How do you raise Grass fed beef cattle?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by odieclark, Dec 4, 2017.

How do you raise grass fed beef?

  1. On grass only

    8.3%
  2. On pasture only

    16.7%
  3. On Fresh pasture and bales brought in

    66.7%
  4. Sileage and bales

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Sileage bales pasture

    8.3%
  6. Grain at some point

    16.7%
  7. Combination of all of the above

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. Other-please post

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Does anyone raise their beef cattle on grass only?

    If so, can you tell us how they grow?

    What is their weight gain like?

    What breed do you raise?

    How long does it take to get them to butcher?

    What is an ideal weight for butcher?

    Do you feed Fresh pasture rotational grazing?
    Dry hay?
    Sileage?

    How big are they? Total weight?
    Hanging weight?
    How old at butcher!
     
  2. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Any other suggestions on how you raise your beef cattle and get them to market satisfactorily-all welcome!

    Trying to learn!

    Thank you!
     

  3. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    Grass fed means no grain...but you can use grain plants in their vegatative state. So silage will usually be ok. I know I've seen silage used at dairies that ship to milk plants that sell their stuff as grass fed.
     
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  4. Ronney

    Ronney Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I feed my cattle on grass only with hay as a supplementary winter feed. The milkers get fed a small amount of grain/nuts at milking which is more of a treat than a feed, hand reared calves get grain as well as milk, cow reared calves get no grain. They grow well but probably not as fast as something getting corn poured into it. Most of my breeding cows are dairy/beef crosses with Angus as a terminal sire. Their growth rate and finished size will depend very much on what breed they have in them i.e those which are Jersey/Angus are likely to be smaller and slower than something with Friesian/Hereford/Angus but that doesn't always follow.

    We slaughter cattle for the freezer at around 18months-2 years, cattle going to the works are usually 2 years.

    Yes, I rotational graze but not in a strict sequence as not all paddocks grow at exactly the same rate. I also run sheep which get put in behind the cattle.

    As a matter of interest, the following denotes what is considered a pasture fed animal in NZ, including meat for export.
    PASTURE FED means that the animals have been raised under normal New Zealand farming conditions with year round access to grass (e.g. hay, silage, lucerne, feed crops or other grazed or conserved forages) and other supplementary feeds (including manufacturing feeds, provided that you have a statement from the manufacturer that the feed does not contain animal fat or animal protein, other than dairy. You must keep the manufacturers declaration. Where animals have been fed on a feed pad or feed lot other than for short term periods (e.g. only as supplementary feed immediately prior to slaughter) then they would not be "pasture fed" because of not having year-round access to grass.

    Probably not helpful to you:D

    Cheers,
    Ronnie
     
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  5. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Thank you for the replies! All are helpful and it is interesting to learn what others do.

    It seems in raising animals or even in selling eggs, there is terminology that is used that appeals as an advertising campaign as much as anything, rather than sound and honest farming practices.

    The one that our family has had some laughs over, are regarding chickens and eggs! There was a fast food chain that advertised that the chickens are fed no antibiotics....Well, who would give a chicken an antibiotic when they are only alive for 5-8 weeks? Then there are all of the misled customers on eggs....free range :cool:chickens(definition of free range isn't what you visualize!), :Dvegetarian fed only chickens/though they free range!?:rolleyes: Natural eggs=Brown eggs, etc...!

    Also, processing and labeling laws apply when raising/selling meat-federal &/or individual states required labeling/. Not sure how that varies in New Zealand or elsewhere? I am aware that some of our lamb sold in the states comes from New Zealand & Australia!

    We have a mix of breeds, as we bought cattle from someone getting out of raising them. Not sure we have good stock at this point, but it is what we were able to get originally. Our cattle breeds include mixes of some Angus, Hereford, Galloway, and a few have some Holstein mixed in. So, they are a bunch of mixed up cattle!

    As it takes 1 1/2-2 years to raise them to butcher on grass/pasture, how big should they get? We harvested two, and their live weights were very disappointing.:( One was taken too soon, but the other was just over the two year mark and didn't quite reach 1,000 pounds.:eek: Some of ours seem to grow better, but am doubting we are missing something in feeding them out as grass fed.

