Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
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Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers

Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers

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    Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers Document Transcript

    • Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-BasedATTRA Beef and Dairy Producers A Publication of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service • 1-800-346-9140 • www.attra.ncat.orgBy Lee Rinehart Market demand is rapidly increasing for sustainably-raised beef and dairy products. Pasture or grass-NCAT Agriculture based livestock production is inherently sustainable as this production system relies on biodiversitySpecialist and ecological complexity to maintain production without the use of costly inputs. Cattle producers are© 2006 NCAT beginning to recognize that intensively-managed rotational grazing (also called management-intensive grazing or planned grazing) can lower production costs, reduce animal stress, and boost the animal’s immune system. This publication highlights these and other practices producers are using to provideContents customers with nutritious food from sustainable farms and ranches.Introduction ..................... 1Consumer Perceptionand Market Demand ..... 2Pasture-AppropriateAnimals .............................. 3Cattle Nutrition ............... 4Health and DiseaseManagement ................... 5The National AnimalIdentification System(NAIS) .................................. 8Integrating Cattle intoCropping Systems .......... 9Pastures and GrazingManagement ................. 10Organic CattleProduction ...................... 11Slaughter and MeatProcessing ....................... 11 All photos courtesy of USDA-NRCS.Milk QualityIndicators ........................ 12Marketing Overview ... 12Social and EcologicalConcerns of CattleProduction ...................... 13 Introduction: and larger machinery for more efficient till-Final Thoughts .............. 14 age and harvesting, led to unprecedentedReferences ...................... 15 Towards a Pasture-Based high corn yields and subsequent cheap cornResources ........................ 15Further Resources ........ 19 Cattle Production System prices. Crop subsidies became part of the Cattle are natural grazers. They possess U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)Case Study ...................... 21 the remarkable ability to digest plant car- policy. With subsidized prices, agricul- bohydrates that are generally indigestible tural producers continued to provide mar- to most other mammals. It is natural then kets with large quantities of corn. An eco-ATTRA—National SustainableAgriculture Information Service to assume that grazing is the best way to nomic incentive was created to fi nish beefis managed by the National Cen- supply a nutrient-dense diet to growing cat- on corn rations and to feed it to high-pro-ter for Appropriate Technology(NCAT) and is funded under a tle. Since the end of World War II, however, ducing dairy cattle.grant from the United StatesDepartment of Agriculture’s this has not been the case. Prior to this period, cattle production wasRural Business-Cooperative Ser-vice. Visit the NCAT Web site The widespread use of synthetic, soluble an integral part of diversified family farms.(www.ncat.org/agri. fertilizers and other agri-chemicals emerged Cattle would consume crop residues andhtml) for more informa-tion on our sustainable in the mid-twentieth century. These materi- forages, and contribute manure to the soil.agriculture projects. als, coupled with plant breeding technology The farm family would always have a beef
    • for the year, and the surplus was sold off ture health and to provide meat and milk the farm to contribute to the food needs of for the market. Producers rely on this natu- the community. A surplus of cheap corn rally low-input system where feed costs are combined with low fuel prices helped to fos- reduced, animal health is maximized, and ter the industrialization of cattle production. a wholesome product is provided to the pub-Related ATTRA High-energy feedstuff in large volumes was lic. Consumers are becoming more demand-Publications provided to feedlots of ever-increasing size ing that agricultural products are carefullyAssessing the Pasture and scale. Today, feedlots with capacities in produced, with concern for soil and water,Soil Resource excess of one hundred thousand head are crops and animals, and the people whoBeef Farm Sustain- not uncommon. work in production and processing.ability Checksheet The use of confinement feeding technologyBeef MarketingAlternatives is just one facet of modern agribusiness to Consumer PerceptionDairy Beef facilitate the disconnect between soil, crops, and Market Demand for and manure. Smaller diversified farms Different Kinds of BeefDairy Farm Sustain-ability Checksheet could utilize farm-grown crop residues and animal manure. Large grain farms rely on and Dairy ProductsDairy Resource List: The demand for pasture-finished beef,Organic and off-farm inputs for fertility, however, andPasture-Based never see the manure that results from the natural beef, and organic beef is growingThe Economics of feeding of their corn. This disconnect has in the United States, as is the demand forGrass-based Dairying turned a once valuable source of fertilizer organic and pasture-raised milk and cheeseGrass-Based and into at best “waste” and at worst, a pollut- products. In fact, demand for natural andSeasonal Dairying ant. Nitrates and phosphates from commer- organic milk and meat outstrips supply inGrazing Networks for cial fertilizers and runoff from manure piles most U.S. markets, as evidenced by pro-Livestock Producers in feedlots account for a very large propor- cessors, marketers, and suppliers seekingGrazing Contracts for tion of agricultural pollution to surface and grass-fed products from South America.Livestock ground water. Pasture-finished, natural, and organic foodManaged Grazing in sales have increased from $5.5 billion inRiparian Areas Sustainable agriculture is a biologically 1997 to $12 billion in 2002, a 24 percentMultispecies Grazing supported production system based on nat- annual growth rate. Meat comprises 21 ural principles that demonstrate a very high percent of the overall U.S. retail food mar-Nutrient Cycling inPastures degree of system resilience. Sustainable ket. Pasture-finished, natural, and organicPastures: Sustainable agriculture seeks to establish and main- meat’s share of the market is at 5 percent.Management tain agricultural production and distribu- Continued growth in demand for these meatPastures: Going tion systems that are economically viable, products is expected, including direct, localOrganic ecologically sound, and socially just. For sales of carcasses and retail cuts to fami-Paddock Design, beef and dairy production to be environ- lies via farm visits, farmer’s markets, andFencing, and Water mentally and fi nancially sustainable, they by mail-order. Many market analyses sug-Systems for must of necessity be based on the most gest the possibility of a viable market wellControlled Grazing renewable resource available to the stock into future years.Raising Dairy Heifers grower: grasses, legumes, and other edibleon Pasture plants and the ecological system that sup- Currently the demand for organic and pas-Rotational Grazing ports them. ture-based dairy products is greater thanValue-added Dairy supplies, as many processors fall short ofOptions Pasture-based production systems can be milk each week by hundreds of thousandsPasture, Rangeland, inherently resilient to market price fluc- of pounds. Organic milk prices at the farm,and Grazing tuations due to a reliance on renewable which at the time of this writing approachManagement pasture. This is exemplified by farmers, $25 per cwt (hundredweight) in some areas, ranchers, and graziers who see themselves are an enormous incentive for many small as having become principally grass farm- and medium size dairy producers not able ers who produce beef or milk only sec- to compete in the conventional milk market. ondarily. Under this model cattle become Current prices range from $11 to $15 per grass-harvesting tools used to maintain pas- cwt in some areas.Page 2 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • For more information on consumer demand or less and no more than one quarterissues in meat and milk marketing, see the Brahman breeding in terminal calves.Agricultural Marketing Resource Center’sWeb site at www.agmrc.org/agmrc. Dairy Cattle The dairy industry in the U.S. has beenPasture-Appropriate Animals under very intensive consolidation andfor Sustained Cattle industrialization pressure to maximize theProduction efficiencies that come with large-scale pro- duction. Since the 1950’s, dairy farms haveMatching the right animal or plant with the been getting bigger, and have been relyingappropriate environment is a wise manage-ment decision that leads to healthy animals on harvested grain and forages to provideand a productive and successful farming sys- high quality feedstuffs to support enormoustem. Ecological farmers know that organ- milk yields. Modern Holsteins can produceisms adapted to the climate and habitat do more than 60 pounds of milk per day, andmuch better than those placed into situations many farms report herd averages in excessnature might not have intended. Selecting of 20,000 pounds per lactation.the right genetics for pasture-based produc- According to the American Livestocktion is therefore of utmost importance. Breeds Conservancy, grass-based dairy farming is on the increase, and thisBeef Cattle necessitates a very different type of ani-In general, you want an animal that com- mal. Low-cost, grass-based dairies oftenbines maternal traits like milking ability cannot support the high nutritional require-with early maturity and tenderness. These ments needed by large-framed, high pro-three traits are important because a cow ducing cattle. Grass-based dairy produc-must calve on pasture and raise a thrifty ers are utilizing Ayrshire, Brown Swiss,calf that lays down fat quickly (because and Jersey for their ability to maintaingrowing seasons