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:
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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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:
- Braided poly/stainless steel/tinned copper wire
- Electric pulse fencer
- 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).
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.
- 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”.
Some grazing paddocks, 2014 – 2017, chaotic and on the move.
Cattle are key to a healthy ecosystem, that is if we manage cattle in natures image. Nature provides examples of how herds such as the bison of North America or the buffalo and wildebeest of Africa work as keystone species. An important feature of these large animals is their ability to eat grass. Much of the grass they eat, comes right back out the back end (POOP) as high quality nutrients that feed soil life and creates new grass. The process is very simple and efficient. The hard thing for us humans is to keep it simple.
In elementary school I remember when any type of nutrient cycle (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) was shown as a graphic, the COW was the central or a key part of the process.
The nitrogen cycle, note the cow! As an aside, legumes in our pasture “fix” atmospheric N for free. Industrial fixation of N requires 300 atmospheres of pressure and 1000 degrees F of heat!
Maybe you have heard the bad rap cows have received in the global warming/climate change discussions. Basically that cows are adding to much methane (green house gas) to our atmosphere. Here are a few things to think about:
- Our current cow herd size in the U.S. is about 10 million fewer animals than historic bison herd estimates. Not even counting the elk, deer and antelope that use to roam our lands.
- How can fewer animals cause problems today when larger herds of the past built deep rich soils and abundance?
- Methane from cattle on healthy pastures are quickly mitigated by soil microbes.
I think we can agree that cattle confined to dirt lots eating non-natural diets such as corn will produce more methane than grass based cattle. So it is not the cattle causing the problem, if anything it is how humans manage the cattle.
Our nutrient cycles are now broken as pointed out in this article from Nature World News “Loss Of Animals’ Poop Disrupts Nutrient Cycles…”. We need to get animals out of confined feeding areas and back out on the land. Our lands are starved for the biological active nutrients that could be naturally cycling through large herbivores such as cattle.
Prior to brining cattle to our pastures in 2011, this farm had not had a cow on it for over 30 years. We have re-established nutrient cycling in our pastures by using cattle in natures image and are starting to see excellent results in the grass we are able to grow!
Want to stay up on the most recent science of how beef can heal our environment? Check out the Defending Beef FaceBook page.
Image source: UN-L Extension Circular 155.
Have you heard the term “Keystone Species“? For example, think of the impact the American Bison had on our environment. Prior to settlement of the central tall grass prairies, most everything relied on the movement of the vast buffalo herds. Buffalo were a key species.
American Bison commonly referred to as buffalo, a keystone species.
The buffalo herds have been gone for more than a hundred years, but the impact they left behind drives Nebraska’s agricultural economy to this day. We have literally been mining the soil/carbon/organic matter these animals created through their movement years ago.
Here at DS Family Farm we simply try to mimic the pattern nature has shown us through the bison herd movements (and other large herbivore herds around the world). The only difference is we use cattle, planning and technology. By following natures example we are rebuilding soil, regenerating prairies and restoring natural cycles within our pastures.
In a series of future posts, we will describe how we try to mimic nature with our Keystone Cows.
Without the “keystone” the other stones become misplaced, out of whack or break down.
(Bison photo courtesy of USDA NRCS Photo Gallery)