We had some AWESOME visitors to our farm in 2017!  When the group of folks pictured below showed up one cold Saturday morning in November, we were a little over whelmed.  So what brought this large group out for a visit?

Read, Brennan and Post Families from the Omaha area visiting November 2017.

Post, Brennan and Read Families from the Omaha area visiting November 2017.

Mothers On Mission

The three Mom’s in the photo above had done their homework.  They care about what they feed their families.  The questions they brought to us were to the point:

  • How do we care for the animals?
  • What else do the cattle eat besides grass?
  • How do we manage the pastures?
  • What kind of grass is this?
  • What about the fat profile of the meat?
  • Do you spray the pastures?
  • How do you move the cattle?
  • What about the water for the herd?
  • Do the cattle get any medicine or shots?
  • When are the calves born?
  • What are the best ways to prepare the meat?

We did our best to answer each question.  The Pass – Fail test comes when our guests visit the herd.

  1. It doesn’t take long for anyone to decide if the animals are calm & satisfied versus stressed or lacking care.
  2. You don’t need to be a range scientist to see if the pasture is overgrazed.
  3. A simple walk across the pasture will tell you if the land and water is protected.

Seeing the pasture and herd is KNOWING.  Know Your Farmer Know Your Food.

Back to our visiting Mom’s

We applaud the Mothers and Grandmothers that visited our farm over the past few years.  The impact THEY are having on the “food industry” is a welcome change.  Successful Farming noted this change on this February 2016 Magazine Cover.

meet your new boss

Real change is happening

After the families pictured above left our farm, we had another visitor scheduled this same cold November Saturday.  Our next guest was a woman who works for one of the largest food processing manufactures in the world.  She was interested in what was happening in our pasture.  As with all our visitors, we had a great time discussing farming, food, environment and “the herd”.

When she disclosed who she worked for and what she did, we asked about any changes her company was going through.  Our guest was quick to point out that her “customers” were demanding the removal of many processed food ingredients.  The number one priority, removal of artificial food colors and dies.  Her company is responding, change is happening!

Change starts one bite at a time

Years ago when Sheila and I first felt the need to change our food buying options, it seemed overwhelming.  The first farmer we purchased clean food from locally was quick to discuss our feelings.  He told us to just keep it simple.  Make easy changes to your food purchases.  Grow into the change where it makes sense when the timing is right.

This advise was spot on.  Slow and steady wins the race.  We all vote for what kind of “food industry” we want with each bite.  We are moving the food industry one bite at a time!

What about our visiting guys?

We really need to talk about the guys pictured above.  These husbands had taken the wives out for a special Friday evening the night before visiting our farm.  Where did the ladies take the guys?  HA, I had to laugh, the ladies get a night out on the town and the guys get a cool morning walk in a pasture!  Way to go Men, supporting the ladies!  What a fun group.

What about the kids that came along?

The kids pictured above had a sense of wonderment that us adults need to stop and recapture more often.  They had some great questions also.  What can these kids learn from their parents?

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.  Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck.

Proverbs 6:20-21

When these kids become the next wave of food purchasers, all we can say is, watch out and Thank You MOMs!

We urge you to take four minutes to watch “NRCS: Pasture Management“.  It really does a nice job describing some activities we practice here at DS Family Farm.  These practices work for both pasture health and animal health and ultimately your health!

  1. The depiction of Rotational Grazing at 1:20 into the video is excellent.
  2. There is a discussion of excess manure at 3:00 which is not an issue in our pasture grazed only system.
  3. We are not “organically certified” but follow organic practices in much of our operation.

Overall, a nice video by the folks at USDA.

Our previous post covered how we deal with bugs that bother our herd on the inside.  Everyone is probably more familiar with those pesky bugs that bother our cows on the outside.  Yes, cows come with a fly swatter on their hind end, but here we list a few management practices that help our herd put up with these pesky bugs.

Compare the fly pressure between these two cows! Quite a difference wouldn't you agree?

Compare the fly pressure between these two cows! Quite a difference, do you agree?

Did you know some cows attract more flies?

Apparently the level of testosterone within an animal makes a difference in attracting flies.  Usually bulls will attract more flies than cows.  So if we have a cow attracting a larger number of flies, that is a red flag.  The cow shown in the photo with higher fly pressure is on our list to be culled.

Many cattle owners don’t know there is a difference in fly pressure between cows.  The use of insecticide feed, ear tags and pour-on products prevent their cows from displaying fly pressure.  If this last sentence is confusing to you, many farms use chemical fly control in the following ways:

  • Cows are actually fed larvicide and insect growth regulators!  Yuck!
  • Ear tags contain insecticides.
  • Insecticides are actually “poured onto” the back of cows.

Remember, pests are natures way of eliminating the weak.  The use insecticide products on cattle across our land accomplishes two things:

  1. Allows poor (weak) cattle to stay in the herd.
  2. Creates super flies that are resistant to chemicals.

Super Files

Since we mimic natures management with our cattle herd, we are not worried about the super flies being created by the use of insecticides on other herds.  No chemical insecticides used on our herd.  Fly management starts with manure management, flies lay their eggs in cow pies.  Our fly management includes:

  • MOVE!
    • It takes a few days for fly eggs to hatch and mature.
    • We keep the herd in front of the flies the best we can.
  • Pasture Diversity!
    • There are all kinds of critters that feed on flies and their larvae.
    • Dung beetles, birds and other creepy crawly things in the soil are encouraged.
    • Unfortunately, those using poisons are reducing natural predators in the process.
  • Stock Density.
    • With tight herd moves cattle will smear their recent manure pats before moving to fresh pasture.
    • Smeared cow pies = destroying the habitat for fly larvae.
  • Minerals.
    • Sulfur seems to be a key mineral for repelling all kinds of pests.
    • Pests avoid healthy animals, they are searching for the weak.
    • Minerals keep our cattle immune system working properly.
  • Natural “organic” repellents.
    • Until we can get the animal culled from our herd we have had good luck with “Eco-Phyte” from AGRI-DYNAMICS.
      • Contains essential oils such as lemongrass and eucalyptus.
      • There are other organic products to consider.
    • These type of products are becoming more available as alternatives to Deet based products for humans now days!