may be limited). The car- condition, milk production, and reproduc-cass should yield high quality beef that tion on forage. These cattle are typicallyprovides a positive eating experience for smaller-framed and have lower nutrientthe customer. For this reason the moderate requirements than Holsteins. Again, therebody-type English breeds usually fit best is wide variability in the expression of thewith grass operations. However, it is impor-tant to remember that there is wide vari-ability in the expression of the traits impor- Selecting Animals for Pasture-Based Productiontant for pasture based systems, even within Select animals from herds that have mature weights under 1,100breeds. Select for particular production pounds, as these will most likely finish at the proper time. Pasture-traits in breeds such as Angus, Hereford, finished beef cattle are usually marketed between 16 and 24 monthsShorthorn, and other, rarer breeds such as of age. Selecting body type is more important than breed type forDevon, Dexter, and American Low-Line. pasture-based operations. The following qualities should be selected for in animals, including herd bulls:Breeds of importance in the humid south are 1. dual-purpose breed types (for beef)Brahman and Brahman-cross composites,such as Beefmaster, Santa Gertrudis, Bran- 2. medium framegus and Braford. Brahman cattle are very 3. end weight 900 to 1,100 lbtolerant of heat, humidity, and parasites,and have excellent maternal traits. However 4. age at slaughter 16 to 24 months (for beef)they do not have the carcass characteristics 5. early maturingand marbling that consumers have come to 6. low maintenance requirementsexpect. For this reason most producers inthe humid south keep the Brahman influ- 7. high milk protein and butterfat (for dairy).ence in their cow herd to three-eighthswww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 3
    • traits important for pasture based systems, • impacts of climate (heat, cold, even within dairy breeds. A good example humidity, etc.) is the Holstein genetics being developed The energy requirements of growing or lac- through selection by grass-based produc- tating cattle can be met with fresh pasture ers in New Zealand. or with high quality grass-legume hay in the For more information on livestock breeds see winter. However energy supplementation on the Oklahoma State University Animal Sci- pasture is often effective in maintaining ence Web site at www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds. high gains and milk production. Dry cows can subsist on lower quality feedstuffs, but Information on rare breeds can be found at must be maintained at an acceptable body the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy condition score in order to be successfully Web site at www.albc-usa.org/index.htm. bred and deliver a healthy calf. Cattle Nutrition Energy is important for cattle on high protein pasture. The microbes that occupy the rumen Cattle require consistent sources of pro- need energy to digest all the protein being tein, energy, minerals, vitamins, and ingested by the animal. If the microbes doA water to maintain productivity and health. not get enough energy, protein is converted dequate For detailed information on ruminant to urea and is passed through urine. For very energy con- physiology and nutrition contact ATTRA high producing cattle like growing steers and centration at 800-346-9140. lactating cows, an energy supplement such asin the diet allows grain can result in better protein digestion, The producer can determine an overall pic-cattle to utilize other ture of the nutritional status of the herd by: and therefore higher milk production andnutrients such as greater weight gains. Most dairy graziers whoprotein, vitamins, • using body condition scores supplement their cattle provide from 8 to 18 • assessing pasture condition pounds of corn per head per day, dependingand minerals. on the quality of the pasture, in addition to • soil and plant tissue testing to deter- free choice forage or pasture. mine mineral and nutrient content (with subsequent appropriate sup- Forages have the ability to supply all the plementation) energy needed to maintain highly-productive cattle throughout the growing season, but The following section highlights some of the only when managed intensively. A legume- nutrients important in cattle production. grass pasture will easily have a protein con- tent greater than 18 percent and high digest- Energy ible energy during the vegetative stage. As Feed intake is regulated by an animal’s plants mature, the nutrient value lowers. energy needs. Therefore, energy should Consider getting your forage analyzed to be considered fi rst when attempting to bal- determine nutrient content and concentra- ance animal diets. Adequate energy con- tion. Your local Cooperative Extension office centration in the diet allows cattle to utilize can assist in sampling forage. other nutrients such as protein, vitamins, For more specific information on graz- and minerals. ing nutrition see the Further Resources section below. Some of the major determinants of an animal’s energy requirements are: Protein • weight Cows generally require crude protein in the • body condition score range of 7 to 14 percent of daily dry mat- • milk production ter intake. Dry cows require less, and preg- nant and lactating cows, especially dairy • rate of growth cattle, require more. Growing cattle, includ- • level of activity ing replacement heifers and steers, requirePage 4 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • from 10.5 to 14 percent of their daily dry Health and Diseasematter intake to be protein. Approximatelytwo pounds per day is a rough average if Managementsupplementing protein concentrate. Cattle health management is a disease prevention strategy that includes:Minerals and Vitamins • fostering natural immunity in ani-The principal minerals of concern for mals by increasing animal and plantcattle on growing forages are calcium biodiversity on the farmand magnesium. Others to consider are • balancing nutrition through pasturesalt, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur. grazing management and mineralThese minerals are very important for cel- supplementationlular respiration, nervous system develop- • reducing animal stress throughment, protein synthesis and metabolism, appropriate facility design and pas-and reproduction. Vitamins are important ture exposurefor the formation of catalysts and enzymesthat support growth and body maintenance • providing high quality forage in thein animals. Vitamin A is an important sup- dormant seasonplement for grazing animals. Vitamin A The natural living conditions of pasturessupplementation should be included in the decrease animal stress and remove unneces-mineral mix at about 1,200 to 1,700 IU’s sary burdens on the immune system. Other(International Units) per pound of dry mat- practices such as sanitation, quarantine ofter of feed intake per day. Green forage, new animals, and the use of probiotics inhigh quality hay, and cereal grains are typi- young animals can also foster a healthiercally high in vitamin E. Mineral and vitamin environment for livestock. Disease preven-supplements are available in many formula- tion is the best health plan for your herd,tions. Because soils differ in mineral content and a well-planned pasture-based systemfrom place to place, a recommended mineral effectively eliminates many disease vectorsmix that works in all places is not possible. and alleviates many nutritional disorders.Check with your local Extension agent or Calves that are weaned, castrated,veterinarian to determine the mineral and dehorned, and inoculated, and then sent tovitamin mixes and recommendations common a drylot to eat unfamiliar hay and grains areto your area. subjected to many simultaneous stresses. They become particularly prone to respi-Water ratory infections. However, calves that are castrated early, naturally dehorned withCattle require from three to thirty gal- a polled bull, and weaned on grass, tendlons of water per day. Factors that affect to be healthier and achieve a gain weightwater intake include age, physiological sta- much more rapidly than do conventionallytus, temperature, and body size. A rule of weaned counterparts.thumb is that cattle will consume aboutone gallon of water per 100 pounds ofbody weight during winter and two gal- Diseaselons per 100 pounds of body weight dur- Disease is a conditioning hot weather. In general, double the that usually occursestimates for lactating cattle. Water should when an infectiousbe clean and fresh. Dirty water decreases agent comes in con-water intake. Remember that all other tact with an immuno-nutrient metabolism in the body depends compromised host.on water, and if a cow stops drinking, Stress factors usu-nutrient metabolism (growth and lactation) ally underlie com-will decrease. promised immunewww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 5
