows.  The cows would then be sent out to pasture and leave the calves in a lot or ship the calves off to a pasture elsewhere.  The traditional process was stressful due to the handling and separation of calves from momma.

During our first year of weaning calves we tried a technique called fence line weaning.  Where we physically separated the cow and calves but placed them along a fence to remain near each other.  The cow and calf could still see and touch each other but the fence made nursing impossible.

Sorting calves.

Fence line wean step 1, cows and calves together feeding on hay, we gently sorted the calves and quickly put up a portable fence to separate the herd.

fenceline wean

Fence line wean step 2, lead the herds into a paddock with a permanent fence to keep the cows and claves separate. In this photo a permanent two wire electric fence with cows on left and calves on right.

We were happy with the low stress results of fence line weaning our 2013 born calves last spring.  The drawback to this system, you end up with two herds to move.  In the photo above we simply moved both herds along the fence line toward the camera position.  We kept the cows and calves in the two herds for about 40 days before combining them back into a single herd.  When calves returned to their mothers, a couple of calves tried to nurse but were quickly kicked away by the cow.  When the cows had their 2014 calves and the new calves started nursing, we had one cow that allowed her 2013 fence line weaned yearling to start nursing her again.  This was unacceptable as the new calf would not be getting enough milk and nutrition.  At that point we installed a weaning ring into the nose of the yearling to prevent it from stealing milk from its younger sibling.

As an alternative, this year we are trying weaning rings in all 2014 calves.  This did force us to bring the calves into our coral and run them through the catch gate to insert the rings.  It is a fairly easy process and the calves did not seem to annoyed.  Here is a 20 second video of Jacob inserting a weaning ring:

The result is a single herd with some temporarily frustrated calves that can no longer figure out how to nurse.  The rings in their nose prevent normal sucking.  Both the fence line and nose ring methods are fairly low stress on cows, calves and cowboy.  The weaning ring requires a little more labor up front but will save us time and hassle by allowing us to keep moving just one herd rather than two.  Plus we can leave the rings in long enough to make sure no new calves are having their milk stolen by their older sibling.

weaning rings

Calves just weaned with nose rings. The ring or paddle prevents the calf from normal nursing. Calves allowed to stay with mother. Low stress situation for the entire herd since there is not physical separation.

We will be weaning calves later this week.  Our grassfed cows work year round, but we do give the cows about two months off from providing milk to a calf.  The last calf crop was born mid-May 2014 and the calves have had momma’s milk for the past 10 months.  This allows adequate time for the calf rumen (special stomach for grass digesting) to become fully developed.  The calf is now ready to turn grass into nutrition and ultimately beef for the rest of its life.  Actually the amount of milk the cow has provided daily has probably dropped significantly over the past few months.  Yet the calf has been getting a nice dose of that all important drink to keep the calf growing through this important time of life.

sucking calf

This 10 month old calf is taking advantage of momma’s milk just before weaning day.

This photo is our smallest cow letting her calf suck just the other day.  We are not trying to wean heavy calves so we can brag about weaning weight.  I wish we did have a scale to weigh our animals but we just are not a big operation at this point.  From the looks of it, this cow, which probably weighs 950 lbs. will be weaning a calf that I estimate at 575 lbs. or greater.  She has accomplished raising this calf on an all grass diet of stockpiled forage with supplemental hay.  Lets take a look at the percentage of weight that the cow was able to wean.  Weaning a 575 lbs. calf / 950 lbs. cow = 60% of the cows weight weaned in the calf.  Not all of our cows are this small, but I think it is safe to say that most of our cows will wean a calf around 50% of her own weight.  Of course they will do it on an all forage diet.

Please contact us if you would like to visit the herd.

Last April and May we posted some photos of our spring born calves.  Here we share some recent photos of some cow calf pairs.  The calves are looking healthy after a summer of grass and cow milk.

Cow with heifer calf.

Cow with heifer calf.

Cow with bull calf.

Cow with bull calf.

As always, you are welcome to contact us for a farm visit any time of the year.  We always have the herd on the move trying to mimic the natural effect of short term intense grazing followed by long term rest.  The system that was in place when buffalo (bison) roamed this area and created some of the deepest most productive soils in the world.