Recommended Reading

For more on flies and herd health we recommend you search the following sources:

We are not talking about that fly in your house!  What about those bugs that live inside our cattle?

Prior to becoming Animal Welfare Approved, we didn’t think much about the bugs inside our cows.  We had heard about using a microscope to check for “worm eggs” in cow manure but as much as Doug likes looking at cow pies, this seemed a little bit odd.  Actually, we just didn’t know how to go about it.  Annual testing for internal parasites is a requirement of the Animal Welfare Approved process.

Brown stomach worm life cycle, image source: Beef Cattle Research Council (http://www.beefresearch.ca/).

Brown stomach worm life cycle, image source: Beef Cattle Research Council (http://www.beefresearch.ca/).

During our first Animal Welfare certification process, the inspector told us to just take a manure sample to a veterinarian.  How simple!  Fifteen dollars later we had a worm egg count.  With our animals on pasture all the time, we figured we were good.  The June 2016 report actually told us that at our egg count number of 1200 per gram was bad, we were losing production!

A toxic wormer was not an option for our herd.  Doug reviewed notes from previous training.  The solution we used this past year was a non toxic supplementation approach:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Diatomaceous Earth
  • Salt

We created a mix of equal parts of the above three items and fed it to the herd in a tub.  In addition, during the fall and early spring we added Cina homeopathic remedy to their water.

Results

The June 2017 egg count report came back at 200 eggs per gram.  The veterinarian told us to keep doing what we were doing as this is a very good – low egg count.

Is a non-toxic supplementation program a solution?

We are happy with our results from last years efforts, but it did take effort.

  • What if we managed grazing heights better?
  • What if we moved more often?

We believe we can lower worm eggs with just better grazing management.  Look again at the image above.  Apparently the larvae can only climb the vegetation so high.

  • Keeping grazing heights higher should reduce larvae ingestion.

As for more often moves.  In a recent Stockman Grass Farmer article, grazier Greg Judy does an excellent job explaining how he has reduced herd health issues with more frequent moves!

Our goal at DS Family Farm is to give a fresh section of pasture to the herd every day.  This past year we have implemented providing TWO moves to fresh pasture during a day on occasion.  We understand that even more moves (4 or more per day) would benefit both the animals and the grass even further.  Think of the roaming herds of buffalo with moves when they wanted.

Balance and How

It all comes back to balance.  There are only so many hours in a day.  We always remember our WHY we do what we do.  We provide clean meat for peace of mind.

  • HOW we produce clean meat is always a work in progress.

Feel free to join us on our journey of how we continue to improve our management in our attempts to mimic nature.

 Email us or give us a call if you would like to visit our in MOOOTION herd, the herd on the move.

Raising Pasture Grazed grassfed beef from conception to table is not an easy task.  We may have four different animal classes in our herd at any one time.  But it all starts with the COW, the factory on our farm!

Cow Factory

THE COW FACTORY – here she is milking this year’s calf (far left) while grooming her calf from two years ago. Her two-year old calf on the right will be harvested this fall.

We make our cows work, they must:

  1. Conceive and raise a calf each year
  2. Raise that calf providing milk for 8+ months
    1. Refer to Weaning Weight Post 2015
    2. Weaning at an older age fully develops the calf’s rumen for grass based production.
  3. While milking a calf for 8+ months, she is developing her next calf inside her.
  4. While milking this years calf, she will watch over her previous two calves in a low stress herd environment.
  5. Graze our pastures in nature’s pattern to improve our pastures soil and grasses!

WOW!

We ask a lot from our cows, but they love their job from what we can tell.  They are definitely a factory when you look at all they crank out.  The cows do all the above listed items and all we give them are:

If a cow cannot do all five functions listed above (calf every year while grazing every day) she is removed from the herd.  No slackers allowed.  There are very few cows that can do what we ask of our girls.  We are just trying to mimic how nature works here in our small pastures.  There is a movement underway across this country with more folks farming in natures image.  This movement is called Regenerative Agriculture.  We are not just “sustaining” our natural resources but IMPROVING our soils and grass while creating product!  If you would like to support the Regenerative Agriculture movement,  seek out products from these growers.  Will these products be higher priced?  Most likely yes.  For the higher price you will get a better quality product and your health will thank you for it.

Let’s just say it takes an amazing Factory to deliver a product while at the same time improving its environment to repeat the cycle in the future.  Take another look at what is happening in the photo.  This photo is a great way to display why we are “Animal Welfare Approved” and “Grassfed Certified”.  Farming in nature’s image, trying to work within God’s design (without messing it up too much).

Cow Factory

DS Family Farm – raising beef using God’s design.  Letting Cows be Cows!  The steer on the right will be harvested this fall after living two plus years in the same herd with its mother.  Always on pasture, never confined to a lot, never fed corn or other grains.  Come see and taste the difference.