    • systems. Stress factors in beef cattle pro- is closely related to a human variant called duction include hunger, heat, cold, damp- Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), and is ness, wind, injury, fatigue, and rough han- thought to be caused by an abnormal pro- dling. Infectious agents include viruses and tein called a prion that infects the nervous bacteria which cause many of the following system and causes behavioral changes, loss disease conditions. For more detailed infor- of coordination, trembling, and ultimately mation on cattle diseases, refer to your local death. BSE was fi rst reported in Great Brit- county Extension agent. Many state Cooper- ain in 1986 and has been associated with ative Extension services offer free publica- the feeding of animal by-products, spe- tions on the diseases endemic to your area. cifically nervous system tissue, in cattle The Merck Veterinary manual is also a very rations. Since the prions are found only in good reference on animal diseases, preven- an infected animal’s nervous system, trans- tion, and treatment. Refer to the Resources mission is thought to be limited to ingestion section for information to obtain a copy. The of nervous tissue. following section highlights some of the dis- eases and disorders a producer should keep Prevention of contamination is the only in mind when considering a pasture-based known method to maintain a BSE-free herd.C onsumers beef or dairy operation. Producers should The USDA has instituted a BSE control pro- cooperatively develop a herd health plan gram that focuses on three key efforts: who pur- chase and eat with the local veterinarian. 1. banning and restricting imports of cattle and cattle productspasture-fed beef canbe more confident Mastitis 2. banning the use of animal by-products inthat the products are Mastitis is a bacterial infection of the mam- cattle feed mary glands caused by contaminated bed-free from infectious ding, teat trauma, fl ies, or the use of hoses 3. testing of cattle in the U.S.agents that might in the milking parlor to clean udders. An Producers of organic and 100-percent pas-compromise human abnormal discharge from the teats confi rms ture-fi nished beef may have an advantagehealth. a diagnosis. This can range from off-col- from a livestock and human health perspec- ored milk to a white, yellow, or red, viscous tive in that animal by-products are fed at pus-like discharge. In advanced cases the no time during the animal’s life. Consum- infected udder quarter will become very ers who purchase and eat pasture-fed beef hard and milk production declines. Treat- can be more confident that the products are ment consists of antibiotics in conventional free from infectious agents that might com- herds, and homeopathic infusions and oint- promise human health. More information ments for organic herds. Cattle produc- on BSE can be found at the USDA Animal ers can minimize the incidence of mastitis Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) through sanitation, avoidance of mud and newsroom Web site www.aphis.usda.gov/ manure on the udder, pasture-feeding and newsroom/hot_issues/bse.shtml. calving, and maintaining the cattle on a high plane of nutrition. Some organic pro- ducers treat infected cows with antibiotics Calf Scours and cull them from the organic herd to main- Calf scours occur when a calf is born with tain organic integrity. For more informa- (1) limited immunity, and/or (2) introduced tion on organic mastitis treatment, see Paul into an environment conducive to microbial Dettloff, Alternative Treatments for Ruminant (viruses and bacteria) infection. It is con- Animals in the Resources section. sidered a management disease and can be prevented by taking care of the cow prior to birth and the calf after birth. Scours are Bovine Spongiform usually expressed as diarrhea, skin elas- Encephalopathy ticity from dehydration, weakness, loss of BSE (called Mad Cow Disease by some) is nursing reflex, and a drop in core body a brain-wasting disease affecting cattle. It temperature. When administered soonPage 6 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • enough, f luid rehydration, electrolytes,and drenching with probiotics can save a Your Local Cooperative Extension officestricken calf. It is critically important to Contact your local Cooperative Extension office for information onrehydrate the calf as soon as signs of infec- poisonous plants, forage nitrate testing, and locally adapted forages.tion become evident. The USDA maintains an online database of local Cooperative Extension offices on its website at www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html. TheSome principle factors that predispose a phone number for your Cooperative Extension office can be found incalf to scours are: the county government section of the local telephone directory. • inadequate colostrum within first 12 hours (low immunity) • dirty calving environment (supports These conditions are covered in detail in microbial contamination) the ATTRA publication Pasture, Rangeland, • inadequate nutrition of the dam (the and Grazing Management, available by call- cow should have a Body Condition ing 800-346-9140 or online at www.attra. Score of 5 at calving) ncat.org. Other good sources of informa- tion on plant toxicity are your local Coopera- • calving difficulty tive Extension office (see box) and the book • cold stress, and Southern Forages (see Ball in the Resources • high cattle density on calving section below for more information). groundsManaging calving such that these factors are Internal and External Parasitesminimized lessens the chances that calves Internal parasites are a problem in manybecome sick. Many producers credit pasture- parts of the United States, notably those inbased systems (and adjusting the calving sea- warmer, more humid regions such as theson to occur when temperatures are warmer South and East. Parasitism is manifested inand grass is available) for reducing incidents cattle by:of scour. An environment conducive to ani- • reduction in milk productionmal health can reduce or even completely • weight losseliminate calf scour problems. Cows benefitfrom calving on green pasture by: • lowered conception rate • having access to high-quality • rough coats growing forage, and • anemia, and • calving in a warmer environment • diarrhea which reduces stress on the calf’s The fi rst line of defense in parasite con- immune system trol should be to maintain optimal livestock nutrition. The second line of defense is toPlant Toxicity enhance immunity through biodiversity onGraziers must pay careful attention to the farm. Finally, a third line of defense isthe negative health effects that certain to establish specific management strategiesplants can cause in livestock. Some of the that can reduce the incidence of parasitism.more common and economically important These strategies include:disorders are: • pasture rotation • bloat • planned grazing • grass tetany • dragging or clipping pastures • prussic acid • multi-species grazing, including • nitrates poultry • fescue toxicosis, and • monitoring with fecal samples, and • poisonous plants • barn sanitationwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 7
    • Sustainable and organic producers have Vaccines are seen by these practitioners as come to recognize that as animals become a bypass of natural immunity. Regardless, adapted to a system, internal parasites cease vaccination is a tool that should be carefully to be a problem. Good health and natural considered by the producer and the veteri- immunity goes a long way to reduce the narian, and is not meant to take the place of incidence of both disease and parasitism. good animal management. For more in-depth information, please see Every producer should develop a vaccina- the ATTRA publication Integrated Parasite tion program to address the risks of dis- Management for Livestock. eases endemic to the region. Consult your veterinarian to determine the types of vac- A Word on Paracitacides cines recommended for your area. For more Beef producers have historically relied information see General Principles of Vacci- on paracitacides (chemical dewormers) to nation and Vaccines, in Cow-Calf Manage- combat parasitic pests such as the brown ment Guide and Cattle Producers’ Library stomach worm, which can cause significant listed in the Further Resources section. health and economic damage to a cow herdV when infection is severe. A common prac- The National Animal accination tice is to alternate applications of different against dis- paracitacide products to reduce the chance Identification System (NAIS) ease is an that the parasites will become immune to a Animal health issues have become moreaccepted practice in particular treatment. Many injectable and important in the United States since themodern cattle pro- pour-on types of paracitacides are avail- discovery of a BSE-positive cow in Wash-duction, including able. Many dewormers are not biodegrad- ington State in December of 2003. As a able and remain active in manure. These result the USDA Animal Plant Healthorganic production. products become a part of the pasture envi- Inspection Service has begun administer- ronment, and several kill dung beetles, and ing the development of a nation wide live- may have other unintended side effects as stock identification system that will allow well. If you plan to use a dewormer, your officials to track animals to the source in veterinarian can recommend an appropriate the event of an animal disease outbreak. application schedule for your area. The plan, called the National Animal Iden- tification System, or NAIS, is composed of Organic producers’ use of synthetic treat- a database and tracking system that will ments is restricted to breeder stock cattle be able to “identify all animals and prem- before the last third of gestation but not ises that have had contact with a foreign or during lactation of organic progeny, and to domestic animal disease of concern within milk animals at least 90 days before milk 48 hours after discovery. As an informa- production (NOP 205.238(b)(1-2)). tion system that provides for rapid tracing of infected and exposed animals during an Vaccines outbreak situation, the NAIS will help limit Vaccination against disease is an accepted the scope of such outbreaks and ensure practice in modern cattle production, includ- that they are contained and eradicated as ing organic production, and should comple- quickly as possible” (USDA, 2005). ment other preventative health management Consumers often cite food safety as among practices, such as reducing stress, ensuring the most important factors that influence a balanced ration, and providing pasture as their buying decisions. The NAIS was a significant portion of energy needs. established to address these issues and Some natural, pasture-based cattle produc- assure consumers that the meat and milk ers contest vaccination, and assert that pro- they consume is wholesome and safe. Con- viding for the development of natural immu- sumer confidence in the safety of their nity through farm biodiversification protects food hinges on knowing an animal’s com- animals better than a vaccination regime. plete history, or preserving the identity ofPage 8 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • each animal that becomes food. Producersof certified organic products—whether they Nutrient Cyclingbe crops, livestock or processed products— Grazing cattle will return 70 to 85 percent of the nutrients consumedhave always been required to maintain back to the pasture. When combined with