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Category Archives: grass fed beef
I am basically cataloging here, but this will serve to give me something to look back upon as I make decisions.
I am in the process of selecting Red Poll semen to build the genetics of the herd. I have the three adult cows to breed back. I also have the one heifer calf, but she will be too young to breed this season. I have done some research and I think I have located a good source of semen. The herd is grass fed in its basics and has some top producers in the show ring and in terms of meat. I am also looking to bring new genetics into the area.
Until Next Time!
This is a very interesting article that I happened to stumble upon among my blog reading. It brings up interesting points that grass fed programs have a lower carbon footprint than other methods of farming. The other interesting thing is that organic practices lower that footprint even further.
We would like to try to take things a bit further by trying to eliminate some of the machinery in our gardening. Unfortunately, we are unable to totally eliminate the use of machinery all together.
We may look into horses for farming at some point in the future. That sounds like enjoyable work.
Thanks to the author for the article!
Until Next Time!
I am excited to see the newest Red Poll journal included in mu post vacation stack of mail! Good times ahead reading all of the articles. I will try to pass on tidbits as I learn them.
We are still researching and building our foundation herd, so gathering as much information as we can is vital. The National Red Poll meeting appears to be slated for Louisville, Kentucky this year. I think the date is set for sometime in November.
Until next time!
Red Poll Cattle are one of many breeds that are known as Heritage Breeds. Heritage Breeds are typically breeds that are declining in number because they are not the main stream commercial cattle. Many of them have their own niche, such as grass fed beef. Many are also dual purpose animals. Their value is great, perhaps not measurable in dollar amounts, but more in their value for preserving genetic diversity.
Red Poll cattle are a cross between the Norfolk and Suffolk breeds of quality of its beef. They were small, red and white, hardy and horned breed of cattle. Suffolk cattle were a dairy breed that were Red, yellow, and brindle in color. They were a polled breed. Through genetic selection and cross breeding of the two breed, the Red Poll was developed. The traits of Red Poll cattle that make them excel are many of those of the above breeds. Perhaps obvious, but they are a smaller, red and polled breed of cattle.
According to the American Livestock Breed Conservancy, the breed was imported to North America in the 1800s. In 1883, the American Red Poll Association was founded. I am not certain of the numbers nor the membership, but I can state that my farm is registered herd #6500. My herd was registered earlier this year. (I have to laugh a bit to say herd, as we have three heifers that just calved within the past two months.)
The cross resulted in a nice dual purpose breed. Throughout the years, Red Poll cattle have fluctuated from a dairy focus to a beef focus several times. At one point, Red Polls were efficient and competitive dairy cows. This was very evident on farms that tracked total profits above and beyond the cost of feed only. This is likely due to their ability to convert forage into production. They are also known for longevity, often producing 10,000 pounds of milk per year into their teen years. An added benefit of this longevity is that they continue to produce calves into their later years as well.
One of the highlights of the breed are their reproductive traits. Red Poll bulls are very potent. Their traits are predictable and easily inherited. Red Poll females tend to be very fertile and are easy breeders. They are known for calving ease. Red Poll cattle produce a large amount of milk even on forage. This results in good calf growth. They are noted for good survivability of the calf. I saw one study where they were the top producing breed in terms of Rate of gain to day 200. This has to do with good rates of gain, great calving ease, and the survivability of the calf (calf vigor).
- Red Poll Cattle (The perfect breed) (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
- Red Polls prove versatile and make economic sense | Features | Farmers Guardian (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
- Red Poll Association (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
Last night we were able to put up 38 round bales of hay. This is a great start to next winter’s feed supply. Our neighbor cut, raked, tettered and baled the hay over the weekend and brought them up into the barn last night. We are excited to have a great jump start for next season. Now the challenge is to get some of the pasture eaten down by the cows that we have. We may be in the market for a few more adult animals or steers that need to finish. There is a total of about 12 acres that needs to be eaten, well more than our three adult cows will be able to eat.
