A successful cattle farm starts with the land. We are very careful to never overstock our pastures which is important to both the environment and to our cattle. Healthy fields grow high quality grass, which leads to happy cattle and good meat! We practice sustainable rotational grazing practices across various fields so that each pasture has time to recover. We regularly brush hog our pastures to reduce the amount of weedy growth and we treat invasive plants to help encourage natural growth. We have also moved towards primarily unrolling our hay bales, as we have found this to be healthier for the pasture and creates less damage than encouraging feeding from hay rings through the winter months. We follow this with harrowing our pastures in the spring, spreading any uneaten hay and natural fertilizers over the fields, in addition to reseeding desirable native forage if needed.
Our hay fields are not routinely plowed. Instead, we focus on maintaining growth of native grasses and legumes that are not hard on the soil. We do fertilize and lime our hay fields as needed to keep them healthy and lush. We never take more than two cuttings each year (some fields only get cut once), and the hay fields are not used for anything in their “off-season”. They get time to repair and replenish for the next hay season!
As for the forests and trees, we don’t clear cut any land to make new pastures or fields. In fact, we are working with local foresters to establish a plan to keep our forests healthy for many generations to come. Trees provide much needed shelter for our cattle, be it from sun or wind or snow. Tree roots are also very important to prevent soil erosion, which can greatly impact the health of our fields by letting nutrient rich topsoil wash away.
We are very involved with our cattle. Each herd is checked at least every other day, if not daily. By taking time to check on our herds, we not only are able to catch any health concerns sooner, but it also helps our cattle become more accustomed to us which helps build a lower stress environment. Whenever we handle our cattle, we follow the teachings of Temple Grandin in Humane Livestock Handling to keep the process as low stress as we possibly can. We have kept her techniques in mind when designing our handling facilities, taking advantage of our cattle's natural instincts on how they move around. For example, they do better turning around a smooth curve instead of a sharp angle. We also take time to train our animals to come into a catch pen and move through an alley, so that they become familiar with the layout and process.
You may notice in our photos that our cows have ear tags. This is an easy way for us to tell them apart and keep accurate records on them, including their health and pedigree information. We do this even though we can recognize many of our cattle just by their unique markings and personalities. We also tattoo our registered individuals in their left ears for a longer term identification method. And don’t worry, this process is not very painful, just like people getting their ears pierced! While we use their registered names and tag numbers for record keeping purposes, we do tend to nickname most of our animals. Sometimes we have themes and sometimes we just make it up as we go!
We are hands on when they are born to see what they weigh, determine their gender, and treat their umbilical cord to prevent infection. If the weather is particularly bad, we do have barns that we can put our expectant mothers in, but we have found that our animals generally do better when left to calve in the fields. Our heifers do not have their first calves until they are 2 years old.
We wean our calves around 5-9 months of age (depending on the year and how tight our calving season was). This is when they get their ear tags and tattoos, as well as vaccinations to protect them from some pretty nasty bugs. We also treat for flies and ticks. We also work our mature animals every year, keeping them up-to-date on their vaccines and fly/tick control as well.
Our cattle are fed forage quality soybean hulls that have been crushed and formed into pellets, as well as free choice high-quality hay during the colder seasons. This means that there is never an adjustment period caused by a shift in their rumen's biome when they are turned out to grassy fields, and they maintain a healthy body condition throughout the changing seasons. Our feeding strategy encourages growth while keeping our seedstock ready to perform.
We know that people care about where their food comes from. Our meat is not filled with unnecessary grains, antibiotics, or hormones. We do treat our cattle with antibiotics when they are sick, but we make sure to reach the proper withdrawal periods before processing our beef to ensure that all the meat is completely safe for consumption. We also don’t treat our meat with any chemical additives, like what is often done for grocery store beef. Our beef stock are fed the same soybean hull pellets that we give our breeding stock. This makes our meat 100% forage-fed, which is similar to grass-fed but with better flavoring, less cost than buying or farming larger amounts of hay, and a reduced impact to the ecosystem by upcycling natural byproducts produced from harvesting soy beans.
To top it off, our cattle are never kept in muddy, over-crowded feedlots that can lead to bruised meat. While cattle can be processed at any age, the best quality meat comes from animals around 15-18 months old that are around 1200 pounds, which is what we target. All our cattle are treated the same, so you can be assured that any meat you buy came from an animal that was well cared for. In fact, we are Beef Quality Assurance Certified, which is a "nationally coordinated, state implemented program that provides systematic information to U.S. beef producers and beef consumers of how common-sense husbandry techniques can be coupled with accepted scientific knowledge to raise cattle under optimum management and environmental conditions." This requires recertification every three years, although we typically attend educational events that keeps our certification updated more regularly.
As far as butchering and processing, we partner with other local businesses who are certified by the Ohio Department of Agriculture through their Meat Inspection Division. They have a state inspector onsite that ensures animals are harvested humanely and that the meat is suitable for sale. Some of our partners may even be USDA certified/inspected. Regardless of whether they are state or federally certified, the qualifications required are held to the same levels. You can see our current processing partner(s) by visiting the “Our Local Business Partners” page!