nutrient additions fromrecords that can assist the tracking of prod- the dead leaves and roots of pasture plants, nitrogen contributionsucts from their origin to fi nal sale. Other to nutrient cycling can approach 280 pounds per acre per year in aproducers maintain transparent tracking moderately managed grass/clover pasture. (Bellows, 2001) Pasturessystems through direct marketing relation- with a legume component of 20 to 45 percent are more sustainableships with consumers. Although different than monoculture grass pastures, as the legumes contribute signifi-groups may differ about how that traceabil- cantly to nitrogen fertility. For more information, see ATTRA’s Nutrientity should be documented, most everyone Cycling in Pastures.agrees that it is an important issue.For more information on the National Ani- yearly maintenance costs associated withmal Identification Program see the ATTRA keeping a cow herd. However, raisingpublication The National Animal Iden- steers or heifers can require more manage-tifi cation System (NAIS): What it is, and ment skill. For more information on alter-how to participate in the process located at native beef enterprises see the Furtherwww.attra.org/attra-pub/nais.html. Resources section below.Integrating Cattle into Before starting a new grazing enterprise, conduct an economic analysis to measureCropping Systems your break-even cost, and determine howCattle have the potential to give value to many animals it will take to make a profit.cover crops in rotation, where the landmight otherwise not yield an economicreturn. (Bender, 1998) Many farmersutilize legume cover crops in rotation tobuild soil and increase soil nitrogen forsubsequent crops. Cover crops greatlybenefit small grain and vegetable yieldswithout the use of soluble fertilizers. How-ever, most cover crops are used as greenmanures and incorporated into the soil inpreparation for subsequent crops. Cattlegrazing on legume cover crops can benefitthe farm system economically and ecologi-cally. By selling fed steers or custom graz-ing yearlings, a fi nancial return can bemade on the land. Furthermore, throughadded nutrient cycling (dunging and urinedeposition), soil fertility can be enhanced.If you are considering adding a grazingcomponent to an existing cropping system,note that the cost of electric fencing andwater delivery can eat up profits quicklyunless these structures are already inplace. Consider grazing more valuable ani-mals, such as steers or replacement heif-ers, instead of cows. Steers and heifers aregenerally maintained for a short periodof time, and you will not have to coverwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 9
    • cool-season grasses and fall decline of warm-season grasses. Grazing systems best suited to the afore- mentioned elements are those that employ a rotation where animals are placed on a pad- dock at high density and moved to another paddock at the appropriate time. Most rota- tional grazing systems utilize ten or more paddocks to best achieve the benefits of the system. This type of rotational grazing has been called planned grazing, controlled grazing, management-intensive grazing, and intensive rotational grazing. Whatever the name, the main point of this system is that it allows for more effective forage use by increasing forage quality and decreasing grazing selectivity. A common sight in every region of the Pastures and Grazing country is a pasture full of cows, sheep, Management or horses and not a blade of grass in sight. A pasture is “a complex inter-relationship The pasture might be green, but the grass is of plant, temperature, light, soil, organ- cropped so close it resembles a pool table, isms, nutrients, water, and livestock that and thistles are the tallest plant in the field. make the pasture a continually changing This condition, called overgrazing, occurs (dynamic) ecosystem.” (Murphy, 1995) Pas- when the grazing pressure exceeds the car- tures are the foundation of sustainable live- rying capacity of the pasture. Many times stock production. They are best maintained we are tempted to assume the culprit to be by developing a grazing system or plan that too many animals on the pasture. However, conserves the soil and plant resource while overgrazing is the result of time on pas- maximizing productivity within the natural ture, not grazing intensity. In other words, limits of the particular ecology of the farm. overgrazing is caused by allowing animals, A grazing system or plan will ration out whether many or few, to remain on a pas- forage according to animal requirements, ture for too long. allowing full plant recovery while minimiz- A grazing system will permit (1) moder- ing forage waste. (Murphy, 1995) The ele- ate defoliation, and then (2) allow time for ments of a sustainable grazing management regrowth. If either one of these points is system are: missing, an overgrazed pasture is the likely 1. proper timing of grazing (corresponding result. There are a great many well-pre- to plant physiological stage) pared resources available to assist produc- ers in designing and implementing a con- 2. proper intensity of grazing (duration on trolled grazing system. For more detailed the pasture) information on pastures and grazing man- 3. residue or plant height after grazing agement, contact your local or state Cooper- ative Extension office. In addition, ATTRA 4. plant recovery time after grazing offers the following publications: Paddock 5. adaptive management of grazing time Design, Fencing, and Water Systems for Con- depending on pasture recovery rates trolled Grazing; Rotational Grazing; Nutri- (i.e., time on a paddock may double ent Cycling in Pastures; Assessing the Pasture during less productive times of the year, Soil Resource; Pastures: Sustainable Manage- or consideration of summer slump of ment; Managed Grazing in Riparian Areas;Page 10 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • and Pasture, Rangeland, and Grazing Organic Certification Process; How to Pre-Management. See also the Further pare for an Organic Inspection: Steps andResources section at the end of this publi- Checklists; Organic Farm Certification & thecation for more books and Web sites on pas- National Organic Program; NCAT’s Organictures and grazing management. Livestock Workbook—A Guide to Sustainable and Allowed Practices; National OrganicOrganic Cattle Production Program Compliance Checklist for Produc- ers; Organic Livestock Documentation Forms;The production of organic livestock prod- and Organic Livestock Production are avail-ucts is based on four fundamental criteria: able free of charge by calling 800-346- • soil—a healthy, functional soil is the 9140 or accessing the ATTRA Web site at basis of organic agriculture www.attra.ncat.org. • health—plants and animals acquire natural immunity through the sym- Slaughter and Meat biotic relationship that occurs on Processing diversified farms Processing includes everything from slaugh- S • ecological diversity—complexity ter to cutting to wrapping and storage. Meat mall and in pasture plant composition must be processed in a state or federally medium- achieves balance and agroecosys- inspected processing plant, and the plant tem resilience must be organically certified if the beef is sized proces- • organic system integrity—inputs to to be sold as certified organic. This, unfor- sors are particularly the system must be approved organic tunately, has become a bottleneck in the hard hit when it substances. This includes feed, fer- organic meat industry. There are many farm- comes to govern- tility, and pest control inputs. ers and ranchers who can and want to pro- ment regulation. duce organic, and/or grass-fed beef and milkConversion to organic production requires products. As well, there are many custom-the development of an organic system plan, ers who would like to purchase sustainablyand an organic livestock plan for livestock raised animal products. But there remainoperations. Organic certification of the land very few small and medium-size processorsrequires a transitional period of three years who can make the link from animal to retail,from the last application of a restricted sub- especially for small farmers who would likestance, and yearly inspections and updated to direct-market their products.applications must be performed to remainin compliance. Small and medium-size processors are partic- ularly hard hit when it comes to governmentThe National Organic Program (NOP) Rule regulation. Food safety regulations, impor-states that “livestock products that are to tant as they are, remain heavily influenced bybe sold, labeled, or represented as organic and developed for large-scale meat proces-must be from livestock under continuous sors. Small and very small size processors doorganic management from the last third not have the scale or size to absorb the struc-of gestation.” (USDA, 2006b) In addition, tural and equipment costs often associatedlivestock used as breeder stock “may be with food safety regulations. Many operatebrought from a nonorganic operation onto on very tight margins just to stay in business.an organic operation at any time: Provided, Small and very small plants make up 90that, if such livestock are gestating and the percent of all federally inspected processingoffspring are to be raised as organic live- plants in the U.S. According to the USDA,stock, the breeder stock must be brought a small plant employs between 10 and 500onto the facility no later than the last third people, and a very small plant employs up toof gestation.” (USDA, 2006b) 10. Together these two types generate moreThere are many excellent resources to than $5 million in annual sales. The USDAassist farmers and ranchers in the tran- Food Safety and Inspection Service has asition to organic production. ATTRA’s Web site providing outreach informationwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 11