We do not supplement our cattle at this time, featuring a grass fed beef program. We hope to provide good, flavorful and nutritional meat once our calves finish out. We also employ a hormone-free, organic program. (We did not certify our land organic, but sprays and chemicals are not used on our farm).
Until Next Time
At this point, you may be ready to start planning for and thinking about animals. (I probably start here rather than with plants, since animals are my profession and plants are my hobby). You will ultimately assess your own needs, wants, desires and capabilities. I will go through a few types common farm animals and give what I see as the pros and cons. I will take this moment to push for heritage breed animals (see where the farm name is derived from?). By using heritage breeds, you are able to preserve the past and also capitalize on some of their better traits, such as having dual purpose animals. Heritage breed animals may benefit you as well by being more likely to mother their young better than some of the more popular breeds on large farms nowadays. For instance, a heritage chicken is much more likely to “go broody” than a factory leghorn would.
CHICKENS: I have already written a post about why you should start with chickens, but I will lay out my thoughts again here. First of all, Chickens are rather inexpensive to obtain. We purchased our first six pullets (who were 17 weeks old and about to start laying) for $5 per bird. So we were out about $30. The second reason is that I feel chickens are very adaptable. You can make a small chicken tractor or use an old outbuilding (like we did) and the chickens will do just fine. Third, chickens are small. This means that they don’t need a lot of space. Fourth, chickens are easy to feed. We feed our table scraps to the girls. We are also fortunate to be able to purchase organic all mash at a local elevator fairly easily. Fifth, Chickens provide a very nutritious product…..eggs. Wait until you crack open your first farm fresh egg, especially if the chickens have access to grass and fields. The yolk is almost orange, it is so dark.
The nutritional components of free range chicken eggs is incredible, nearly unbelievable in scope. Sixth, chicken are fun to watch. Seventh, you are unlikely to get hurt very badly by a chicken. Eighth, a chicken that is no longer laying is still good for something……the pot. You can make your own chicken stock, chicken foot broth, and many other stews and soups with the “retired” old girls. (A side note: we utilize Delaware Chickens as they are docile, go broody, produce eggs well, are dual purpose, and we think they are pretty) (Other heritage breeds to consider are Buff Orrpingtons, Barred Plymouth Rock, Buckeyes, and many others)
Goats. perhaps second on my list would be a dairy goat. Though goats can be very frustrating because they do try to eat everything, goats are still rather small and readily available.
A decent dairy goat will probably cost you between $75 and $200 depending on age, breed, and time of year. A nice thing about dairy goats is that they can produce a decent amount of milk. When allowed to go out on pasture, they are good at cleaning up brush and unwanted plants, since they are more of a foraging animal and less of a grazer. A downside to this is that various weeds can change the flavor of the milk. Another good reason to consider a dairy goat is that the milk tends to be easier for some people to digest. I believe that this is because the fat droplets are smaller than that of a dairy cow (or is it the protein droplets, I can’t remember at the moment) We do not currently have a goat, so I am uncertain of a specific breed recommendation. (we like the San Clemente Island Goat, but simply because they are very rare and are very cute)
Pigs: Again unchartered water for us at the moment. We are considering pigs for their versatility. We are looking into pastured pork, so out focus is on breeds that do well in a foraging and pasture based management system. Once again, pigs are reasonably priced. Another good argument for pigs is their varied diet. These are yet another animal that you can feed table scraps. My understanding is that fencing pigs is not to difficult. They apparently train to electric fencing very easily. I have read that pigs will train uickly to two hot wires. One at about 9 inches off the ground and another at about 30 inches off the ground. They will train so well in fact, that it is hard to get them to cross an area that previously had a fence across it. Most articles I have found simply use polywire or another form of electrified temporary fencing like those used in rotational grazing systems. (We like Tamworth and Gloucestershire Old Spots for pig breeds. Red Wattles get an honorary mention)
Sheep: I suppose sheep are in the fold here too. Sheep are again easy to obtain and not too expensive.
