Friday, June 24, 2011

Beef Prices are on the Rise - While Beef Quality is Dropping?

"David Theno had been advising the USDA and the beef industry that, because we were changing how we raised and slaughtered cattle, a disaster was just waiting around the corner if things did not change. . ."
POISONED, June 27, 2011, By: Richard Raymond, Industry Blogs, .

Texas Grassfed British White Cow Herd - JWCC 
 With the price of beef skyrocketing at the market these days, and the healthful quality of that beef very questionable.....isn't it time to seek out healthy natural grassfed beef straight from the producer? Have you noticed cattle grazing in the rural areas that you enjoy on country drives?  And, yes, I know much of Texas is in a drought, so grazing for food is hardly an option for a cow herd in many parts of the State.  However, cattle raisers who are focused on grassfed beef production will be offering their cows and growing beeves good grass hay and supplemental alfalfa to keep their herd on the proper growth curve.  In those rural areas near you where you enjoy the site of grazing cattle on your country drives, you'll most likely a grassfed beef producer or two right under your nose.

If you buy straight from a grassfed producer you could buy the steer or bull based on its carcass hanging weight at the abattoir or live weight upon leaving the farm, and you would then pay the processor about .40 to .50 cents a pound (cost varies by region) for actual carcass hanging weight to cut and wrap it the way you want them to. Average cost per pound of beef for your family just dropped or hit an equivalent, and you're providing yourself and your children with the best of won't worry so much if their diet is nothing but will be hamburgers providing optimal Fatty Acids, CLA's, Vitamin E, Vitamin A......and more.

The American Grassfed Association (AGA) tells us:
"According to a 2009 study conducted by the USDA and Clemson University, grassfed beef is better for human health than grainfed beef in ten ways:

1. Lower in total fat
2. Higher in beta-carotene (Vit. A)
3. Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
4. Higher in the B-vitamins thiamine and riboflavin
5. Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
6. Higher in total omega-3s
7. Better ratio of omega-6 to 3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
8. Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
9. Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
10. Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease.
We've been brainwashed into thinking that all fats are bad for us, but the truth is that fats are a necessary component of a healthy diet. The human body needs an array of fats in the right amounts to function and remain disease-free. Grassfed beef is one way to add those healthy fats to a balanced diet."  AGA Newsletter 6/22/11

Texas Grassfed British White Bull Herd
Put grassfed beef in the freezer and you'll never wish to shop for grocery store beef again. Guaranteed. Put grassfed beef in the freezer and you won't have to worry so much about the fat in that delicious ribeye, it will be heart healthy fat you can enjoy, and generally less of it. 
Buying a whole beef is maybe too much to handle, but you can find a friend to take a side of beef and you the other, about 300 or so pounds of beef  at most from moderate framed beeves.  Or split the beef in quarters amongst your friends and families.  The butcher is accustomed to processing beef in halves and quarters to be taken home by several folks.

Consider the economics of buying a grassfed steer or bull straight from a producer. Too many people don't realize that it is still done today, and not just in rural America. Many grassfed beef producers will arrange to ship your beef to you in the city. These days, buying just a few cuts of grassfed beef at a retail grocer can cost a bundle over what regular grain fed beef costs at the grocery store.  As well, online storefronts for grassfed beef producers that sell you beef by the cut rather than the whole beef carcass can be prohibitively expensive for the average family.  You can avoid much of the added retail cost by buying direct from a grassfed beef producer, and you can control just what cuts of beef you'd like to put in the freezer. 

If you want 2 inch ribeyes, they will cut you 2 inch ribeyes. If you don't want a lot of roasts, well they'll just make those cuts into more ground beef instead if you like - and grassfed ground beef is by far the best tasting burgers and tacos you will ever put in your mouth.

Texas Grassfed British White Bull Herd - J.West Cattle Company
The cost of processing by the abattoir is the same per pound no matter what cuts you choose. And the cost of processing is on the actual beef carcass poundage processed and packaged for you - or better known as the hanging weight of the carcass.  If you are on a budget, it's worth saving up to pay for the beef carcass and the processing. It really puts money in the bank in the long run. Not to mention the better eating quality of the beef and the superior nutrition of the beef that will be in your freezer.....and not beef from an overpriced Walmart that injects their meat with.......weird stuff.

