Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Producers Perspective

 Sorry friend you aren't any better, just different. And we NEED to EMBRACE those differences rather than paint our competition as UGLY and Uncaring.   I've wanted to address this for quite a while and finally decided to do just that.
We are primarily a Cow/calf operation which means that we breed cattle for sale at weaning to finishing or backgrounding operations. We hold back a percentage of our calf crop to finish out on grass for our customers that choose to enjoy grass fed and finished beef.
I get asked pretty regularly how come we sell the rest, the reason is simple. We need to keep the ranches going and don't want to over graze our pastures. Pastures are living ecosystems that require care and attention. You have to know when to turn cattle on to a given pasture, how many head and how long that land can carry those cows without a negative impact, and when to rotate the animals off of that piece of ground. It is a much a science as feeding cattle in pens. Just with a different methodology. We have the forage analyzed, as well as the soil and water, to make sure it is suitable for the herds at any given time. Anyone can pull a cow out of the scrub and call it grass fed. But that doesn't mean it's going to taste good! Finishing is an art, and thanks to sound scientific technology, some of the guesswork has been taken out of the equation. Ultrasounding has really revolutionized our operation. allowing us to be certain that an animal is ready for slaughter rather than guessing that it might be ready because it looks good on the outside. We can determine the amount of backfat that animal is carrying and therefore get higher premiums because that animal will actually Grade.
Most grassfed beef is what is referred to as NO Roll because it won't make grade and ranchers don't want to pay for a lower grade score when they can bank on the Grassfed and finished moniker and still make money, The First time!
  Repeat business is reliant on a consistently superior product, and what better way to ensure quality than by being able to grade choice on grass? I see farms touting their feeding methods, playing to emotions and outright making things up to sell products. It might get you that initial sale but folks aren't going to come back if they aren't getting what they like. Both Large and small operations need to stop trying to pull the wool over people's eyes and tell it like it is.
One of my favorite small farms is owned by my friend Jan, she raises Heritage breeds and doesn't claim that they are better than anything else, She calls them what they are! Living Antiques, I like that! Because that is what they are, and yes they need to be preserved and what better way to do that than offer them for the table.
 When her animals win an award or get special recognition she lists the show, shows pictures etc. every step of production is open to inspection. We do the same and it is important! People need to see what the results of our growing practices are. I wish there were more than a few market classes to showcase Grassfed Beef and Lamb. I think that people would enjoy seeing this and it could only help the industry as a whole.
 Right now we have 2 bulls on the Show circuit and they could never compete as purely grass fed animals. Classes are divided by age as well as weight and a grassfed animal at a year old could never be as well finished as a grain fed animal of the same age. The same goes for junior Bulls and replacement heifers. I do think that it could even out for Senior Bulls though.
For those of you interested in what it takes to fit an animal for the show ring, I'll explain that in another post.

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