Did you know that May is National Beef Month? I don't know about you but I love a good steak grilled to perfection! The Ball family farm dates back to the early 1900's and as far as I know beef cattle have been raised on the farm from the beginning. I remember at one point Grandpa Richard had around 150 head. We have pictures of the annual cattle drives where all hands were needed to help move the cows from the farm to the pasture down the road.
Grandpa and dad also raised farrow-finish hogs but it seems the cows were the crowd favorite, as we continue to raise beef today. We have what would be considered a small herd to most but even with our size, the work load and animal care practices are similar to that of a large commercial herd.
Dad's herd began with 4-H, we decided to keep a few heifers back and it grew from there. We raise the cow and calf pair on pasture until we wean the calves. Once the calves are old enough to wean, we use a method called creep feeding. This is where we begin to introduce the calves to feed while they continue to nurse. Once they are fully ready to wean, we separate the calves from the cows. The cows continue to graze on pasture and the calves are sold at the sale barn where they will be bought and fed to market size.
Labels at the grocery store; what do they all mean and what is the best? I advocate the importance for all types of farms. It is important that farmers have the freedom to raise their cows how they best see fit. Not one size fits all...there are many things to consider; land size, herd size, climate, feed availability, breed, seasons, genetics, etc. Majority of farmers are raising their animals to the best of their ability, assuring they produce a safe, healthy and sustainable product. It is important to remember that a happy and healthy animal is going to be more productive.
Natural: The USDA defines “natural” beef as minimally-processed beef without additives.
Grass fed: animal is raised on pasture or hay only
Grass fed and grain finished: animal is raised on pasture or hay most of its life and is fed grain the last few months to increase marbling/flavor.
Grain fed: animals are fed a balanced ration of hay or grass, corn, vitamins/minerals, silage, etc.
Local: hard to define, some labels are within so many miles and others refer to surrounding states.
No matter if cattle are raised on pasture, in a feedlot or under roof, responsible Iowa livestock farmers make sure their animals are provided access to clean water, a balanced diet and veterinary care.
Fun Facts from Iowa Farm Bureau:
1. In the last 40 years, the U.S. cattle herd has shrunk by one-third, yet U.S. farmers are producing more beef today than they did in the 1970s.
2. Compared to 1977, today’s beef farmers produce the same amount of beef with 33 percent fewer cattle! How did they do it? Better animal health, nutrition and genetics.
3. Beef production has increased by 18 percent with per-unit emissions falling more than 8 percent in the last 30 years.
4. Cattle can consume plant materials – such as grasses, corn stalks, ethanol byproducts and more – that are inedible to humans because of the animal’s unique ruminant digestive system.
5. A 3-oz. serving of beef provides 25 grams of protein—50 percent of the recommended Daily Value—without packing on the calories.
6. You would have to eat 6 tablespoons of peanut butter (564 calories) or 3 whole cups of quinoa (666 calories) to equal the amount of protein you’d get from 3 ounces of lean beef (154 calories).
7. The iron and zinc found in animal proteins, like beef, are more easily absorbed than plant sources and essential nutrients to help the brain development of infants and toddlers.
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have!