Look for authentic 100% Grassfed or Grass-finished animals;  no corn and no emergency byproducts to get through the winter if you're buying a steer for harvest in early Spring. There are various studies examining the length of time it takes for a beef steer's muscle and fat to convert back to a Heart Healthy state for optimum nutritional benefit, and it does take a few months and more of grazing or grass/alfalfa haying for that to occur - just like it would the human body to develop a proper store of fat soluble vitamins and the optimal ratio of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  We all know water soluble Vitamin C runs right through us, but those such as Vitamin A and E and Fatty acids, etc.... are stored for the longer haul.

A steer or bull with superior grassfed genetics will thrive on grass hay and high quality alfalfa hay as a supplement. Always ask what they're eating, and don't presume they haven't received antibiotics or hormone implants or recent long periods of grain supplement, you need to ask and if possible visit the farm or ranch that you're considering buying from direct.  You can also look for American Grassfed Association (AGA) certified producers who are also Animal Welfare Approved (AWA).

The Lazy A Ranch in Belleville, Texas is AGA and AWA certified and has grassfed beef available now, and the Lazy A follows a finishing protocol that I am particularly fond of - it includes the addition of natural molasses to the finishing beeves diet.  There are other small producers in the Texas area who also raise registered British White cattle in a grassfed program, and they have grassfed beeves available as well.  See the British White Cattle Association member listing at this link, and make a few phone calls to find British White grassfed beef in your area.  British White breeders of registered seedstock that follow a grassfed feeding protocol for their herds oftentimes have bull calves that don't make the cut as herd sires, but will be excellent natural grassfed beef for your supper table.

The late J.West's Big Mac, Elvis sired bull born, bred, and fed with zero grain inputs . . . he had 7 of 8 known markers for Feed Efficiency in bovines.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spotted Calves Born in the Dinefwr herd of White Park Cattle in Wales

"So. . . you don't like my spots?  Check out my horned Welsh cousins . . ."
  J.West's Tootsie, Sired by J.West's S.S. Carter 

You have to see this May 2011 video of  horned White Park Cattle on the grounds of old Dinefwr Castle in Wales.  Some of the cows have calves at foot, and altogether it is a perky upbeat video you don't want to miss.  But, Lawrence Alderson, late of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in the UK, must be cringing every time he thinks about this video in the public venue.  This particular herd of White Park Cattle have been under his purview for many years, and the very natural manifestation of SPOTS in many of the calves quite belies the sputtering stance of the horned White Park breeding either all white or all black bodied calves -- or was that just the theoretical genetically pure Chillingham herd that purportedly only has solid black calves occasionally, never parti-coloured or spotted?  Hard to keep up with the yarns. 

Regardless, the Dinefwr cattle are quite beautiful, very impressive, and I was glad to have the video brought to my attention.  It is interesting to note that you can only identify one or two cows with spots along the neck in this magnificent herd.  Sadly, I'm fairly sure all those pretty calves with spots are not long for this world, as in days of old they'll be culled by the knife as unacceptable - male and female alike.  It would appear that despite all these decades upon decades leading to well over a known century of killing spotted or overly colored calves -- those babies just keep on coming.   Why?  Because spotted calves are a natural manifestation of the breed's genetics -- accept that, embrace that, and you won't be so upset when two perfectly white animals give you a calf with spots.

"I was snow white when I was born!  My skin grayed or blued,
 depending on who you talk to, or maybe it was that way from the get go, ask my human Mom,  she might not have noticed at the time, all I know is I'm
 this cool dun white color!"  J.West's El Presidente

In regions of the country where the sun can be intense, it is preferable to have cattle with gray or black or blue skin, whatever you choose to name it, both around the eyes and nose and on the vulva and rectum of the cow, as both are constantly bearing the rays of the sun thoughout their life moreso than any other vulnerable area of your cows.  In my experience, a British White cow with black spots on her body hair will also be more likely to have sun protective black spotted skin on her vulva and rectum, as well as all the rest of the desirable dark pigmentation of the eyes, nose, teats, etc... When possible, breeding decisions should include consideration for maintaining or improving the skin pigment of sun vulnerable areas, particularly in hot climates such as Texas.

The Dynevwr (Dinefwr) herd of white cattle actually date back to at least the 10th century A.D.   Records exist that document the payment of white cattle with colored points as a tribute to the ". . . Welsh lord of Deheubarth" by those seeking his pardon.

