Sunday, January 23, 2011

Light reading and Mob grazing

Everyone writing for the Stockman Grass Farmer  magazine seems to have read this book, so I picked up a used copy on line and read it this weekend.  It is about four parts light travel log and one part raising good beef.

Schatzker is a Canadian who visited seven beef-obsessed countries to conclude that the best flavor is produces by grass-fed and grass-finished heifers and steers about three years old.  Another revelation of his was that marbling (the only qualification needed for USDA Prime certification) is not directly related to either taste or tenderness. 

Tender animals live on grass in a low stress environment and are slaughtered while "on the gain."  Usually this means waiting until animals are full grown (at about two years) before fattening them on grass.  Spring is the easiest time to accomplish this, though far better graziers than I have managed to use summer and winter annuals to finish grass-fed beeves year round. 

The best tool available to the grass-finisher is rotational grazing.  Called "mob grazing" by its practitioners, the goal is to use extremely high-density stocking rates to harvest a small section of pasture in a single day.  Cows are moved to a new pasture every afternoon to take advantage of the greater sugar available in grass that has been soaking up sunlight all morning.

This all sounds great in theory, but it requires a dizzying amount of fencing and water infrastructure to have the 21 separate paddocks that would allow each to have a three week rest to regrow.  Most operations use temporary electric fencing.  In my experience all electric fencing is temporary, since the cows wander through it as their leisure.  If that is the route for me, I need a stronger charger at least.

No comments: