Win a copy of Permaculture Design Companion this week in the Permaculture Design forum!
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
permaculture forums growies critters building homesteading energy monies kitchen purity ungarbage community wilderness fiber arts art permaculture artisans regional education experiences global resources the cider press projects digital market permies.com private forums all forums
this forum made possible by our volunteer staff, including ...
master stewards:
  • Nicole Alderman
  • r ranson
  • Anne Miller
  • paul wheaton
stewards:
  • Jocelyn Campbell
  • Mike Jay Haasl
  • Burra Maluca
garden masters:
  • James Freyr
  • Joylynn Hardesty
  • Steve Thorn
  • Greg Martin
gardeners:
  • Carla Burke
  • Dave Burton
  • Pearl Sutton

The future of cattle ranching?

 
Posts: 27
Location: Southern Colorado 6200 ft elevation, 20" annual precip, zone 6a/5b
4
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm not sure how or where to post this.  I love to read here, but haven't posted much so if this needs to be moved please move it or direct me.

This is an article by a guy who may be the most progressive rancher in our area.  We feel fortunate to have gotten to know him and to buy beef from him.  Due to pronghorn hunting he's allowed us to wander on his 14,000 acre "little" ranch.  He has won various awards for rangeland management.

How do you make a ranch a top producer?  Heal the local ecosystem!

Meet Grady Grissom:

http://quiviracoalition.org/images/pdfs/2055-Journal35.pdf
 
pollinator
Posts: 312
Location: Quebec, Canada
40
hugelkultur forest garden trees urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Do invite Grady to come share here on the forum...
 
master pollinator
Posts: 4004
915
transportation cat duck trees rabbit books chicken woodworking
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One caution I should mention is to be wary of awards. I am not in any way saying Grady is wrong in his approach, but we have won awards that now looking back, were absolutely insane to even do for our farm, yet we won awards for those stupid practices.
 
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My hope: cattle ranching - on range lands - will disappear completely. In general, it relies on grain finishing (corn farms and feedlots), and high inputs of water and energy to achieve high outputs.

Instead, let's convert most of the cropland in the midwest - which mainly grows grains for feedlots - into native prairie and a massive free-range Bison reserve encompassing most of the land from Montana to Utah to Oklahoma to Minnesota (and beyond?). The herd would be culled annually to keep population levels in check. Bison would virtually replace beef on store shelves, and its production should be far more economical than beef since they're basically a wild population, managed only to keep population levels within the carrying capacity.

It wouldn't eradicate beef, but it would turn the tables, making beef the rare item and bison the common one.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1560
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
531
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jeffrey, it's not mandatory to finish cattle on grain. It's done only because the consumer demands it. Here on my island of Hawaii, there are several ranchers who now raise grass fed beef. There's enough consumer demand to utilize all the beef our local slaughter house can handle. The movement here is to eat local, thus eat grass fed beef. Almost all the food stores now carry local grass fed. Why? Because their customers buy it.

The State of Hawaii has also taken the step to demand local foods for the school public programs. I don't what percentage they are up to, but it's higher than I thought it would be. And it's increasing. These local foods include grass fed beef.

The only beef I eat (except for the occasional prime rib dinner on special occasions) is local grass fed. The flavor is super. It's tougher than grain finished, but I deal with that by aging it at 35° to 40° F in my refrigerator for 5 days. If the slaughterhouse would hang it a few extra days, it wouldn't be so tough. But they are still learning about best methods, since the move to grass fed meats is fairly new here. Plus currently there is limited refrigeration space, so carcasses need to be pushed through.

Another point, there are breeds of cattle who finish on grass better than others. One local rancher imported dozens of British Whites, which do good on grass. Other local ranchers are now using the British White bulls In hopes that it improves their herds and carcass quality. Im seeing a lot of British White crossbreds in the pastures nowadays.

Bison are notoriously difficult to ranch, compared to cattle. Rather than switching to bison, I'd like to see public education about the benefits of grass fed beef. Make a demand for grass fed, and most of the feedlots will disappear or get a heck of a lot smaller. But then, the grain farmers will need to adjust to the lower demand for their product, meaning that a percentage will change to some other crop.
 
Posts: 48
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
5
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jeffrey

What do you propose to do with us who live on the high plains?  Do we have any say in the matter?

Bryan
 
master pollinator
Posts: 504
Location: Ashhurst New Zealand
131
duck trees chicken cooking wood heat woodworking homestead
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Brad - a major reason we have fire problems in large parts of the west is precisely because cattle have eaten the understory. The grasses and shrubs used to carry frequent, low-intensity fires along the ground which cleared out the tangle and thinned the young pines. Early accounts of the ponderosa forest in AZ talk about huge, healthy trees spaced far enough apart that one could ride a horse at full gallop. And this covered a massive swath of the state from the Grand Canyon to the NM border.