Here is a passage from a lovely Welsh fairy tale, The Lady of the Lake, that makes reference to the Dynevwr (Dinefwr) herd of white cattle - and it's good to see the dear Lady thought enough of the speckled and spotted cows that she took them on home as well.  This old version of the fairy tale provides some of the original Welsh language side by side with the English translation.  Follow this link to the Sacred-Texts copy of The Lady of the Lake if you'd like to read the whole charming story.

She started off immediately towards Esgair Llaethdy, and when she arrived home, she called her cattle and other stock together, each by name. The cattle she called thus:
Mu wlfrech, moelfrech - Brindled cow, bold freckled,

Mu olfrech, gwynfrech - Spotted cow, white speckled;

Pedair cae tonn-frech - Ye four field sward mottled.

Yr hen wynebwen - The old white-faced,

A'r las Geigen - And the grey Geigen

Gyda'r tarw gwyn - With the white bull

O lys y Brenin - From the court of the King,

A'r llo du bach - And thou little black calf,

Sydd ar y bach - Suspended on the hook,

Dere dithe, yn iach adre! - Come thou also, whole again, home!

"I come by my spots honestly and where them proudly . . . no worries, just keep me in green grass!"
J.West's Tom Sawyer - Sired by the English bull De Beauvoir Huckleberry Finn, and his own dam was sired by the English bull Woodbastwick Randolph Turpin . . . so he's pretty predominantly English with a great American punch by way of his Popeye sired granddam, HRH Bountiful, bred by Halliburton Farms. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 19th Century Cow Theory vs the 21st Century Bull Theory

The Cow Theory

 The phrase “the cow theory” caught my attention while doing some research in the newspaper archives of New Zealand. Today’s world is filled with theories about the cow. Theoretically, belching cows are one of the greatest contributors to climate change -- theoretically, cattle raisers are inhumane humans who rear animals to “kill” in a world where killing a “sentient” animal is no longer necessary -- theoretically, all the food a fattening steer or mama cow consumes could solve world hunger by feeding the cow’s ration to humans -- theoretically, small beef cattle farms are environmentally degrading to the soils of grasslands and to the water supply -- theoretically, we should be assessed new “land taxes” so we will better appreciate our privilege of rearing environmentally friendly cattle or grass.

All theory, yet broad assumptions and bad science are being used by national and international institutions of government in a quite God-Like approach to policy changes aimed at mitigating the negative environmental impacts assumed under these “theories”.

What follows is the text of the article entitled “The Cow Theory”, published in the Otago Witness, an old New Zealand newspaper. I very much like this 135 year old life sustaining ‘cow theory’ over those running rampant today.

Pauperism Exterminated by Means of a Cow
Otago Witness, Issue 1212, 20 February 1875, Page 18, Full Text Follows:

"Speaking of the cow theory— that is, that a man with five acres of land can maintain himself, his family, and his Cow— a writer in the Farmer's Magazine, for the last month, has the following —

"On Sir Baldwin Leighton's estate in Shropshire, England, pauperism is almost exterminated by means of the cow, it being the rule rather than the exception for a labourer to have sums varying from £20 to £80 put by in the savings bank out of the proceeds of the sale of the butter. I have seen the books with the sums entered to their credit. Most cottages have two or three fields attached to the holding, mostly laid down in grass. The cow, however, is only a second string to the labourer's bow, and does not in any way interfere with his giving efficient service to the farmer (Sir Leighton), as the cow can be looked after by the wife, who makes the butter and sends it to market by the carrier."

We have frequently called attention to the great boon a good cow is to the poor man, and the large profits of a good dairy. This is especially the case where only a few cows are kept and are well cared for.

A friend of ours, with three grade shorthorn cows, has realized no less than ninety dollars from the product of each cow, in a single season, besides the milk and butter used in the family. But these favourable results depend upon two conditions, one or both of which we frequently see overlooked or disregarded, to wit : First, that we have a good cow — good in form, that a profitable disposition may be made of the carcass for beef, when the cow is no longer wanted for the dairy — and a liberal and steady milker.

It is incomprehensible that poor cows should ever be used when good ones can be obtained at so small an advance upon the common price. And this is especially true where feed is high, and the animal is kept with a view of supplying milk and butter for the family or market. Indeed, inferior cows should not be kept for any purpose, but should be slaughtered for beef as soon as their inferiority is discovered. To keep an ill-formed cow or a poor milker for a breeder is even worse economy than for the dairy, as in this way we perpetuate and multiply unprofitable stock.

