Sustainable Beef Starts at the Ground Level

The other night I was monitoring a controlled burn on our property and enjoying the warm night air while chatting with my husband about some cow stuff. As we were talking, some cars drove down our gravel road and slowed to see what was going on – likely they wanted to know why there was a fire and we were just sitting there! This is close to what their faces looked like.

Burning pasture in KS for regrowth
Burning one of our pastures to get rid of dry, dead plant matter to make way for new green grass.

So that got me to thinking how many things we do for the sustainability and long-term health of our ranch that our urban neighbors and onlookers would think warrant a “WTH?!”

Burning pastures. Let me start with saying that we are not pyromaniacs. Yes, my husband stocks up on roman candles and sparklers every 4th of July, however we do burn our pastures for a reason. Burning the dried, dead grass allows for new green grass, which is far more nutritious, to spring up and grow. Additionally, burning off dead, brown shrubs and grass controls weeds and keeps our pastures from getting overrun with trees. Lastly, if we use fire to get rid of weeds and unwanted brush, we are able to use fewer herbicides to control growth of those unwanted weeds and invasive trees. If you want to read more info on why we burn pastures, my friend Debbie at Kids, Cows and Grass has some wonderful insight!

[bctt tweet=”Taking care of our land and continuously improving the ways in which we are sustainable is the right thing to do. And we are honored to do it.”]

Rotational grazing. Long name. Lots of work. WORTH IT. We implement rotational grazing practices year-round. In the winter we use temporary fence to segment out a portion of a large pasture and make the cattle graze crop residue – once they have eaten that, we will move the fence so they can graze on a new portion. Moving temporary fence is time consuming and we usually end up doing it on the windiest, coldest days but it’s worth it to make sure we are taking care of the land.

We strive for a life in which our land, family and livestock are intertwined and sustainable for generations.

In the summer, we will rotate our cows through pastures as they eat the grass down. We won’t let them graze the pasture too short before moving them to a new piece of ground, because we don’t want to stunt or damage the grass. By leaving a little bit of length, we are able to keep the pasture healthy and growing and avoid longterm damage which contributes to the longterm health of the land.

We feed our cattle local feedstuffs and by-products. There is an ethanol plant in our county and they use a lot of corn. Ethanol production creates by-products from corn known as dried distillers grains (DDGs). They are very nutrient rich and provide a lot of energy and protein to our cattle and since the ethanol plant is only about 10 miles away, the DDGs don’t travel very far to get to our ranch.

These practices are commonplace and everyday for us – sometimes they are intense and exhausting but they contribute to the sustainability of our ranch. I want to hand our operation and land down to my daughter. I want her to live this lifestyle of stewardship and husbandry. I want her to know what it’s like to shed sweat, tears and blood (literally) and pour her soul into something that contributes to the greater good. Raising food for our nation is a wonderful job that we don’t lightly or for granted. I want our land and legacy to be sustainable for her, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren.

Taking care of our land and continuously improving the ways in which we are sustainable is the right thing to do. And we are honored to do it.

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

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