    • to small and very small plant operators Quality Components of Milk and can be accessed at: www.fsis.usda.gov/ Science/Small_Very_Small_Plant_Outreach/ Breed Butterfat Protein Lactose index.asp. Jerseys 4.6 3.6 4.9 – 5.1 An alternative that some producers are devel- Holsteins 3.7 3.0 4.9 – 5.1 oping is the concept of a small, mobile pro- Source: Hoards Dairyman July 2006 (492) cessing plant that can be towed from farm to farm for slaughter and initial cutting. The Lopez Community Land Trust in northwest Somatic cell count—SCC is a measure of Washington State has a Web site with infor- white blood cells in fluid milk. High levels mation on mobile processors. For more infor- of white blood cells in milk indicate infec- mation on mobile processors see the LCLT tion, such as mastitis, and lowers milk qual- Web site at www.lopezclt.org/sard/mpu.html. ity. Healthy cows have a SCC lower than 200,000 cells per milliliter. Dairy market- Finally, another issue is that current fed- ers and processors specify a limit of SCC eral law does not allow beef producers to they will accept. sell state-inspected processed products into interstate commerce, although there is cur- Antibiotics—The presence of antibiotics in rently discussion within Congress to redress milk is disallowed. Producers who use anti- this issue. Though state-inspected processors biotics to treat infection must not allow milk need to meet federal standards, this has his- from treated cows to get into the bulk tank. torically prevented cattle farmers from selling In these cases, treated cows are milked after their state-inspected products in larger mar- all the healthy cows have been milked, the ket areas, which may be just across the state piping to the bulk tank is disconnected, and border from where the closest state-inspected the milk is either dumped or fed to suckling processors are located. Generally speaking, calves. Milk containing antibiotics cannot there are more state-inspected facilities than be sold for human consumption. USDA-inspected facilities. Fewer USDA- inspected facilities entails higher trans- Marketing Overview portation and processing costs for the beef Demand is growing for organic and grass-fed or dairy producer who ends up having to products. However, marketing has been one travel long-distances to get his or her prod- of the most daunting activities farmers have ucts processed. The mobile processing plant encountered. For most graziers, learning to described earlier was developed because, market their products requires new skills and prior to its creation, livestock producers had considerable time. Some will choose direct to transport their product over 300 miles to marketing venues such as farmers’ markets a USDA-inspected processing facility, mak- and direct sales, whereas others will opt for ing it too costly to garner the added value by cooperative marketing. Becoming a mem- having a closer processor. ber of a farmer cooperative is very attractive to many farmers, as cooperatives give the Milk Quality Indicators farmer the ability to sell products much the The four primary quality factors for milk same way as in the commodity market, but are percent protein, percent butterfat, per- often with a premium. cent lactose, and somatic cell count (SCC). Information on dairy marketing can be found These four measures determine how much a in the ATTRA publications The Economics of dairy farmer is paid for the milk produced. Grass-Based Dairying and Value-Added Dairy The biggest constituent in milk is water, so Options. See also Dairy Cattle Production in pricing milk based on the concentrations of the Further Resources section below. For solids is a better indicator of the value of detailed information regarding alternative fluid milk, especially for processors of prod- marketing of beef products, see ATTRA’s ucts such as butter, cheese, and ice cream. Alternative Beef Marketing, accessible on thePage 12 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • web at www.attra.ncat.org. Also avail- are the question, sustainable cattle farms andable is SARE’s How to Direct Market Your ranches are an integral part of the answer. ABeef, available on the web at www.sare.org/ farm that sees its ecological borders extendedpublications/beef.htm. beyond the fenceline will necessarily involve the community, and will seek opportunitiesThe Social and to build community through its production, education, and marketing efforts.Ecological Concerns of In a time when livestock farming is underCattle Production serious scrutiny it is important to considerOne of the tenets of sustainable agriculture is the impacts of livestock production in ripar-that the system be sustainable from a social ian areas, on public lands—including Forestperspective. For instance, agricultural sys- Service and BLM lands—and at the urban-tems should address such concerns as ani- rural interface. Livestock production is com-mal welfare, human health, land use, and ing under fire from many advocates of envi-the urban-rural interface. Sustainable agri- ronmental change, who see historic cattleculture is concerned with the relationships raising as injurious to sustained, much less Sand connections between farms, communi- improved, environmental integrity. While ustainableties, and the consumers that support them. these groups question the legitimacy ofThe soil is the basis from which life is main- cattle production, whether it is grazing on agriculturetained, and establishing a reconnection public land or issues dealing with animal is concernedbetween consumers and the land is a very rights and welfare, it becomes imperative with the relation-important aspect of ecological agriculture. that farmers, ranchers, citizens, and pol- ships and connec-It is for this reason that the farm’s ecology icy-makers become informed and educate tions between farms,is often extended to include towns, water- others about the reality of the ecological communities, andsheds, and cities. Other issues that can be impacts of animal agriculture.addressed by re-evaluating agriculture from the consumers that Domestic cattle do leave a large ecologicala position of social sustainability are: support them. footprint, especially in environmentally sen-1. Processing, farm supplies, local food sys- sitive areas. Desertification in parts of Africa tems, etc.—In what ways do local farms and rangeland decline in the American West work with local processors and retail- are but two obvious examples. Rangeland ers? How are inputs produced and dis- managers and animal scientists have begun tributed within a region? Do consumers to understand more about the ecology of sen- have access to locally produced foods? sitive lands, and have attempted to describe Are consumers educated about local food a history that involved grazing animals in the issues? What about the workers in animal evolution of perennial grasslands. Many have processing plants? Do they receive a liv- proposed that the real cause of inefficient or ing wage? Do they receive benefits? Are even deleterious use of rangeland is simply they protected from health hazards and mismanagement. If cattle are fenced into a risks of injury? particular ecosystem and overgraze, they place an inordinate pressure on the system it2. Antibiotic, feed additives, growth pro- cannot support. The result is a forced shift in motants, and pesticide use in cattle pro- plant community away from diversity, com- duction—What are the consequences plexity, and stability and toward one that is of chemical use in animal agriculture? simplistic and unstable. Such a community What are the social and biological impli- is inherently unable to cope with ecological, cations of antibiotic resistance? Does climatic, or biological change. To counter the production system respond to market this trend, it is imperative that scientists and signals that favor natural or organically land managers foster an understanding of produced products? the principles of animal behavior and buildIf social issues such as land use, community production systems that mimic natural sys-development, and local food system issues tems as much as possible.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 13
    • Many progressive farmers and consumers 4. Reduced animal confinement, which believe pasture-based cattle production is reduces nutrient problems and allows more ecologically sustainable than conven- manure to become a fertilizer instead tional, grain-finished, confinement-oriented of a pollutant. cattle production, for both beef and dairy 5. Reduced annual cropping, which less- products. Conventional beef and dairy pro- ens the amount of fossil fuel energy duction relies on harvested grain as the pri- required to produce and transport feed mary feed source. Conventional agriculture, for confined cattle. There is an unneces- for all its productivity and cheap food, is by sary amount of energy used to produce a definition not concerned with resource con- unit of beef protein or milk, whereas it is servation and environmental stewardship. much more energy-efficient for the ani- In fact, the conventional paradigm is incon- mal to harvest food itself. sistent with agricultural sustainability by its very nature. 6. Reliance on compost and manures for nitrogen fertility, which results in Pasture-based production systems, how- reduced synthetic fertilizer applications ever, have the inherent ability to support, and use of fossil fuel energy for manufac- stabilize, and maintain ecological systems ture and application. These practices do for increased, sustained, efficient food and not contribute to long-term soil develop- fi ber productivity. Some of the ecological ment and maintenance, but merely feed benefits of pasture-based livestock produc- the plants at a particular point in time. tion are as follows: 7. Pasture plant diversity which builds soil 1. Development and maintenance of structure, occupies all available niches, and soil organic matter and effective nutri- effectively competes for space and nutrients ent cycling. with noxious and invasive species. 