There seems to be a shortage of research on whether grass finished beef is better than grain finished beef. I won’t go into the politics of the issue, but it’s easier and cheaper to grain finish large amounts of beef, from a feed-lot management perspective. It takes a lot of ground or hay to grass finish a beef, relative to grain.
Here are some resources that will help clear it up, with a bias toward grass finished beef.
We have 5 Dexter calves so far this year. We expect 2 more before calving season is over, but they are not all on the right schedule yet so we’ll be calving until September. Hopefully we can be more lined up for next year, although we’ll have one later than we want.
So far we have 4 red calves and one black one. Our red bull calf has the wild red gene, which gives him the black nose. This picture was taken before the 5th was born (this morning).
Also, we just started moving the cows onto pasture today. It’s been cold, rainy, and muddy and the grass didn’t grow well enough to let them out before May 11th.
During La Nina years, there is a high probability of a drought. This will contribute to higher feed costs, lower forage availability, and potential herd reductions. Fortunately, we are just coming out of a La Nina which should bring much needed relief to the drought in the western United States.
If we find ourselves in a continued La Nina weather pattern, it would benefit all graziers, ranchers, and forage growers to stock up on as much hay as possible, and consider immediate herd reductions to prevent future losses or damage to grazing lands.
Chances of a continued La Nina hover around 50-55%, according to climate.gov, with a 67% chance of a neutral weather pattern, and an 8% chance of an El Nino.
After waiting for 7 months, we finally got our two bulls slaughtered. It took us 7 months from the time we scheduled, to the time we could get them into the butcher. All the butcher shops around here are booked up for months. If you need to use a butcher, get it on their schedule ASAP.
We had an 11 year old bull and a 22 month old steer butchered. The 22 month old steer was steered 4 months ago, due to concerns with behavior, and recovered well. The bull dressed at 744 lbs and the steer was 446 lbs. Those are great weights for grass fed dexter animals.
The slaughter company that came out was A & L Slaughter. These guys were very professional and skilled. They had both animals in the truck in an hour.
We saved all the entrails, hide, head, and anything that wasn’t edible to compost.
I bought a couple of large square bales of hay last time I was at the local feed store to try them out. They can be a disaster! If you have a tractor that can lift them and enough cattle to put them in the field with little waste before they get too wasted, they would be great. The big advantages, IMO, are that they stack really well, and are very large. The biggest disadvantage is that if you store them in the barn and feed portions at a time, they completely fall apart when you cut the strings.
I ended up building a carrier for the tractor out of a pallet and some scrap lumber that will allow me to carry a couple of flakes out to the cows using the pallet forks. It works really well so far. I also used a bungee strap and a couple of hay hooks over the top of the bale to hold the bale together and allow me to release a couple of flakes at a time instead of the entire bale falling apart.
Here is the contraption on the pallet forks, with a couple of hungry dexters eating from it. Cascades Contender looks like he wants to climb in and go for a ride.
Update: I recently bought a bunch of large square bales and have been using my round bale cradle feeder to feed them. I attached a section of hog panel to the base of the cradle feeder to reduce waste, and I am getting 4 days per bale, if I move the herd each day. I have 12 head of cattle right now.
The square bale does not fit initially, but I when I cut the strings and pull a little bit off each end, it falls into the feeder.
On Thursday I went to Pearson Farm & Fence in Moses Lake, WA to pick up our new Arrowquip Q-Catch 74 Series Squeeze chute. This is a new design that is much less expensive than the 86 series. I believe it’s a bit smaller and they have been running a special at $4250, so I felt the price was right and I needed one, so I bought one.
I can’t say enough good things about Pearson Farm & Fence. They helped me out every step of the way and were very good to work with. Check them out if you’re ever in Moses Lake, WA.
Arrowquip has been great to work with as well. The chute looks and operates very nicely. I have never had or used one before, but this one has so many cool features, I am glad I bought it.
I set it up right by the pen where we keep our yearling bull, soon to be steer. We have some tarps setup around his pen to keep him from seeing the other bull in the pasture. I think this greatly reduces the bellowing, especially at night. Having more than one bull can be an adventure, and I don’t recommend it.
Here is Beauford, the circus bull, on his way to becoming the circus steer:
I setup the chute and put a bucket with a little scoop of grain inside, as well as some apple slices. I came back a few hours later and he had eat them, so I put a few more apple slices in and he walked right in. I clamped him down and gave him a tetanus shot. Much easier than I expected. Next step, call the vet and schedule the second step.
We bought a new bull on Saturday – Cascades Contender. What a great bull! We drove down to Sandy, Oregon and picked him up from Cascade Meadows. Kirk and Jason are great and do wonderful things for the Dexter world! They had him haltered and waiting when we drove up and they led him into the trailer. I would never have believed it if I hadn’t seen it.
What a good looking bull. He’s very compact and will allow us to breed more compact cows and beef. He’s 39″ at the hips.
While it’s not the best timing – we are expecting 5 calves by October. We have had two born already, on 8/5/20 and 8/13/20. Both are black calves, one bull and one heifer. Both polled and from our exceptional bull, Cascades Forrest.