    What type of minerals do you offer yours?
     
  6. wy_white_wolf

    wy_white_wolf Just howling at the moon

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    Grass pasture in the summer then feed hay in the winter that came off the ground we winter pasture on.

    My little brothers place:
    https://4tbarallnaturalbeef.com/

    WWW
     
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  7. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Oh, my! So awesome!
    Of course, in WYOMING! Love it!
    Oh, my goodness! My mouth is watering! :)
     
  8. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I get quite a laugh at the egg section in the grocery store. People want to purchase with their conscience, especially when the difference is pocket change, but they have no information to base their purchases on.
    Brown eggs from hens kept the same as the hens that produce white eggs, seem more natural. Free range creates an image of Grandma's backyard flock, when it is actually far different. I could go on and on.

    In an upscale grocery store near Detroit, their meat case is beautiful. Pricy, too. I saw a sign on some nice looking sirloins, " Pasture Raised". Most of the grain free beef I've seen was awful, so this sparked my interest. I started a conversation with the butcher. He explained that these cattle were pasture raised before they went to the feed lot for 6 to 8 weeks of fattening on grain.

    40 years ago, the budding organic movement had all sorts of healthy sounding terms with no specific definition. Finally, the USDA brought the several organic groups together to hammer out a standard with requirements and a definition of terms.

    Until a standard is set on eggs or beef, I expect to see misleading truths. We have 50,000 words in our vocabulary, yet what constitutes "pasture" is quite different from person to person.

    I had a neighbor jump into the cattle business. He found several hundred acres of uncultivated land he could get for free. He mended fences and hauled in water tanks. The cattle had it all eaten down to nothing in a few weeks. He supplemented pasture with some old grass hay. By summer's end those cattle had grown, but the quality of beef was low.
    In Columbia, there are vast acreages of lush, chest high grass with frequent rains and a long season. I think that Columbia"pastured beef" would be far better than Boondock's goldenrod "pastured beef".
    It concerns me when a poorly funded homestead thinks they can avoid the cost of grain and utilize marginal fields while expecting a high quality, healthy product.

    Chicken Tenders advertised as hormone free, when there has never been any chicken hormones. Eggs from hens fed a vegetarian diet, when few if any layer mashes contain any animal protein. Humanely Raised or Naturally Raised are terms that have no legal meaning.

    If I told you that cage free hens live longer than caged hens, you'd accept that as true. But in reality, cage free hens death rate is higher than caged birds. I doubt you'd accept that as easily.
     
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  9. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Haypoint, oh you know it! I agree with much if not all of what you say! Though, I can’t say I am familiar with your neighbor or Columbia specifically of course!

    All of the chicken and egg claims are somewhat hysterical at times! Yes, standards would be best!

    On the other hand, I do appreciate people wanting more healthy food choices,...but at what price,...?

    The organic issue is another controversy even within our own family! Us and our kids who are or have went to school for some of this, well, the short is one is more on the organic side and the other who claims it is some of the organic folks who make false claims and make the system more challenging,.. and so on!

    I just hear it all out, and try to assist in the best way possible to keep the health records for these animals,.... read, ask, watch, ...

    I guess, I can honestly say ours have not just had hay, and pasture, as I found they love pumpkins! Ours have had many pumpkins in the last two months! Now when I come by them, or even drive my own car by them, well they run to me expecting pumpkins! . Honestly, when I go by the fence edge, it seems the earth bounces a bit with them running over to me!

    But, still need better pasture likely, hay-improvements, better minerals perhaps, or maybe it’s just bad genetics?
     
