Beef finishing on grass
Harvest season is officially over and happy customers are now enjoying their grass fed beef (and pastured pork, too!) We could not be happier with our finishing weights this year. They finished beautifully, and many, surprisingly quick!
Let us explain what finishing means. Finishing is that last "fattening up" of the cattle to be ready for harvest. Grain fed cattle are actually fed hay (most of them in a feedlot or barn) or some may even be on grass for the beginning of their lives, and then are fed grain the last 3-6 months of life to "fatten up". If you buy meat at the store that is labeled "Grass fed" it most likely means that they were fed grass at some point in their lives, usually at the beginning, but most likely it was finished with grain. Yes... that's what the "Grass fed" label means. Which is why you always want to make sure it says "Grass Finished" or "100% grass fed", or better yet, know and ask your farmer! if what you want is pure grass fed, and no grains.
Grain finishing allows for cows to fatten up quickly and easily; it is pretty foolproof. I mean, if you eat cookies and cupcakes for 3 months, you'll see how you will too! Of course, we've already discussed the health benefits of grassfed, vs. grain fed in this blog post. Finishing cattle on grass takes a meticulous and different approach than grain finishing. Grass finishing takes longer, good grass/pasture management, pasture (plant) diversity, and proper rotational grazing.
In addition to these practices, we also have a cow/calf operation, meaning our cows have their calves here, on our land, and the calves stay with their mommas, nursing for up to 10 months when they wean to rest before calving again. That is very different to many farms who buy the "stockers" (young calves) from somewhere else and grow them until harvest in their land. We honestly believe the extended nursing makes a big difference in how fast and how well they finish.
We now have been farming full time for 7 years, and our first momma cows arrived at the farm almost 9 years ago. We have been fine tuning the herd for good genetics for years now, without bringing any outside animals, and we feel like it has helped with a healthier, stronger herd.
Last year we had a great calving season and an excellent harvest season, which is proving that the good grass management, attention to soil heath, daily rotational grazing, ensuring plant diversity and fertility in our pastures- all the best regenerative farming practices- are working its way to excellent results for our customers!
Marisa usually writes about nutrition, grass fed beef, organic agriculture, as well as sharing delicious recipes; Paul writes about farm work- sharing his stories and experiences, and most times... we both collaborate on the stories!