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.

We continue to learn and adapt to raising beef in nature’s image.  Our Animal Welfare Approved and Certified Grassfed beef are not pampered.  These steers were never separated from the rest of the herd and fed a high energy diet to lay on fat.  The fat that these animals do carry should have an Omega 6 to 3 ratio below 2:1.  We will again test following harvest to verify quality as we have done the past two years (check our “About” page for details).

We have been blessed with another year in this endeavor.  We thank our customers for their continued interest in what we are trying to do.  We thank the Lord (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) for the gifts he has entrusted us with.

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

(If you have comments, please leave a message on the DS Family Farm FaceBook Page.)

Visit our farm if you are curious about how we care for the herd and pastures.  Public roads boarder two sides of the farm, so drive by inspections are possible any day of the year.  Please call ahead to make sure we are around if you would like to see the herd first hand.

Annual Farm Audit

If you are not able to visit the herd or wouldn’t know what to look for, we are glad to have an annual inspection to verify our beef herd as:

  • Animal Welfare Approved
  • Certified Grassfed
Who is inspecting who?

Who is inspecting who?
Kim Alexander recently visited the herd as part of our annual Animal Welfare/Certified Grassfed audit.

Auditor Kim Alexander visited the farm this year.  This was our second audit and a new auditor comes each year.  Kim walked the pasture and inspected the herd.  The audit is completed every 11 months.  This allows inspectors to view the operation during different portions of the year (growing season versus non-growing season).  Following the field review, we spent some time going over plans and records for our beef operation.

Auditors Know Their Stuff

Kim just doesn’t check boxes as an auditor, he practices what he reviews on his own farm.  What a great opportunity to have an experienced grazer like Kim come and look over our operation.  We shared some ideas and gained some insights to what we are doing and how we could improve.

Change Is Good

We have a few years of grazing under our belt now but every year is different.  What worked last year may not work this year.  When working with mother nature we need to be ready to adapt.  The factory where we produce beef for your table is not a climate controlled building with a consistent stream of incoming parts.

Change Is Required

That is what Kim was checking on.  Are we ready to provide for our herd when the unexpected happens?

  • Records document what happened.
  • Records help us compare from year to year.
  • Plans make us consider our pasture and our herd.
  • Plans make us prepare for emergency situations.

If you are curious about the different plans and records we keep, just drop us an email.  We would be happy to share with you what we are doing.