  10. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Genetics plays a big role in growth. But you won't find superior, thick loins, fast growth in a bull you buy on Craig's list. Hard to justify a $6000 bull for 10 cows.
    I n my experiences, good, fertile ground was in crop production and the rocky, sand ridges, brushy ground was pasture. An Amish friend has the opposite view. He makes sure his pastures are well fertilized, limited weeds and never over-grazed. This way, he contends, he gets pasture weeks earlier in the Spring and a month or more in the Fall.That is feed he does not have to harvest, store and feed out.
    In Michigan, the Cattleman's Association has a Bull Test. About a hundred bull calves, from nearly 100 farms, are brought together for the Fall and Winter, weighed and judged and in March, auctioned. These top quality bulls bring a nice premium. But are often out of reach of the small farm. However, the farms that can afford these superior genetics, often have an older bull that will go to a livestock auction for hamburger. A ton bull might only bring $1600. A small beef operation may buy such a bull, use him for a few months, then recoup their money by selling him at auction. The down sides are that you have to spend time locating such a situation, you have to insure he is sound and fertile and a ton bull might strain any heifers he covers.

    If you feed pumpkins to your beef, can you still call them grass fed? How about Beet Pulp? If you market your beef as "no grain, ever", does that count rice?
     
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  11. Allen W

    Allen W Well-Known Member

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    Quality of pasture, quality of hay, genetics, husbandry practices will all play a role in your results.
     
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  12. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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  13. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Thank you all for the input!

    Haypoint and Allen, and anyone else still reading this, I think it is a combination of issues to get beef to market at preferred weights. Quality of pasture, hay, genetics, animal husbandry,... plus, seeing and reading the info on a quality bull, well, I feel that is where we should begin! Certainly the bull we used for most of our breeding would not have been a good choice. He just went to the processor at 2 1|2 years of age. Very light weight under 1,000

    He was much too small and obviously didn’t have quality genetics behind him! Not sure how a 2+ year bull comes out on meat quality or on flavor, toughness , ? Any of you have experience with that?

    I guess the best I can say, is there won’t be that much meat! I guess I am not sure if that is reassuring or depressing!

    haypoint, so true, the 20+ cattle have downed about 50 pumpkins in total this fall between all of them, so no they wouldn’t be 100% grass fed! I guess I messed up that marketing claim! . Dang! But, the Pumpkins they just loved and,.... well, it has been a way for us to get them to come to us and follow us. We do move them into Fresh pasture as we are able. I have been called on at times to get them to follow, and mind you I am just over 100 pounds myself! I guess a treat for a cow is never forgotten! At least they follow me now, even if it is all because of the food!... !

    With all of that said, isn’t it always about the food anyhow? It’s what gets all of us sometimes! Whether it’s the aroma of fresh bakery, a sizzling piece of meat, a favorite recipe of someone that you love,...gets you to go there every time!
     
  14. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Just wanted to add, Hiro posted in cattle, I am still hungry, in this forum. While it is more about a rejected calf and bottle feeding it, is an interesting read and one I am curious to follow as well.

    In raising cattle, knowing when to pull a calf is another situation we haven’t yet dealt with! In Hiro situation the mother couldn’t or wouldn’t feed it, which of course makes it more obvious.

    My concern is with winter, and if one last cow calves -will it be too cold to survive outside? Temps are now at freezing temps and nights colder.

    We also had one bull calf born November 19th, much too late! So far he is good and strong and has an experienced larger than life mother, but we are keeping our eyes on him!
     
  15. Allen W

    Allen W Well-Known Member

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    I thought about trying to raise grass fed cattle but couldn't ever quit swallow the hook. Here I would have a narrow window in the spring to hit with adequate nutrition to say I truly finished them on grass. Not a big deal but would make marketing more difficult. My big problem was year round nutrition if I hit all the marks with wheat pasture and some late summer cow peas and sudex I could keep a good plane of high protein feed for them. But mother nature is a fickle mistress and wrecks havoc with ones plans, between droughts and arctic blasts ideal conditions don't last. I could raise or buy hay but that doesn't always meet the animals needs and isn't always convenient so at this time I just have cows and calves. Right know I sell calves as yearlings, I have a couple of more steps before I'm ready to try feeding any and that will be grain fed when I do, partly becuse I can extend when I finish them over a longer period of time and still keep a tight breeding season.

    Not knocking any one for grass feeding and not knocking you, your here asking questions to a problem you are seeing and wanting to improve things. I would advise a look at your animals nutrition levels through out the year.
     
