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:

 

The DS Family Farm Store is up and running.  We were ready for Small Business Saturday, almost.  We now have a section on our website that we invite local folks to check out [Buy From Our Farm].

Screen shot of our online pasture grazed meat product catalog. Not an online store, local sales from our farm for now.

Screen shot of our online pasture grazed meat product catalog. Not an online store, local sales from our farm for now.

Why just local folks?  We do not plan on shipping any product directly from our farm.  We encourage everyone to shop local, even for pasture poultry and grass-fed beef.

We are now serving up pasture grazed meat products to folks in the Lincoln – Seward area.  We welcome anyone in our area or anyone passing through, to stop by for direct pickup at the farm after first contacting us with your order.  From past posts, you know we are fans of the Nebraska Food Coop.  Look for DS Family Farm products once you are logged in to the Food Coop website.  The Food Coop will give you the option to pay online and receive our Nebraska Raised product throughout the Coop delivery area.

What an appreciation we now have for small businesses everywhere!  As we begin our efforts to turn product into certificates of service* ($$$), it is a good time to reflect back on our blog post Why Start?  Here are some current thoughts:

  • Sustainability is an ongoing effort:
    • We are monitoring environmental change in our pasture and will share our findings in future posts.
    • Profit as a measure of sustainability is “to be determined”.
  • Healthy animals:
    • We continue to watch and learn from our herd.
    • We have had some dips but for the most part the animals seem happy and healthy.
  • Gourmet grass-fed beef (Pasture Grazed Beef) for our community:
    • Early reports from our recently harvested beef is encouraging.
    • We will have health analysis of our beef in the near future.
    • Watch for YOUR RECIPES on our website soon.

Thanks for your support and we look forward to serving you in the future.

*Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Thou Shall Prosper

Would you know what to look for when choosing a Farmer?  That is, choosing a farmer to buy your family’s food from?  Looking for clean food?  Especially locally produced food, that can be a challenge.

grass-fed beef

Pasture raised 100% grass-fed beef from our farm near Malcolm, NE, sales to begin soon!

We have been members of the Weston A Price Foundation (WAPF) for several years.  About the time I was dealing with acid reflux, we were also investigating the startup of our farm.  While researching problem gut issues and sustainable farming, it didn’t take long for both topics to mesh and lead us to WAPF.

A diet of low processed whole foods provides the “medicine” your body needs to heal and support itself.  Where does one turn to source low processed whole foods?  When available, your local farmer! Does the management carried out on the local farm affect the food produced?  Absolutely. When it comes to meat, pasture grazed & grassfed is the preferred choice.

We recently completed and returned the WAPF Local Chapter Farm Visit Checklist.  Please take a moment to see how we responded to the checklist questions.

Feel free to contact us and stop by for a visit anytime to personally verify our answers.  We are happy to connect you with other local farms to visit and research.

Good luck on your search for clean food, here are some other Local Food sources we use:

Nebraska Food Coop (many producers listed, we have tried most)

Pawnee Pride Meats

Range West Beef

Open Sky Farm

Branched Oak Farm

Darby Springs Farm

Other Local Food sources we are aware of, let us know who we have missed:

Lincoln Natural Food Connection (Facebook)

lone tree Foods (Eastern NE Western IA)

Ficke Cattle Company

West Blue Farm

In our solar powered steer post we described how cattle will select the tips of plants first, grazing to capture the highest amount of energy available.  We call this grazing off the “ice cream”.  Here is a video link from this past weekend of the herd entering a new patch and grazing the tips off what some would call weeds (we call them forbs and our cattle love them) – Instagram Video – Grazing Plant Tips For Energy @dsfamilyfarm.

eastern gamagrass grazing

Cattle entering fresh paddock of eastern gamagrass (tripsacum dactyloides), aka the “ice cream grass”, early July 2015.  Steer on right side of photo tongue sticking out licking the ice cream!