The second condition for success with a dairy cow is, that she have plenty to eat and the best and kindest treatment. . . But in no instance does full pasture or a proper supply of other food in winter, or when pasture is short, pay better than in the management of the dairy cow — the more plentiful the feed, the greater will be, not only the yield, but also the absolute profit."

This 19th Century Cow Theory Supporting Families in the 21st Century?

J.West's Joey, British White Bull Calf

 Yes, this Cow Theory has merit and value to small farming today, whether it be cows, pigs, or chickens, or any of a number of different livestock species suitable for home growing. In the United States, there is a growing group of citizens taking up backyard chickens in our cities, others in rural areas selecting dual purpose cattle to provide their own milk and beef, wild hogs are still captured and 'fed out' to supplement the rural person's income -- those are but a few of the many instances today where small livestock farming is providing vital income and food to sustain households.

Across the world, small livestock farming plays a vital role. The industrious can and do raise livestock to improve the quality of their lives, or merely to sustain a ready source of food for their families. An excellent example of this is in the Philippines. What follows is an excerpt from a 2010 article "Raising Livestock in the Philippines", and it well illustrates the 19th Century Cow Theory alive and well and working to sustain families in the 21st century:

"Filipinos raise animals in order to improve the quality of their lives. Many families today, both in the provinces and in the cities, engage in livestock raising to have a secured supply of food, support their daily needs, and have an additional income. Just like having a vegetable garden in the backyard, tending animals prove financially rewarding if done in the right way."
"For many smallholder farmers, livestock are the only ready source of cash to buy the inputs they need to increase their crop production, like seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides. Livestock income also goes towards buying things the farmers cannot make for themselves. And that includes paying for school fees. Income from cropping is highly seasonal, almost of it coming in just a few weeks after harvest. In contrast, small stock, with their high rates of reproduction and growth, can provide a regular source of income from sales. Larger animals, such as cattle, are a capital reserve, built up in good times to be used when crops are poor or when the family is facing large expenses, such as the cost of a wedding or a hospital bill."

In the progressive world of the 21st Century, we are faced with international efforts by the United Nations to bring the valuable function of the Cow Theory to an end. The United States is slated to be the proverbial 'guinea pig' for the world. Developing countries are slated to theoretically gain financially and environmentally from U.S. revenue generated by plans such as the now tabled 'Cap and Trade' bill much argued over by our U.S. Congress. Such taxation schemes could be said to be premised on the"Bull Theory".  Already, our own EPA has been granted via executive order broad and far-reaching authority to literally regulate the methane belches of your cattle -- if they so choose. 

It may be too late 10 or 20 years from now to turn back to the "Cow Theory", and rural areas across the globe will find the regulatory tape, fines, and fees resulting from carbon regulation and taxation a lot of Bull -- their lives forever changed and that of future generations.  So, get off the fence on this important issue, and keep your eyes and ears alert to the actions of the EPA, and support the efforts of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association to look out for for your land and your cattle.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Southeast Texas the Hottest Region in the United States

WOW!  Guess where the hottest little area in the whole of the USA was on Thursday?  Southeast Texas!  It reached at least 100 degrees in mid-afternoon, so said my big diesel-guzzling, climate-changing Ford pickup truck.  This photo shows the temperature at 9:15PM last night, and this area was still the hottest across the entire country.  What gives?  Could it be all the rednecks around here driving pickup trucks?

On our road trip today to College Station on Friday, which is a few hours to the west in what's considered Central Texas, we did see a lot of big trucks on the road.  For sure lots of pickups were travelling the roads in the city itself, some really nice ones that were clean and shiny -- no sign of cow bumps or cat scratches, or drifting odors of cow manure from the tires.  And was it hot?  It was hot!  It reached a high of 102 degrees per our trucks thermometer, unbelievably hot.  We blew a tire on the trailer and Mike had to change that tire in the sweltering heat, a very sweaty job. 

The high heat for early June is record-breaking, but perhaps most shocking was to see the land grow browner and browner, the grass becoming next to non-existent in what has always been pastures full of cattle and hay fields waving in the breeze on the drive between Huntsville and College Station.  It was a sad sight, and made me even more grateful for the small rains we've had that have saved our pastures from this same plight.

I shot some video from the truck window of a lot of dying pastures and hay fields along our route, and while it is rapid footage, it does show pretty well the conditions of the area.  When the trailer tire blew we were just a couple miles away from the Lazy D Feed Store and managed to make it there.  I did a little window shopping while Mike was dripping in 102 degree heat, so you'll see a short clip in the video of some of the chickens at the feed store.