2. Maintenance of efficient water cycle with perennial grass and forb ground cover and subsequent soil structural stability Final Thoughts and increased organic matter. At the time of this writing, the pasture- based cattle production industry does not 3. Reduction in tillage associated with have a standard such as is found in the annual cropping (corn, wheat, bar- National Organic Program (NOP) regula- ley), which reduces organic matter and tions. The USDA is, however, considering water conservation. a “USDA Grass-fed” label for animals that are fed at least 99 percent of their diet on pasture. Grass-finished beef and grass-fed dairy products reportedly have many health benefits compromised when an animal is fed even a small amount of grain, even after being on grass since calfhood. Given the market prospects and positive human health and animal welfare attributes, pas- ture based systems would seem to be the production method of choice for a society engaged in seeking sustainable solutions to the problems inherent in conventional agri- cultural production. Whether pasture-based beef and dairy sys- tems can become viable as a mainstream production, processing, and distribution system in the United States remains to be Photo courtesy of USDA-NRCS. seen, however. Given the realities of largePage 14 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • scale marketing and distribution, small and true of any farming enterprise that claims tomedium-size operations are at an extreme be truly sustainable. Such practical knowl-disadvantage. Niche marketing remains the edge is really the manifestation of an inti-most viable option for many producers. For mate relationship with the land; a sense thatsome, joining a cooperative such as Organic the land is more than just a foundation fromValley or the Organic Grassfed Beef Coali- which to engage in an economically profit-tion can be a way to market specialty cattle able enterprise. The land is in a very realproducts to larger markets. sense a living system, abounding in com- plex and fruitful relationships between soilIn addition, the question has been rightly and soil organisms, plants, water, animals,raised whether the U.S. possesses enough and people. This agro-ecology that farmersacreage and the associated yearly forage and consumers find themselves in, of whichproduction to sustain a pasture based live- they are very much an integral part, is thestock system. More research is required to basis from which true agricultural knowl-address these questions. edge is derived. Agricultural sustainabilitySustainable livestock farming and ranching can be realized only by understanding ani-depends on the producer’s practical knowl- mals, pastures, crops, markets, and home-edge of a particular piece of land. This is life from this holistic perspective.References ResourcesDettloff, Paul. 2004. “Alternative Treatment for ATTRA PublicationsRuminant Animals.” Acres USA, Austin, TX. Assessing the Pasture Soil ResourceBall, D., C. Hoveland, and G. Lacefield. 1991. Beef Farm Sustainability ChecksheetSouthern Forages. Norcross, GA: Potash andPhosphate Institute. Beef Marketing Alternatives Dairy BeefBellows, B. 2001. Nutrient Cycling in Pastures. Butte,MT: NCAT. Dairy Farm Sustainability ChecksheetBender, M. 1998. Beef cattle finishing in summer/fall Dairy Resource List: Organic and Pasture-Basedin a strip cropping system. Santa Cruz: Organic Farm- The Economics of Grass-based Dairyinging Research Foundation. Grass-Based and Seasonal DairyingMurphy, Bill. 1995. “Pasture Management to SustainAgriculture,” Pages 321-347 in Agroecology: The Sci- Grazing Networks for Livestock Producersence of Sustainable Agriculture, second edition, edited Grazing Contracts for Livestockby Miguel A. Altieri. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Managed Grazing in Riparian AreasUSDA. 2005. National Animal Identification System Multispecies Grazing(NAIS). Draft Strategic Plan, 2005-2009. USDAAnimal Plant Health Inspection service. Nutrient Cycling in Pastureshttp://animalid.aphis.usda.gov/nais/downloads/print/ Pastures: Sustainable ManagementNAIS_Implementation_Plan_April_2006.pdf Pastures: Going OrganicUSDA. 2006a. National Animal Identification System Paddock Design, Fencing, and Water Systems for(NAIS) website. APHIS. http://animalid.aphis.usda. Controlled Grazinggov/nais/index.shtml. Raising Dairy Heifers on PastureUSDA. 2006b. National Organic Program Standards.Agricultural Marketing Service. www.ams.usda.gov/ Rotational Grazingnop/indexIE.htm. Value-added Dairy Optionswww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 15
    • Forage, Pasture, and Rangeland Management Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources,Alberta Forage Manual Order from University of Missouri Extension publica-Alberta Agriculture, Food, and Rural Development tions, 573-882-7216, http://muextension.missouri.edu/Publication Office, 7000 - 113 Street, Edmonton, explore/manuals/m00157.htmAlberta, Canada T6H 5T6, 800-292-5697 This manual is designed to acquaint readers withhttp://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/ the principles on which successful grazing manage-all/agdex16 ment is based. This manual brings together a group of researchers, educators and producers with broad expe-Fertility Pastures by Newman Turner rience in land management and forage/livestock sys-Faber and Faber, 24 Russell Square, London tems to provide a comprehensive guide to understand- Classic text on herbal lays, soil health, and profitable livestock production on pasture. Out of print. Used ing and managing grassland ecosystems. bookstores and interlibrary loan might yield good Rangelands West results obtaining this worthwhile book. Western Rangelands Partnership, Agriculture NetworkForage Information System Information Center, University of Arizonahttp://forages.oregonstate.edu/index.cfm http://rangelandswest.org A comprehensive website for forage-related topics, Web-based educational tools and information to assist including publications, educational opportunities, resource managers improve rangelands and maintain and professional resources. Maintained by Oregon sustainability. State University. Pastures for profit: A guide to rotational grazingGrazing Systems Planning Guide Cooperative Extension Publications, 45 N. Charter St.,Kevin Blanchet, University of Minnesota Extension Madison, WI 53715, http://learningstore.uwex.eduService, Howard Moechnig, Natural Resources Con- Grazing ecology, and setting up a rotationalservation Service, Minnesota Board of Water & Soil grazing system.Resources, Jodi DeJong-Hughes, University of Min-nesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota Ecology and Ecosystem ManagementExtension Service Distribution Center, 405 Coffey Behavioral Education for Human, Animal, andHall, 1420 Eckles Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108-6068 Ecosystem Management, www.behave.netorder@extension.umn.edu Applying behavioral principles in ecosystem Delineates the components of a grazing system by tak- management. ing the farmer through the grazing management plan- ning process. The guide can be viewed or downloaded Foraging Behavior: Managing to Survive in a World at www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/ of Change; Behavioral Principles for Human, Animal, livestocksystems/DI7606.html. Vegetation, and Ecosystem Management, Fred Provenza, PhD, Utah State UniversityIntermountain Planting Guide www.behave.net/products/booklet.htmlUSDA Agricultural Research Service, Grazing Management: an Ecological PerspectiveUtah State University, Logan, Utah by Rodney K Heitschmidt and Jerry W Stuth,Order from USU Extension Publicationshttp://extension.usu.edu/cooperative/publications Available on the web at http://cnrit.tamu.edu/rlem/435-797-2251 textbook/textbook-fr.html This book was written to help resource managersManagement-Intensive Grazing: The Grassroots of broaden their perspective relative to management ofGrassfarming, Jim Gerrish, Green Park Publishing grazing animals and heighten their awareness of the This book can be obtained through The Stockman role they play in maintaining the integrity of ecologi- Grassfarmer’s Bookshelf at 800-748-9808. The indus- cal systems (from the Foreward). Published by Timber try-standard for growing and managing pastures for Press, Portland, OR sustained livestock production. Holistic Management InternationalMissouri Grazing Manual 1010 Tijeras Ave. NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102James R. Gerrish, College of Agriculture, Food 505-842-5252, hmi@holisticmanagement.org,and Natural Resources, Craig A. Roberts, College of www.holisticmanagement.orgPage 16 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • HMI is a goal-oriented decision-making system for eco- Great Lakes Grazing Network Grazing Dairy Data. logical management of resources, people, and capital. Madison, WI: UW Center for Dairy Profitability. Kriegl, T. 2005.Stockmanship: Improving rangeland health through Fact Sheet #1: Project Overviewappropriate livestock handling. Steve Cote, P.O. Box Fact Sheet #2: Comparing the Top Half with the819, 125 So. Water St., Arco, ID 83213, 208-527- Bottom Half of Graziers8557, or available on the web at: www.mt.nrcs.usda. Fact Sheet #3: Comparing Herds by Size. Less thangov/technical/ecs/range/stockmanship.html 100 Cows vs. 100 Cows or More Order from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Butte Soil and Water Conservation District Fact Sheet #4: Comparing Seasonal Calving with Non-seasonal HerdsQuivira Coalition Fact Sheet #5: Grazing vs. Confinement Farms.1413 Second Street, Suite 1, Santa Fe, NM 87505, Fact Sheet #6: Preview of Financial Performance of505-820-2544, www.quiviracoalition.org/index.html Graziers by Breed Publications on ecological resource management Contact: Tom Kriegl at 608-263-2685 or 277 Animal including range management, grazing, road con- Sci Bldg, 1675 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706. struction, monitoring, and managing resources at the http://cdp.wisc.edu urban-rural interface. Comprehensive research project comparing conven- tional and pasture-based dairy farms in the Midwest.Cattle Nutrition, Health, and Production An excellent resource for dairy farmers considering aManagement transition to organic and/or pasture-based production.Beef Cattle Resources Missouri Dairymen’s Resource GuideVirtual Livestock Library, Oklahoma State University University of Missouri Extension,www.ansi.okstate.edu/library/cattbeef.html http://agebb.missouri.edu/dairyCow-Calf Management Guide and Cattle Producer’s Links to online dairy resources including feeds, labor,Library (CD and print), developed by the Western business management, grazing, dry cow manage-Beef Resource Committee, produced by the Animal ment, health and reproduction, facilities, andand Veterinary Science Department nutrient management.College