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Home on the Range

Posted by kevinwolz on June 28, 2010

Today, I spent most of my day at the farm that raises all of my beef and chicken. I’ve really never been around livestock too much, so this was a neat experience. Yes, this basically means that I saw the cow that I will soon be eating. Can quality control get any better? First, I took the full farm tour via the back of an ATV, which included the pastures, barn, woodlands, prairie, pond, and crop fields. There was a constant flow of information throughout, and I learned a ton about the day-to-day workings of a sustainable cattle farm.

The farm is certified organic and has about 35 heads of cattle on the farm at any one time, including one bull, 5 or so calves, several steers, and the rest cows. The cattle are completely grass-fed and free-range, which means they never eat corn or grains (because that’s not what they’ve evolved to do!) and are always out grazing in the pastures. They are grazed rotationally, which is a central practice to raising livestock sustainably. Rotational grazing involves using temporary/moveable fencing to keep livestock in a specified area for a certain length of time (in this case, the cattle used about 1 acre per day), as determined by how much the livestock eat. Fences are then moved through the pastures at this rate, allowing for a more controlled and efficient use of the land. The chickens are free-ranged along with the cattle, eating what the cattle don’t, as well as the many bugs that arrive to feast on the cattle’s manure. The two species readily coexist and clearly benefit from this integrated system.

After helping out with some chores around the farm, like giving the cattle more water and moving the fence, I also took a quick tour of the house on the farm. The house is framed solely with pine and oak timbers from the farm’s woodland, and its walls are constructed using straw bales and plaster. This simple method uses primarily resources from the farm and is in fact a very efficient and insulated way to construct a house.

Tonight, after a dinner of the tastiest beef sirloin I’ve ever had, I will sleep well knowing that the meat I ate is healthy, safe, and morally sound. Can you say the same?

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4 Responses to “Home on the Range”

  1. Linda said

    So those cattle graze all winter long?

    • kwolz said

      Indirectly: About half of the pasture on the farm is left ungrazed and cut for hay throughout the summer, which the cattle eat during the winter. Such is the life in Zone 4.

  2. sheril said

    Excellent!!!!!! That is what it is all about!!!!!

  3. Victoria Johnson said

    You are one of a few fortunate young folks that have actually SEEN the prime way to raise cattle, build a home and comfortably live off the land. I am so happy you are having such facinating experiences as you learn how use the time-tested way of surviving, albeit hard work and long hours. AuntVickie

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