Uses for the sheep would be meat and wool. We do not have sheep at the moment, as we do not see spinning our own wool. Sheep are grazers, so now we are starting to look at more infrastructure. They will likely need a barn, a yard and fencing. This adds to the cost of them of course. (We have yet to select a breed, though I am intrigued by the Romeldale breed.
Cattle: I would recommend a good dual purpose breed, but you could have a dairy cow and beef cows. Most true homesteads likely have a good old dairy cow on hand. A dairy cow will likely cost about $1500 or so, depending on age, breed and quality. Some decent cow can be purchase through sale barns for less money, but beware that the farmer is likely selling her through the sale barn for a reason. Cattle require feed and infrastructure as well. You will need a tie stall or other location for milking. You will need fencing for the pasture, or else be ready to push a lot of hay and grain around. (We think the the Red Poll cow is the perfect breed for this, as they are good foragers. grazers and they are dual purpose) (Other breeds to consider would be Milking Devon, Shorthorn, Kerry, and Dexter)
I would once again recommend a good old farm dog. They are great companions, good for security and even can help with some of the wound up of the critters if trained to do so. They can also be helpful with pests, such as the infamous “whistle pig” A.K.A. Groundhog.
Hopefully I have touched on the main animals for homesteading. If I have left any pertinent ones out, please let me know. I am sure that some are fond of Llamas for guard animals protecting their flock of sheep. Some may like Alpacas for the hair production. I suppose that I left turkeys out as well. They have their place too, just not at the top of my list. Their place, to me, is on the thanksgiving table.
- Red Poll Cattle (The perfect breed) (heritagebreedfarms.wordpress.com)
So the other night, we got to witness the birth of our first Red Poll calf here on the farm. It all started at softball practice with a call from the neighbor. He called to say that a heifer was in labor…with a bubble hanging out the back end. We were just done with softball practice, so we quickly jumped into the van to head home for the show.
Upon arriving home, I noted that one of the girls was off on her own with her tail raised. Indeed she was in labor. So we set up near the barn to see how things would transpire. We watched as she laid down to push, then stood up for a bit. I was surprised to see her eat some grass in the midst of laboring. We clearly saw her water break. There was a lot of clear fluid the came out very fast at first and continued in small bursts as she pushed. Finally she laid down for several contractions. At this point, her tail and back end were facing away from us.
I decided to walk around to the corner of the filed where she was laying. I stayed outside of the fence line, but got close enough to watch through the video camera. I taped the whole event from this vantage point. I watched as the calf appeared to be stuck. I could only see one foot and a head. My veterinary instincts started to kick in, but luckily I decided to wait a little while. Upon zooming in, I could see both front legs and the head. The legs were crossed in such a way that it appeared to be only one. I was still a bit concerned as a few minutes passed without any progress. I knew it was best to wait it out, but I was questioning this mantra in my head. I waited a few more minutes and could see that the calf was shoulder locked. As I was mulling over what to do inside my head, she began to make more progress. The shoulders were starting to come through as her back end likely relaxed a bit more. Finally, the shoulder came through. After many contractions over about 45 minutes the calf was about to be born. Three or four final contractions and pushes and the calf was out.
We had a live bull calf. I was amazed to watch him stand and nurse within 20 minutes. This is so amazing to me. We are excited that he was born without any problems and is doing very well.
And now the kicker……remember I stated that I was watching through the video camera? Well, I was recording as well. Apparently when I began to walk around for a better view I hit the record button. Our video camera has a delay on the light enough that I messed the whole thing up. Every time I thought I was recording, the camera was off. When I thought it was of….it was on. So when we went to view the video, there was nothing but grass. The stinker is that I had a great video (Or so I thought). O well Maybe next time.
We just got to witness the first ever calf born to our farm. We have not gotten a chance to see if it is a bull or a heifer. We are very excited. He or she is standing after only 20 minutes. Hopefully he or she will nurse soon.