Grazing, clear cuts, and overzealous fire suppression were the fatal mistakes of the 20th-century approach to managing these forests. The dog hair regrowth created a fuel load and ladder for ground fires to get into the crowns. Then a decadal drought and climate change arrived in time to finish them off.

The prairie ecosystem needs large herds of grazing animals. Most western forests don't (not counting the savanna-woodland transition zones, which can be managed the way Grady is doing it).
 
Jeffrey McConnaughey
Posts: 20
  • Likes 1 Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Bryan - We'll still need people there! I think a massive prairie/bison reserve would be totally compatible with civilization, with fewer roads and massive "paddocks" of 10,000+ acres.  There will be a lot of jobs ranging from fence maintenance to tagging and culling, and would of course be compatible with wind energy projects...not to mention the associated meat processing industry. Former landowners would become shareholders in the bison production and processing company. The midwest has been depopulating for over the past century and will probably continue through the next. By that point, farms will be 100,000 acres in size and run by robots anyway, so why not make it happen sooner, but composed of native prairie and bison rather than energy- and water-intensive field crops?

@Brad I never proposed including areas west of Montana or Utah, where fire danger is by far most widespread. Realistically, it probably wouldn't extend further west than the continental divide through Montana and Wyoming and eastern Colorado.

@Su Ba Bison are particularly difficult on "small" acreage, meaning anything under 1000 acres. They work much better on larger plots. Bison really do need to roam. Beef wouldn't disappear from the market (grassfed or otherwise), it just wouldn't come from cattle raised in the upper great plains.

On a side note, I've read that a lot of "grassfed" beef actually comes from cattle fed grass pellets in a feedlot. Pity we can't get this straight (yet).
 
Bryan Elliott
Posts: 48
Location: Oklahoma Panhandle
5
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Joe,

Thanks for posting an example of where an individual is making a difference with his management of his own property.  I know some who are but they very seldom get any recognition.  

It's looks like your thread is about to hijacked into another round of the "Buffalo Commons" idea so it's time for me to stay away.  

Bryan

 
Posts: 25
Location: Kamloops, BC - Zone 6
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
maybe it would be buffalo chicken commons, cuz some don't eat red meat.  
Jeffrey McConnaughey, can this vision include elephants too? I feel like they might be getting close to a mammoth clone, and they also deserve another chance to roam.  


Joe Ruben, the link is not working... 404 forbidden error
 
Su Ba
pollinator
Posts: 1560
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
531
forest garden rabbit tiny house books solar woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
<<<On a side note, I've read that a lot of "grassfed" beef actually comes from cattle fed grass pellets in a feedlot. Pity we can't get this straight (yet).>>>

How sad to see how business "cheats" in order to get around things or take advantage.

Here I Hawaii the cattle live their lives in pastures. They go right from the pastures to slaughterhouse, so there are no feed lots of any sort. Personally I feel that it's the way it should be, that is, no confinement feeding. The only improvement I'd like to see is the have all slaughter being done right on the ranch, but with only one very small mobile slaughterhouse on my island, that isn't going to happen. The ranchers I've talked with want the mobile slaughter units, so it's not them that are holding up the works. Once again, it appears to be government interference. Sad state of affairs.  Happily we are "country" enough that the government doesn't ban home slaughter. At least in this state, I don't think they could get away with it.

For the foreseeable future, I think grass fed beef is here to stay in Hawaii. That's not to say importing and exporting will stop, but the ranchers have found a strong nitch for their beef and they will continue to promote it.
 
Jeffrey McConnaughey
Posts: 20
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
@Jason the great plains ecosystem is nothing like the Mammoth steppe biome. Shortgrass prairie wouldn't support Mammoths even if scientists could resurrect them from extinction. It is possible that mammoths altered the Taiga/Boreal Forest biome by clearing trees to produce the Mammoth steppe and, if so, might be appropriate there. However, I do favor introducing actual elephants to wildlife reserves rehabilitiated from formerly devestated areas in the neotropics.

@Bryan I had no intention of hijacking the thread and surely think there is room for other ideas on the "future of cattle ranching" in other parts of the continent, outside of the great plains. The "Bison Commons" idea does seem like a good great alternative to the existing land use paradigm on shortgrass prairies found in the great plains. I hope you agree.

I see absolutely no problem with range-raised/grass finished beef in the far west and other dry areas. Feedlot-finished beef is another matter all together, and I don't think anyone thinks it is the future of sustainable ranching or beef production.
I look forward to other ideas on how to make cattle ranching truely sustainable, especially west of the North American continental divide.

 
I am Arthur, King of the Britons. And this is a tiny ad:
Switching from electric heat to a rocket mass heater reduces your carbon footprint as much as parking 7 cars
http://woodheat.net
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!