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  16. haypoint

    haypoint Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'll be honest, I don't buy the grass fed/finished beef idea. Kroger had requests for grass finished beef. So, they carried it for a trial period of three months. The customer tag they scan to get you the discounts at checkout is used to track buying trends. During this trial period, they sold a lot of pastured beef. But 98% of it was a single purchase, almost no one bought it twice. That tells me people like the sound of it far more than they like the taste of it. For the small operation, selling to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, at a premium, I fear they will be disappointed.

    If feeding ground soybean is taboo to pasture raised beef, how do you justify pasturing them on field peas? Since hay is a big part of pastured beef, is oat hay, with some grain heads really grain-free? Can you pasture a soybean field after harvest? Some bale soybean fields after harvest. Is soybean hay really just hay? Can you graze corn stubble fields? Is that still pasture?
    Bull makes good lean hamburger. I hated to send a 2300 pound bull to auction. But I couldn't find a dozen people that would buy 100 pounds of hamburger or 120 people that would buy 10 pounds. Marketing is hard.

    If you can locate someone that does AI, that would get you a quality bull. A couple embryo transplants would get you a top quality herd sire and a foundation cow to build your quality herd.
     
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  17. Gravytrain

    Gravytrain Well-Known Member

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    It really depends on what a customer means by "quality grass finished beef". Some people want flavorful, but lean and tender beef. Others, myself included, want flavorful, tender and well marbled grass finished beef. People that claim to raise well marbled beef consistently in less than 2 years on grass alone are not being honest. Really good genetics on really good pasture can yield moderately marbled beef (say high select or maybe even low choice) by age 2. Cattle really put on intramuscular and extramuscular fat once the animal's frame, viscera, muscle and reproductive needs are met. This usually happens at between 16 and 20 months. The fact is pasture doesn't produce enough calories to pack on significant intramuscular fat in 4-8 months. Usually it's more like 8-12 months.

    The problem is, most people are not willing to overwinter their 1 1/2 year old cattle to allow them to fatten up during the spring flush the following year. This costs money...a lot of money. Grain finishing is A LOT cheaper. I sell both grass and grain finished. It's a lot easier to market $5/lb grain finished beef than it is $8 or $10 or $12/lb grass finished beef. I've yet to see quality grass finished beef at any grocery store...even the high end ones and they are charging $25-$30/lb for the premium steaks and $15/lb for burger....most of it looks like bull meat.

    Word of mouth and repeat customers keep my grass finished business growing. People that want quality beef at lower prices keep them buying grain finished. Several of my grain customers have converted to grass. Only one of my grass customers has converted to grain. I have a couple grass customers that want lean beef. I simply pick out steers that are well muscled but lean and charge them grain price.

    I make more money from grain finishing, but it's easier to keep grass finished customers if you raise quality grass finished beef because virtually no one raises grass finished beef the right way...at least around here. There's a hippie run grass finished Devon farm about 20 miles away from me that has really good beef and he has a 2 year waiting list. They don't butcher a day before 3 years of age.
     
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  18. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    So is Sudex a Sorghum-Sundangrass hybrid? A cover crop?

    Nutrition needs in the winter are likely part of the challenge. It’s always more challenging maintaining growth when the body is working to keep warm.

    Grass fed beef is trendy, but isn’t straight forward or simple as it sounds!
     
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  19. odieclark

    odieclark Well-Known Member

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    Haypoint, I hear what you are saying and at this point I am not sold either! However, we certainly are learning and don’t have the best stock either,...

    Gravytrain interesting on the pricing, the demands, and what is for sale in the stores,...all to be watched. I find it interesting that your neighbor takes 3 years! That seems long, but maybe that’s how long it takes!? But, if it takes 2-3 years, that makes an expensive animal to raise!

    Lots to think about
     
  20. sammyd

    sammyd Well-Known Member

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    I believe the govt had guidelines for grassfed but pretty much gave them up because of questions like hayponts...I believe only a few places were able to folllow the guidelines fully. So now any regs are from private entities.

    I am pretty liberal in the application of " grassfed" as long as the plant still has some green or the seeds would not be able to be used as grain I would call it forage. Anything not normally used as grain like pumpkins would be fine by me as well.
     
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