We practice what is called Management-Intensive Grazing (MIG) meaning we manage intensively. Each spring we build a grazing plan that accounts for animal performance, ecosystem function, and pasture recovery period. We monitor the pastures using a grass inventory measuring system so we can keep track of our total forage production across the ranch. The inventory measurements help us big time if we run into drought and are critical in us being able to stockpile enough high quality forage for dormant season grazing.
The herdshare program has exempted us from the commodity beef market and as such we are only accountable to our shareholders not some cattle buyer at the auction mart. This enables us to manage our cattle in the most natural way possible.
For example if one looks at a cow’s peak energy draw, it comes 6 weeks after she calves and the new baby is nursing heavily. We match that energy need with the peak energy output of the grass which because it is photosynthetic is the longest day of the year, June 21. We go back 6 weeks from the solstice and start calving mid May. We have almost no illness as a result and the cows recover from calving quickly and recover body condition before the next breeding season in August and September.
We let the calf suckle from its mother for longer than most calves are able. Because our cows are smaller, they don’t expend as much energy on body maintenance and so can allow their calf to nurse later into the season than a conventional large breed operation. Allowing a calf to fully develop at its mother’s side sets it up for continued feed efficiency for the remainder of its tenure at our farm. Not being beholden to the commodity beef cycle means that we can take our time in growing the animals until they are truly fat off of grass.
We feel fortunate to manage our livestock in a way that builds topsoil, fosters biodiversity, increases water retention and drought resistance, and delivers food to a community that is tasty and nutrient rich.