I snapped this photo of Callahan a couple years ago in our back yard. Just a kid climbing trees…but then the metaphor hit me and every time I see this photo it challenges me to see where I am bogged down in details and to re focus on the big picture.
This is so hard to do this time of year at the Farm. Spring brings… well everything on a seasonal farm. Planting, baby chicks, new groups of cattle, projects, new customers, our event season, to name a few. It is a challenging time not to get so bogged down in everyday execution we forget our why… our big picture driver. Serving our customers & community!
Thanks for all your support and we look forward to seeing you at the farm.
One of the first responses from new customers when we tell
them about our grassfed, grass finished beef is “don’t all cattle eat
grass”? It is a logical question based
on what we see driving down the long and open roads of the west. Cattle grazing
on rolling hills or in green meadows gives us this pristine picture and we
assume these cattle will spend all their days grazing these rangelands many of
which are not useable for other type of crop production. But, in the 1950’s the finishing or fattening
of cattle (which produces the marbling or inter muscular fat) changed from grass
based to corn or grain based due to cheaper cost, abundant grain, and faster
growth of the animals. My dad started in
the cattle business in early 1970’s and built an operation around grazing
cattle and sending them to the feedlot for finishing.
Today 99% of cattle
are being fed and finished this way using feedlots or CAFO (Concentrated Animal
Feeding Operations). Factory efficiency, homogeny and “fast fat” is the name of
the game but does this system produce the healthiest beef, is it best for the
environment, do consumers want choices that supply them with healthy products
and the story they assume when they see those cattle on the rolling hills and
In the early 2000’s studies began to show a significant
difference between grain finished and grass finished beef. Grass finished beef
was: significantly higher in the Omega 3 fatty acids (similar levels to those
found in fish… which everyone’s Dr tells the them to eat), higher in vitamins A
and E, lower in overall fat and very high in CLA’s (Conjugated Linoleic Acids)
elements our bodies use to fight bad cells such as cancer. As little as 3 weeks of grain finishing will
change these chemical components of the muscle and fat meaning that grass-based
finishing is required to produce the healthiest beef possible. The data for the
health benefits of grass finished meat products, cheeses and dairy products
continues to grow.
Benefits of pasture or grass finished beef goes far beyond
our own health. The positive impact on our environment by reducing fossil fuels
used to harvest, haul feeds, clean feedlot pens and move animals is real.
Pasture based farms have better soil (see my last article), less runoff, soil
erosion and green house gas emissions.
Lastly, cattle living in CAFO’s are not as
healthy as animals raised and finished on green grass pastures. Feedlot cattle
require large amounts of antibiotics fed in feed and water to remain healthy in
their artificial environment thick with dust, manure and insects. Research is mounting that the large amounts
of subtherapeutic antibiotic use in CAFO produced cattle is a leading cause of
antibiotics resistance in humans. With grain finishing cattle stomachs become
more acidic due to the large amounts of grain being digested. This produces
bacteria such as E. coli more resistant to the acid in our own stomach
increasing our exposure to potentially harmful bacteria. Green grass and
movement of animals is nature’s way of keeping their environment… and ours,
hygienic, producing healthy food, healthier environments and healthier people!
Chickens in the winter make me mad! We are out every day moving them, feeding them, water them, saying sweet things to them, for what…little reward. Their egg production goes way down, they stop producing like they should …or maybe they are doing exactly what they should be doing. Chickens lay fewer eggs in the winter then the summer. There are a lot of reasons why, but while collecting eggs the other day I thought…”Wow maybe chickens know something we don’t” Chickens naturally rest their bodies during the dark days of winter gradually laying more and more eggs as the days get longer. They rested for a little but, gave their bodies a break and now they are back at it! They do no worry about the fact that we are doing all we can to take care of them, they do not feel guilty for slowing down their production, even though we feed them the same great food, they allow their bodies a rest. Can you imagine, taking a few months every year to go on sabbatical. Slow down, let yourself rejuvenate, replenish, realign and not feeling guilty or stressed that you’re not doing enough. Worrying people are expecting you to be productive. Not chickens, they just go with it, not worrying about a thing, giving themselves a break…. maybe I need to do the same? Maybe you do to? Maybe on those days I feel tired, I need to stop, read a book, sit in the sun, take a nap! Maybe on the days I don’t feel well, I need to be okay with moving slower or needing a little extra care. Maybe on the days I am out of ideas, I need to just be okay being quiet and allowing God to rejuvenate me. Maybe I just need to move to the rhythms of grace. Not perform, not produce, not be perfect. Just be! And on the day’s I feel great, well that’s just fine too! Looking forward to spring!
At Brite Creek we are raising our pastured beef, chicken, laying hens and vegetables to feed our family and yours. Our goal is for the farm to be sustainable! But what does sustainable mean? Well for most business it means making a profit and a farm is no different no matter how romantic we want it to be. In farming terms, it is used to describe a farm that is doing its best to promote the long-term health of its soils, crops and livestock through management practices that have an eye on the future. We are not only considering this year’s harvest but the harvests for years to come. The foundation for all good sustainable farms is the soil! So, let’s start here.
Soil or dirt is another world! There are millions of microscopic organisms that live in our soils. These organisms do everything from giving more nutrients, break down plant tissue to lesson compaction and increase water infiltration. The promotion of their health directly effects the wellbeing and diversity of our soils. Most synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers have a negative effect on these microorganisms. This is a one reason we do not use them. We are focused on building healthy soil ecosystems by cover and rotational cropping, planting a diversity of plant species in our pastures, tillage practice that maintain soil structure causing less disruption to the microorganism ecosystem, rotational grazing and more. Healthy soils mean a healthy farm.
Many believe that animals, specifically cattle, are not a benefit for the soil. This is not true. Range animals like cattle or bison have always served a purpose in the soil health where they graze. The large bison herds of the west grazed as mobs moving quickly and eating everything. The size of the herds created competition for food so individual animals ate everything in site including weeds before moving on. What they did not eat their hooves trampled into the soil where our friends, the microorganisms, could breakdown and turn old plant material into nutrients for the new ones. We are trying to create this same effect with our mob grazing grassfed beef herd. Pastures are broken up into small sections where the cattle are moved daily. There is competition for food, so they eat everything and trample the rest creating food for the microorganisms and returning over 80% of the nutrients back into the soil. We are hoping our microorganism will manufacture the rest.