Ranch Report 6 June 13
It has been a few weeks since I have given an update on happenings around here, and it is not because nothing has been happening. On the contrary, I have been busier than a cat trying to cover crap on a tile floor. Fence work is nearing completion, and this will allow the opportunity to get down to nitty gritty grass management. When it is all said and done, this is what I do. I manage grass to most effectively convert free solar energy into meat. It sounds simple, but managed holistically, there are many complexities, and the efficiency of the ecosystem processes is paramount (In the future I intend to delve into each of the 4 ecosystem processes described in holistic management, and try to catch any interested readers up on why we do the things we do).
In the meantime, there have been many new events here in the past few weeks.
We have instituted our cafeteria mineral program for cattle, and for those who are not familiar, it is truly an amazing system to properly mineralize your cattle, and through the cattle, the soils. Essentially, we provide 15 mineral options available free choice to the cattle at all times. Recognizing that there are many more than 15 elements essential to cattle, many are scientifically combined in proper proportions so that trace minerals for instance are combined into 3 different mixes Trace A, B, and C. Vitamins are likewise combined. The concept is that as cattle have a deficiency in some essential mineral or vitamin, they will find that particular one in the tray, and consume a proper amount.
Let's consider that soils are deficient in some minerals. This is why fertilization is common practice. Forage then grows using what minerals are available and the cattle consume and mineralize their bodies through the forage. Well, the forage can only move minerals from the soil to the cow that are first available in the soil. (It is interesting to note at this time that of the 109 elements listed in our Scientific Chart of Know Elements, 92 are minerals, and all 92 are present in grassfed beef.) Also, many minerals can only properly be absorbed by being in correct proportion, and this is where the one big mix of minerals fails the animal. The bottom line is that on one pasture (slope, aspect, soil type) a certain mineral might be lacking while a short distance away in a different micro-environment it may be present in adequate amounts. This is why we provide a choice to our cattle.
Some would argue that a bovine animal lacks the intelligence to find for itself what it needs, but I will argue strongly with experience. Just a few weeks ago, we moved cattle down the public road about a mile from one farm where they were living on mostly stored forage to another where they were going to be on lush green pasture. Any cattleman would begin to concern himself with a disease called grass tetany which is a potentially deadly problem created by a blood magnesium deficiency that occurs when cattle are turned out on lush spring pastures that are relatively high in potassium and protein which ties up the availability of magnesium and calcium in the body. With the free-choice mineral available, we turned the cows out to graze, and I watched as the cattle went through 150 pounds of magnesium in the first 36 hours on grass. Now that the grass has matured some, they haven't consumed 50 pounds in the last 10 days. I don't know how you can argue with that.
As I strive to impart some cowboy wisdom, it may be time to share some that my 5 year old daughter and I discussed earlier this week. She saddled up and rode with me to check cows, and having short little legs and not a tremendous amount of leg strength, her horse doesn't always respect a good leg squeeze that means “let's go.” To fix this problem, like her daddy, she wears spurs. Simple tasks that you have mastered in life can become more difficult as you try them for the first time with spurs on the heels of your boots. Walking down stairs, crossing your feet, and several other tasks become more challenging with your spur appendages on your heels. This experience provided the perfect opportunity to share with my daughter the age old cowboy wisdom that says “Never squat with yer spurs on.”