of Agricultural and Life SciencesUniversity of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844-2330 Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance208-885-6345, www.avs.uidaho.edu/wbrc 30 Keets Rd, Deerfield, MA 01342, www.organicmilk.org/index.htmlMerck Veterinary ManualMerck Publishing Group, Merck & Co., Inc., P.O. Box Nutrient Requirements of Dairy Cattle:2000 RY84-15, Rahway, NJ 07065,732-594-4600, Seventh Revised Edition, National Academy ofwww.merckbooks.com/mvm/index.html, Sciences, Washington, DC. 2001, http://newton.nap.www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp edu/catalog/9825.html Online text version is an authoritative reference for ani- The NRC nutrient requirements were developed from mal health, disease, and management information. studies on cattle fed concentrates and harvested for- ages in confinement, and may not reflect grazingDairy Cattle Production nutrition. However, it can be a useful starting placeDairy Farm Manual in balancing developing pasture-based diets. IncludesWashington State Department of Agriculture Food feedstuff charts with nutrient contents.Safety & Animal Health Division, P.O. Box 42560, Organic Dairy Farming: A Resource for FarmersOlympia, WA 98504-2560, 360-902-1875 (2006), Jody Padgham, editor, Midwest Organic andhttp://agr.wa.gov/foodAnimal/Dairy/DairyFarmManual.htm Sustainable Education Service, P.O. Box 339, Spring Information to assist dairy producers in meeting Valley, WI 54767, www.mosesorganic.org, 715-772-3153 the inspection requirements for Grade A dairies in A comprehensive resource that covers organic produc- Washington. tion from nutrition to marketing, including a resourceThe Economics of Organic and Grazing Dairy Farms list and farmer profiles. The most up-to-date resourceRegional Multi-State Interpretation of Small Farm available, from Midwest Organic and SustainableFinancial Data from the Fourth Year Report on 2003 Education Service.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 17
    • Pasture for Dairy Cattle: Challenges and Opportunities MarketingDonna M. Amaral-Phillips, Roger W. Hemken, Agricultural Marketing Resource CenterJimmy C. Henning, and Larry W. Turner, University www.agmrc.org/agmrcof Kentucky Cooperative Extension, National information service for value-addedwww.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/asc/asc151/asc151.pdf agriculture. Section on marketing of natural beefPrescribed Grazing and Feeding Management for located at www.agmrc.org/agmrc/commodity/Lactating Dairy Cows livestock/beef/beef+natural.htm. Section onDarrell Emmick, editor, New York State Grazing marketing of dairy products located at www.agmrc.Lands Conservation Initiative, 2000 USDA-NRCS, org/agmrc/commodity/livestock/dairy/dairy.htm.Syracuse, NY How to Direct Market Your BeefThe Small Dairy Resource Book USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research andBeltsville, MD: Sustainable Agriculture Network, Education (SARE) program, 2005.Dunaway, V. 2000, www.sare.org/publications/ www.sare.org/publications/beef.htm.dairyresource/dairyresource.pdf The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing Out of print. Accessible on the SARE Web site. By Neil D. Hamilton, contact Karla Westberg, Excellent resources for small scale dairy producers, The Agricultural Law Center, The Law School, Drake including processing, food safety, marketing, animal University, 2507 University Avenue, Des Moines, IA and pasture management, and an extensive list of 50311, 515-271-2947, karla.westberg@drake.edu, suppliers, organizations, and publications. www.statefoodpolicy.org/legal_guide.htmCornell University Small Farms Program An up-to-date, well-written primer on all the legalwww.smallfarms.cornell.edu considerations related to direct marketing of agricul- Excellent resources on value-added dairy production tural products. Underwritten by a USDA SARE grant. and marketing, including pasture-based and organic. Includes a chapter on marketing of meat. This publi- The Resources section of the website has a link to Pro- cation is available for $20 through the Agricultural duction Information, with many good publications on Law Center. Please include your name, address, and developing dairy opportunities. phone number. Someone will contact you to finalize billing information. Volume discounts may apply.Dairy Barn and Equipment PlansColorado State University Resource Center Dairy Beef and Dairy Marketing Coops, Processors,Equipment and Housing Plans and Firmshttp://cerc.colostate.edu/Blueprints/Dairy.htm Coleman Natural Products, Inc. 5140 Race Court, Suite 4, Denver, CO 80216,Canada Plan Service Dairy Cattle Barn and 800-442-8666, www.colemannatural.comEquipment Planswww.cps.gov.on.ca/english/dc2000/dairy.htm Dakota Beef, LLC 980 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, ILPenn State Dairy Housing Plans— 60601, 312-214-4991, www.dakotabeefcompany.comNRAES Publicationswww.nraes.org/publications/nraes85.html Laura’s Lean Beef 2285 Executive Drive, Suite 200, Lexington, KYLow Cost Parlor Options CD (2001) 40505, 1-800-487-5326, www.laurasleanbeef.comArlin Brannstrom, 285 Animal Science Building,1675 Observatory Drive, Madison, WI 53706, 608- Organic Family LLC, DBA Organic Choice265-3030, Brannstrom@aae.wisc.edu 251 Industrial Drive, Mondovi, WI 54755, This CD was developed by the Dairy Modernization/ 715-926-478, www.nextgenerationdairy.com Retrofit Team of the University of Wisconsin Exten- Organic dairy processor. sion in cooperation with the UW Center for Dairy Organic Grassfed Beef Coalition Profitability and the Biological Systems Engineering P.O. Box 125, Vermillion, SD 57069, 605-638-0748, Department of the University of Wisconsin—Exten- www.organicgrassfedbeef.org sion. Single copies of the CD may be purchased from the Center for Dairy Profitability for $25.00. This price Organic Valley Family of Farms, CROPP Cooperative includes shipping and handling. 507 W. Main St., La Farge, WI 54639,Page 18 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • 888-809-9297, www.farmers.coop Periodicals Organic dairy and beef cooperative. Hoard’s DairymanOzark Pasture Beef P.O. Box 801, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538,P.O. Box 3005, Fayetteville, AR 72702, 920-563-5551, www.hoards.com479-283-3411, www.ozarkpasturebeef.com America’s dairy industry magazine with market reports, health information, and news.Tallgrass Beef CompanyCorporate Mailing Address: The Forage LeaderTallgrass Beef Company, LLC, 103 East Main Street, American Forage and Grassland Council, P.O. Box 94Suite 1, Sedan, KS 67361, 877-822-8283, Georgetown, TX 78627, 800-944-2342, www.afgc.orgwww.tallgrassbeef.com A quarterly magazine published by the American Grass fed and finished beef marketing firm. Forage and Grassland Council.Grass-Feeding and Grass Finishing In Practice Holistic Management International, 1010 Tijeras Ave.Eat Wild: The clearinghouse for information NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102, 505-842-5252,about pasture-based farming www.holisticmanagement.orghttp://eatwild.com Bi-monthly publication of Holistic Management Comprehensive, science-based information about the International. benefits of raising animals on pasture. The Stockman Grass FarmerGrass-Fed Cattle: How to Produce and Market P.O. Box 2300. Ridgeland, MS 39158-9911,Natural Beef 601-853-1861, 800-748-9808,Julius Ruechel, North Adams, Mass.: Storey http://stockmangrassfarmer.netPublishing, 2006. One of the nation’s premier publications on the art This book is a comprehensive work covering all aspects and science of grass farming. A free sample copy of pasture-based beef production from a practical is available. standpoint. Well-written and full of anecdotes on the reality of beef cattle farming and ranching, it is a Graze must-have for anyone considering raising and selling P.O. Box 48, Belleville, WI 53508, 608-455-3311, sustainably raised beef. graze@ticon.net, www.grazeonline.com/index.html A monthly publication dedicated to promoting theWhole Farm Planning for the Production practice of intensively managed grazing.of Grass-Fed Beef, Ann Wells, Former Technical RangelandsServices Manager, National Center for Appropriate Online version available at: www.srmjournals.org/Technology, P.O. Box 3657, Fayetteville, AR 72702 perlserv/?request=index-html or write to:www.sare.org/reporting/report_viewer.asp?pn=LS00-113 Society for Range Management, P.O. Box 1897,Southern SARE Sustainable Agriculture Research and Lawrence, KS 66044Education Project #LS00-113. A publication of the Society for Range Management.Livestock Handling Scientifically based information in a user-friendly format.Livestock Behaviour, Design of Facilities and HumaneSlaughter, Temple Grandin, PhD, Grandin LivestockHandling System, Inc., 2918 Silver Plume Drive, Further ResourcesUnit C3, Fort Collins, CO 80526, 970-229-0703, Amaral-Phillips, D.M., R.W. Hemken, J. C. Henning,www.grandin.com and L. W. Turner. 1997. Pasture for Dairy Cattle: Grandin is America’s foremost expert in livestock psy- Challenges and Opportunities. Lexington: University chology and handling system design. Her Web site is of Kentucky Cooperative Extension. full of resources to assist producers in laying out and building livestock handling facilities with the animal Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. 2005. in mind. The Beef Cattle Behaviour Handling and “Natural Beef.” Ames, IA: Iowa State University, Facilities Design Book (2nd edition) can be ordered Retrieved December 20, 2005 www.agmrc.org/agmrc/ from the Web site. commodity/livestock/beef/beef+natural.htmwww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 19
