Guide to Grass-Fed Cattle
If you're considering switching to grass feeding for your cattle, Arrowquip can help. In addition to providing safer cattle management experiences and more humane squeeze chutes and handling systems, we can help you find ways to make more effective use of your pasture.
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In addition to a desire for newer, more authentic tastes at the dinner table, a growing concern about the ethics of meat consumption has led to a resurgence of popularity for grass-fed, locally sourced beef. Raising grass-fed cattle can be more time consuming and labor-intensive, but the end result is a product that tends to higher-regarded and commands a higher price than beef from conventionally raised cattle. Evidence also suggests that grass-fed beef is lower in total fat and higher in vitamins A, B, and E, omega-3s, fatty acids, and certain micro-nutrients.
If you’re considering making the switch to grass-feeding your herd, here's what you need to know about grass feeding:
- Quality forage equals quality beef. With grass feeding, what your cows consume will have a noticeable impact on the flavor and texture of the beef they produce. The best grass-fed beef is raised on pastures containing a mixture of grass and legumes. The legumes provide the nutrients your cows need, while grass prevents bloating.
- Rotational grazing is essential. Since grass-fed and grass-finished cattle spend more time on the pasture, it's important to take steps to ensure your land is protected. To give your pasture time to recover, herds should be moved out of an area when leaves are eaten to no less than two inches to ensure your cattle receive proper nutrients and your pastures are not over-grazed.
- Certain breeds are more suitable for grass feeding than others. Mid-frame cows that mature young are the most economical and practical to grass feed. Cows that deposit fat easily, such as English breeds like Shorthorn, Angus and Hereford with an average size between 1,000 and 1,200 lbs. are preferred.
- Aging matters. Properly aging grass-fed beef enhances its flavor. Restaurants and other upscale customers will pay a premium for meat that has been hung and aged for 18 days or longer. By giving the carcass time to let its natural enzymes break down the meat, you'll end up with a product that is more tender, better marbled, and will put more money into your pocket.
- Upgrade your facilities accordingly. Pasture-raised cattle have different requirements for grazing, shelter and water access than grain-fed. Spending some money now on fencing, irrigation and other improvements will make the transition to grass feeding easier.