Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Stockman Grass Farmer

This past week I received my first two issues of The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine. They were running a special (like all publications always are doing) where you could get two free back issues with your subscription ... so, these are my two back issues. I am very excited about getting this magazine because it will provide a new source of monthly information on grass farming and grazing in general. Plus, it hits the issue from all different angles.

For example, in the August 2005 back issue I received there is a sidebar article on the cover titled, "Surgeon Has Developed A Growing Heart Healthy Grassfed Beef Business." That title caught my eye right away because one of the many reasons I became interested in grassfed beef was because of the health issues. Last year I found out the details of what I guessed was the case. I have rather high cholesterol ... especially when you consider my age. In fact you can just about take my age and add a zero at the end and you get my cholesterol reading! I had read that there were benefits from eating grassfed beef so I started doing some research.

My dad would love nothing more than to feed our cattle corn ... he says it just feels like the right thing to do. But, from a financial standpoint and from a health standpoint and from a "God created cows to eat grass" kind of standpoint that just isn't the right thing to do and I am having to slowly convince him of that fact. I'm hoping this article will be another piece in the puzzle.

The article talks about Steve Atchley who grew up on a cattle ranch in Texas, but ended up leaving the ranch to become a heart surgeon. Later in his career he developed a hand condition that stopped him from being able to perform surgery. That is when he decided to take another approach to attack heart problems. It seems like his approach was two-fold. Yes, he truly believes that the grassfed beef is healthy for the heart, but two he believes that having a grassfed system is more healthy for the farmer/rancher. In the beginning of the article he says, "I could see first hand that the stress of commodity ranching was literally killing them," when talking about the farmers and ranchers he had as patients.

He went on to form a business distributing grassfed beef across the west. He has faced opposition along the way from the grain based folks and from the natural grain based farmers, but he feels that he is on the right track for the cattle and for the people that eat them.

"I was firmly convinced that you couldn't feed grain and have a heart healthy product," said Mr. Atchley.


Steven said...

Sounds like a great article.
I'm hoping to be getting my free SGFarmer soon!
With people so SURE that it takes grain it does make me wonder if there is a trick to getting grass fed cattle to taste good and be tender. I've eaten some from that was very good, but how did they get it that way?

Walter Jeffries said...

Grass fed is the way to go. We can grow grass easily. Corn is a lot more work. Buying feed? Ridiculous costs. The fact that the easy, inexpensive thing is also the healthier thing is so wonderful. We feed our pigs grass, pasture in the warm months and hay in the winter. People tell me pigs can't eat grass. I don't tell the pigs.

Rob said...

I love your blog. I just found it a few days ago. I've read a lot of the same stuff as you and I think you are one or two years ahead of me on the path to actually making it happen. Congratulations! I'm in North Carolina finishing graduate school and then it's off to adventure. I'm thinking of working as a freelance patent agent in the winter and farming in the summer. We'll see how it goes.

Question. What other beef cattle did you consider besides Dexters? You mentioned that you liked them because of their ability to forage on diverse plants and because of the smaller size. I've heard Galloways and Highlands also do well on less than ideal pasture and have high ratings for flavor like Dexters.

Ethan Book said...

Thanks all for reading the blog everyone! Steven I can't tell you how excited I am for next fall when our first steer is ready. I have only had a little grass finished beef so this will be my first real taste test.

Walter, it is crazy that the easiest thing is the most healthy ... well, I guess really it isn't that crazy because that is the way the animals were made! I am very interested in pigs on the pasture, so your blog has and forum posts have been such a help to me. I'm hoping in the spring to convince everyone to give it a shot.

Rob, I'm glad you stumbled on to my blog ... I hope that you keep checking it out. It is a long road that I am on right now, but it is enjoyable even in the research and small farming steps that I'm doing. I hope you enjoy your journey as much as I am mine. As far as the Dexters go I did look at a few other options. I looked at Highlands, but there aren't many in my area so it would have been difficult to build up a herd ... plus I just kept looking at those shaggy coats and and then all the burs around our farm! I looked at Milking Devons because of their dual purpose abilities and their very strong history (one of the first breeds in America) ... well, then I looked at their price and availability and moved on. I also looked at just getting grade cattle with grass finishing genetics (there is a cow/calf grassfed rancher near us), but decided I thought the Dexters would be even better convertors of forage. To me the Dexters seemed perfect because there were available in my area (built up a herd of 13 from 3 different farms), great foragers, had tender meat, the whole carcass was freezer sized so you don't have to sell by halves or quarters, and because there is still a seedstock market for them. I also liked the fact that they were gentle and are an older breed because history is one of my greatest passions. I hope that helps you a little bit on why I chose the Dexters.

J S said...

Can anyone give me an idea how to calculate how much land you need per herd size ? I have land in the Dominican Republic and my caretaker down there has suggested starting a herd but I'd like to get some ideas of what is possible.

Yeoman said...

JS, there's no general way anyone can tell you that, as it varies by region. In the arid region of the west it takes thousands of acres to support an economically profitable herd. The same herd could live happily on few hundred acres elsewhere. The answer will be unique for where you are, although I'd guess that the moisture down there should make for a pretty good grass crop.

Anonymous said...

We just bought a small 40 acre farm that has been a little over grazed (has a lot of thistle in the pastures). I am wondering what is the most important thong to do right now to start this farm on its way to producing our own grass fed beef and hay. Oh, this is in Missouri where rocks "grpw" better than anything else! :-)

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