Almost all plants have some part of “ice cream” (high energy) but one native plant has been nick named the “ice cream grass” – eastern gamagrass (tripsacum dactyloides).  I first became interested in eastern gama during the summer of 1985 while working in Falls City Nebraska for the Soil Conservation Service.  This area of the state still had small native stands of eastern gama.  The story goes that grazing ice cream grass by early settlers cattle almost wiped the grass out.   Since the 1990’s seed has become readily available and we have reintroduced this native grass in higher moisture soils that were previously invaded by non-native bromegrass and reeds canary grass.

grazing eastern gamagrass

Cattle have been in this patch of ice cream grass for about 24 hours late August 2015. Note tall giant ragweed stems stripped of leaves in front of closest steer in photo.

In the photo above the cattle are milling around waiting to move to a fresh patch.  Note this almost solid stand of eastern gamagrass has been evenly grazed to about cow shoulder height.  The herd has grazed the highest energy part of the leaves and left the rest.  We could “force” the herd to keep eating down the remaining leaves but if we move, two good things happen:

  1. The cattle move to fresh grass and eat the “ice cream” (high energy part) of the ice cream grass.
  2. The grass we leave behind as shown above, has good leaf area ready to capture photosynthesis and start regrowth.
Cattle moving to fresh patch of eastern gamagrass.

Cattle moving to fresh patch of eastern gamagrass.

In the above photo we have let down the temporary poly fence to allow the cattle to move into a fresh paddock.  A win-win situation for the cattle and the grass.

Grazing Tall

Stringing temporary poly wire fence through eastern gamagrass is a challenge. Here the cattle have moved into a fresh patch on the far side of the wire.

Greg Judy of Missouri has a chapter devoted to eastern gamagrass in his book “Comeback Farms“, which is worth the read.  He describes using a mob of dry cows to graze eastern gamagrass down further than what we show here.  It just depends on your goals.  In our herd we have cows with calves, yearling steers and grass finishing beef (2-year-old steers).  So we are now grazing with animal condition in mind.  This winter after the grass finished beeves are harvested, we will graze a little more with the land in mind.

As we have stated before our herd is 100% pasture grass-fed, no grain feeding.  One unique note about eastern gamagrass is that it is believed to be related to maize (corn).  The root systems are not similar at all.  The leaves of eastern gama are wide like corn and take a look at the seed head in the photo below.  Note that above the seed, the male portion of the plant is similar to a corn tassel.  The seed is large but harder than a kernel of corn.  None the less I am sure our cattle consume some of these ice cream grass seeds:

  • It helps spread the plant around the pastures
  • It is the closest thing to corn our cattle will ever consume!

easterngama_seedhead

Cows have been described as “starvation” animals.  Meaning that about every waking moment they feel on the verge of starving to death.  So their natural instinct is to eat like it might be their last meal.  When they can’t eat anymore they rest and chew their cud.  Then back to eating!

(Video: solar powered steer getting his ice cream just clipping tops of plants for sugar)

Like you and I, when given the choice, cows will eat the “ice cream” first.  Ice cream to a cow is the best part of plants.  The best part of a plant to eat depends on the individual cow.  Either Energy or Protein.  For the most part, our pastures have plenty of protein, so cattle are usually seeking energy when they graze.  Energy is found in plant parts closest to the sun.  Energy from ongoing or recent photosynthesis is a cows first choice, so they cream off the tops of plants first.

To sell beef we need cattle to get fat.  Before an animal will get fat, their basic requirements to live must be met (energy).  Most beef sold today is fattened on corn requiring large amounts of fossil fuel energy (see the link to NY Times Power Steer article).  Here at DS Family Farm we use Solar Energy through the miracle of photosynthesis to fatten cattle.

Some folks have even said they can “taste the oil” in regular beef.  I don’t know about that.  What about the taste of corn?  Personally I don’t know if anyone knows what corn tastes like these days.  Corn is in everything, just look at the ingredient label.  Everything tastes like corn and corn tastes like everything!

We urge you to TASTE the difference between an oil/corn powered steer versus a “solar powered steer”.