Our bEEF cATTLE
100% grass fed & finished
Our beef is grass-finished. We strive to do better than just “grass fed”. All cattle are grass fed most of their lives regardless of how or where they’re finished. Finishing is about getting the marbling into the meat that gives it the flavor and tenderness we all desire. This can easily be done on grain and other finishing concoctions but to accomplish this on grass and benefit from the healthy profile of grass fat requires extra attention to how pastures and animals are managed.
Our herd consists of Red Devon and South Poll cattle. They receive No grain or other finishing concoctions, No pharmaceuticals (vaccines, antibiotics, steroids, growth hormones, chemical de-wormers, etc.), and our pastures receive No synthetic or chemical amendments (fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides etc.). With thoughtful land and stock management there is little to no need for these things and the questionable long-term side effects they have on soil life, animal health, and consumer health.
This doesn’t mean we won’t treat a sick or injured animal to alleviate unnecessary pain or save its life. It means the animals with no problems are left alone to continue expressing the natural genetics and behaviors that give them their health and vitality advantage. Any animal that needs drug or medical intervention, we ensure their genetics aren't passed on in our herd. In this way we keep mother nature’s culling rules in play.
Generally speaking, livestock genetics have been on this planet longer than recorded history. They don’t suddenly have an agricultural chemical or veterinary drug deficiency needed to survive the 21st century. Those products have been available for a short time in modern history and so have some farming and livestock practices that led us to believe we need them in the first place. If we do our best to emulate natural grazing patterns and cull animals based on criteria mother nature wouldn’t tolerate, we ensure the genetics in play are a blessing of health and vigor to subsequent generations.
Our pasture management focuses on promoting perennial forage diversity and building soil. Our stockmanship focuses on low animal stress which in turn makes them much safer and enjoyable to interact with.
Nature’s gifts of rain, sunshine, forage diversity, ruminant animals and soil microbiology are the basis for symbiotic pasture ecosystems that support livestock, wildlife, and our nutritional needs as humans. At Happy Critters Farm & Orchard, our goal is to keep the animal impact in balance with forage and everything else naturally falls into place. We accomplish this by frequent observation of pasture conditions and managing animal movement with mobile electric fencing. Because we have no control over annual precipitation, regenerative grazing is both an art and a science. It’s a science because even though science is yet to understand all the complexities of soil microbiology, the symbiotic relationship between ruminant animals, pasture plants, and soil biology is well understood and observable. It’s an art because the only normal thing about precipitation and weather patterns throughout earth history is constant change. To maintain and build stronger pasture ecosystems in any climate condition only requires us to pay attention to forage maturity stages and adjust the timing of animal impact on a continual basis.
WHY REGENERATIVE GRAZING?
It keeps the cows healthy: Animals who are kept on the same pasture for too long can get parasites from being forced to consume lower portions of grass near their own manure. Grazing pasture at an ideal height also has the best nutritional balance for cattle. We move them frequently to pasture that’s had time to recover and break the parasite life cycle. This also allows them to fill their bellies with big bites of fresh forage and spend more time contently relaxing.
It builds healthy soil: Soil microbes, earth worms and other small soil dwelling critters are the most important factor to providing minerals and nutrients the plants need to thrive. A living soil needs a protective blanket of live and decaying vegetation to insulate it from the sun, retain moisture and provide them something to eat. By not forcing livestock to eat the vegetation low, we protect the environment the microbes and worms need to continue building soil. This also leaves a significant amount of leaf surface the vegetation needs to quickly recover. Managing ruminant animals on perennial pasture should be focused on soil heath to build strong pasture ecosystems.
Respect for our planet: We consider it our duty and honor as short-term guests on this earth to be stewards of our land. The subject of environmentalism is a very polarized subject these days. Much of the conflict and fear in our observation seems to stem from special interests of all sorts wrapping their bias agendas in green flags. It is a disturbing trend when the narrative develops to the point of politics aimed at blaming and punishing farmers. What do we intend to eat once we’ve thrown those evil farmers and their farting cattle off the land?
Any sincere research into ecological farming practices will lead to discovering a plethora of inspirational information, real world working examples and scientific research to back the powerfully positive influences they can have on the environment, wildlife habitat, and quality of food we consume. It may also lead to a more innocent picture of mainstream farming. Farmers are no more guilty than the organizations giving them advice, the companies selling them chemical dependence, the expectations of food processors, and the consumers who buy the end products.
In fact, average commercial farmers put in the hardest work, take the greatest financial risk, and get the least amount of dollar return for their investment in our current food system. The love of their land is what keeps most of them from giving up. I believe most farmers would be happy to learn and adopt methods that heal their land, make it more productive, and elevate their noble profession back to the respect it deserves. What they need is support, information and access to markets that support the transition. Consumers have the greatest power to influence change. Nothing will change unless we take a more discerning look at the information we accept and products we buy.
At Happy Critters Farm & Orchard we do our best to be thoughtful and discerning of the information and practices we accept. We want the best for our land, our animals, our community, and want to be a small part of what we hope to be a more local food system in the future.
We are far from perfect. Our land in its current state is no poster child for the long-term effects of regenerative grazing and agriculture. This land was overgrazed or left fallow by previous owners, we’re still newbie farmers, and healing the land takes time. We continue to learn the lessons and knowledge that can only be learned on the ground and we continue to educate ourselves with literature and have some local shining examples to look up to. We know we’re on the right path and determined to succeed.