    • Altieri, M.A. 1995. Agroecology: The Science of University of Idaho: Western Beef ResourceSustainable Agriculture, 2nd Edition. Boulder, CO: Committee. 4 pp.Westview Press. Lacey, J., E. Williams, J. Rolleri, and C. Marlow.Altieri, M.A. 2005. Agroecology: Principles and 1994. A Guide for Planning, Analyzing, and Balanc-strategies for designing sustainable farming sys- ing Forage Supplies with Livestock Demand. Bozeman,tems. Berkeley, CA: Agroecology in Action. Retrieved MT: Montana State University Extension.December 20, 2005 http://nature.berkeley.edu/~agroeco3/principles_and_strategies.html Lindemann, W.C. and C.R. Glover. 2003. Nitrogen Fixation by Legumes, Guide A-129. Las Cruces, NM:Boland, Michael. 2003. The Natural Beef Market in New Mexico State University Extension.the United States. Montevideo, Uruguay: InstitutioNacional de Carnes. Merck. 2006. The Merck Veterinary Manual. Rahway, NJ: Merck & Co. Accessed April 28, 2006 from www.Blanchet, K., H. Moechnig, and J. DeJong-Hughes. merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp.2003. Grazing Systems Planning Guide. St. Paul: Uni-versity of Minnesota Extension Service. Martz, F. 2000. Pasture-based Finishing of Cattle and Eating Quality of Beef. University of Missouri, Columbia.Cheeke, Peter. 1993. Impacts of Livestock Productionon Society, Diet/Health, and the Environment. Minson, Dennis J. 1990. Forage in RuminantDanville, IL: Interstate Publishers. 239 pp. Nutrition. New York: Academic Press, Inc.Faulkner, D., D.F. Parrett, and T. Stoughtenborough. Montana DNRC. 1999. Best Management Practices for1998. Small Scale Beef Production Handbook. Uni- Grazing in Montana. Helena, MT: Montana Depart-versity of Illinois Extension. 15 pp. http://web.aces. ment of Natural Resources.uiuc.edu/vista/pdf _pubs/beef.PDF Muller, Lawrence. 1996. Nutritional considerations forGerrish, J. 2004. Management-Intensive Grazing: dairy cattle on intensive grazing systems. ProceedingsThe Grassroots of Grass Farming. Ridgeland, MS: of the Maryland Grazing Conference.Green Park Press. NCAT. 2004. Organic Livestock Workbook: A GuideHammack, Stephan. 1998. Breeding Systems for to Sustainable and Allowed Practices. Butte, MT:Beef Production. College Station: Texas A&M National Center for Appropriate Technology.University System. O’Mary, C.C. and I.A Dyer. 1978. Commercial BeefHansen, D. 2003. Brucellosis Considerations for Cattle Production, second edition. Lea and Febiger,Western Beef Herds, in Cow-Calf Management Guide Philadelphia, PA.and Cattle Producers Library. University of Idaho:Western Beef Resource Committee. 2 pp. Pirelli, G.J., S. Weedman-Gunkel, and D.W. Weber. 2000. Beef Production for Small Farms: An Overview,Hoards Dairyman. July 2006. Fort Atkinson, WI. EC 1514. Oregon State University Extension Service.Holder, Jan. 2005. How to Direct Market Your Beef. Ritchie, Harlan. 1994. A Review of Applied Beef Cat-Beltsville, MD: Sustainable Agriculture Network. tle Nutrition. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State Uni-www.sare.org/publications/beef/beef.pdf versity Extension.Ikerd, John. 1999. The Real Economics of FactoryLivestock. Paper presented at “Farm to Fork: Reclaim- Sanderson, M.A., C. A. Rotz, S. W. Fultz, and E. B.ing our Food System from Corporate Giants,” cospon- Rayburn. 2001. Estimating Forage Mass with a Com-sored by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Pol- mercial Capacitance Meter, Rising Plate Meter, andicy, Izaak Walton League, and MN Farmers Union, Pasture Ruler. Agron. J. 93:1281–1286.Bloomington, MN, September 18, 1999. Sheley, R.L., T.J. Svejcar, B.D. Maxwell, and J.S.Klopfenstein, Terry. 1996. Need for escape protein by Jacobs. 1999. Healthy Plant Communities, MT199909grazing cattle. Animal Feed Science Technology 60: AG. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension.191-199 (no. 3-4, August). SRM. No Date. Rangeland Resources of North Amer-Kvasnicka, B. and C. Bagley. 2003. General ica. Lakewood, CO: Society for Range Management.Principles of Vaccination and Vaccines, Cow-Calf Article accessed at www.rangelands.org/publications_Management Guide and Cattle Producers Library. brochures.shtml.Page 20 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • Surber, G., T. Fisher, D. Cash, P. Dixon and J. Moore. USDA. 1997. Conservation Practice Standard,2001. Swath/Windrow Grazing: An Alternative Prescribed Grazing, Code 528A.Livestock Feeding Technique, MT200106 AG. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension. www.aces.edu/department/aawm/al528a.pdfUndersander, D., B. Albert, D. Cosgrove, D. Johnson,and P. Peterson. 2002. Pastures for Profit: A Guide toRotational Grazing. Cooperative Extension Publishing,University of Wisconsin-Extension. Case Study: Lasater Grasslands Beef; the Lasater Ranch Philosophy The Lasater Ranch legacy began in the early twentieth century in For Andy, it’s crucial that the cattle never take that second bite of south Texas, where Ed Lasater, second generation rancher in the a grass plant. Research has shown that continued defoliation of family business, helped turn the region into a productive cattle range grasses stresses the plant root systems and causes root mass producing area. In 1948, his son Tom, having developed the Beef- decline. Without adequate root mass and carbohydrate reserves, master breed in south Texas, moved to southeastern Colorado to the plant will be unable to persist from year to year. When the grass begin what has become one of the most progressive and innovative is gone, the weeds move in. ranches in the nation. The family has always been committed to the principles of agricultural sustainability, even before the term, and Noxious weeds are a problem on most western ranges, and the all it implies, became a part of everyday language. Everything the Lasater Ranch has its share as well. For example, to deal with leafy Lasaters have done has been from the perspective of holism, taking spurge in riparian areas, the management has applied the use of a comprehensive management style that considers each element goat grazing instead of herbicides that can harm native vegetation. of the ranching business as a crucial part of a bigger picture. That Biological control is also practiced through the release of host-spe- bigger picture has materialized in recent years in the form of Lasater cific insects, such as flea beetles, seed weevils, and stem borers to Grasslands Beef, a subsidiary of the ranch that raises and markets weaken noxious weeds and take away any competitive advantage. grass-fed beef locally through markets and nationally through a Weed control on rangeland requires an integrated approach to be well-developed, informative, and user-friendly website. sustainable and successful, and the Lasater legacy is once again on the leading edge of applying low-input technologies to make The Lasater Ranch occupies 30,000 acres of shortgrass prairie near ranching profitable and ecologically sustainable. Matheson, Colorado, sitting at an elevation of 6,000 feet above sea level. As a part of its holistic management philosophy, the ranch uses As stated earlier, part of the ranch’s business is marketing. Lasater no pesticides, commercial fertilizers, growth hormones, steroids, Grasslands Beef utilizes local, family-owned, USDA inspected pro- or antibiotics in its production system. Instead, managers rely on cessing facilities to kill, cut, and wrap beef products. The products nature’s balance to maintain range and cattle health. For the Lasaters, are also available through several grocery and specialty stores in this means grazing. The shortgrass prairie evolved under the sea- Colorado. This brings economic opportunity to small processors sonal grazing pressure of bison, whose large numbers would pass especially. Most of the profit taken in large-scale commercial beef through the range, grazing the native grasses and forbs, fertilizing processing is not from the primary cuts, but from by-products like the soil and working it with hoof action, moving as they grazed. This hides and offal. Large-scale industrial processors deal in large vol- seasonal grazing cycle is mimicked by livestock graziers today who umes and are positioned by economies of scale to take advantage practice controlled rotational grazing. This is usually accomplished of this economic reality. Small processors cannot reap these same with pastures, or cells, divided into small paddocks, which offers benefits because they don’t deal in high volumes. In fact, for small the grazier the ability to manage and control livestock numbers processors, by-products are often more a liability than an asset. and grazing intensity. The Lasater Ranch applies these same prin- Small processors usually end up paying someone to haul off their ciples once again, on a much larger scale, to the range. by-products. Lasater Grasslands Beef is helping local processors overcome these obstacles by supplying them with a ready source Lasater Grassland Beef pastures are managed for range plant vigor, of high-quality beef, thereby allowing local economies to flour- allowing for 70 to 80 days of rest after each grazing event. For a high ish by capturing value locally. Lasater Grasslands Beef is proving elevation ranch, this means that some pastures will be grazed only that grassland and rangeland-based agriculture can not only be once a year during the growing season. Utilizing the principles of financially and ecologically sustainable for the ranch, but socially rotational grazing, a pasture is grazed according to grass growth, sustainable for the local community. soil moisture, and plant stubble height after grazing. Native bunch grasses like little bluestem, sideoats grama, switchgrass, and west- The Lasater philosophy is summed up in the slogan: “In Nature’s ern wheatgrass need to have at least 4 to 6 inches of plant mate- Image.” It’s an image worth perpetuating in communities and on rial left after the animals are finished grazing. This puts pressure farms and ranches throughout America. Indeed, throughout the on Andy Duff y, the ranch manager for Lasater Grasslands Beef, world. More information on Lasater Grasslands Beef can be obtained to pay careful attention to how long the cattle stay on a pasture. by logging onto the Web site at www.lasatergrasslandbeef.com.www.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 21
    • NotesPage 22 ATTRA Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers
    • Noteswww.attra.ncat.org ATTRA Page 23
    • Cattle Production: Considerations for Pasture-Based Beef and Dairy Producers By Lee Rinehart NCAT Agriculture Specialist © 2006 NCAT Paul Driscoll, Editor Amy Smith, Production This publication is available on the Web at: www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/cattleprod.html or www.attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/PDF/cattleprod.pdf IP305 Slot 300 Version 121306Page 24 ATTRA