This was our first year of beef production here at the TraditionalCatholicHomestead, and now that it is officially finished, butchered, cooked and we’ve eaten our grass fed/finished beeves, I feel like I can share how I did it.
First I will say that the results were pretty much everything we were hoping for. The meat is tender, and absolutely screams with beef flavor. Not really any hint of the “gaminess” that you sometimes will come across with grass finished animals. The only negative was that the meat is very lean (could be a positive, if that’s what you’re into!). That is to say there isn’t much in the way of marbling, but there is some. If I had to put an unofficial USDA Grade to our beef, I would say it’s somewhere between “Select” and “Standard.” There is some inter-muscular fat marbling, but it’s pretty slight. The flavor is like nothing we’ve ever gotten before, and I mean that in a good way. Just a really intense beef flavor. With the meat being as lean as it is, you do have to take some care in the way you cook it. Low and slow is the general rule of thumb along with not cooking much past medium well.
My basic technique for grass finishing goes a little something like this…
During the springtime when the grass is growing fast and is lush and green is the best time to finish your animals if you don’t have irrigated pasture. If you do, well then you’re luckier than I, and you can pretty much finish them off as long as the weather cooperates. Fist I subdivide the pasture into smaller paddocks. I’m talking something around 12 square yards per animal. This will vary according to your individual pasture and how often you are willing to move your animals. From there I would move them between 4 and 7 times a day. This varied on the amount of forage in the paddocks. To determine when it was about time to move them I would observe their behavior. Whenever they would stop eating and go to lay down I would check the forage levels and move accordingly. That is if most of the grass was eaten down below the 1/3 to 1/2 mark and the steers were going to lay down I would open up the next paddock. If there was still plenty of grass in that paddock then I figured it was time to let them chew their cud and relax for a little while. I would monitor their rumen for fullness by checking that area on the left side just in front of the hip. If that area was flat or bulging out a little I knew they were full. I set up between 5 and 10 paddocks every morning so that when it was time to move them I just went out and dropped a line of electric fence and stepped them through the pasture that way. It didn’t take long for them to get into the routine, and they would almost run to the corner where I was opening the line to get to the next paddock! Moving them from one paddock to the next was quick and easy this way. Setting up the paddocks for the day and moving the water trough were the most time consuming parts. All in all I would say I spent, on average, between 1 and 1 1/2 hours a day during the finishing process. The whole ordeal lasted right at two months. We could have put another hundred or so pounds on them, but the grass kind of petered out (weather was dry and the grass stopped growing) and I had to get the new cows on the pasture. I’m not finishing the new animals so I’m not as concerned with the quality of the grass. Much of the pasture now is pretty coarse as far as forage goes. This is fine for the cow/calf pair and bred heifer.
I supplement both my finishing animals and the breeding stock with apple cider vinegar (ACV) in their water (6 oz. per animal per day) and free choice diatomaceous earth (DE) mixed with their salt/mineral. The ACV and DE guard against parasites (internal and external) each acting a little differently within the body. The DE works by physically damaging the parasites and all of our animals here on the Traditional Catholic Homestead get a daily ration.
The ACV helps with general immune system response and provides copious amounts of enzymes which help the cattle to more fully utilize their feed. This is especially true as the forage gets more and more coarse as the season progresses. Dry forage and hay require more enzymatic action to be broken down and utilized in the rumen than does tender green grass/forbs.
Well there you go… that’s one way to finish beef on grass. As with most things there are more than one right way to accomplish the task. The end result is what you’re looking for. This technique has worked well for us so far at the TraditionalCatholicHomestead, but I’m sure as I learn and grow in this things will undoubtedly change.
Thanks to Dave Dahlsrud for participating in the [Grow] Network Writing Contest.
We have over $2,097 in prizes lined up for the Fall 2015 Writing Contest, including all of the following:
– A 21.5 quart pressure canner from All American, a $382 value
– A Survival Still emergency water purification still, a $288 value
– 1 free 1 year membership in the [Grow] Network Core Community, a $239 value
– A Worm Factory 360 vermicomposting system from Nature’s Footprint, a $128 value
– 2 large heirloom seed collections from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, valued at $103 each
– A Metro-Grower Elite sub-irrigation growing container from Nature’s Footprint, a $69 value
– 2 copies of the complete Home Grown Food Summit, valued at $67 each
– 3 free 3 month memberships in the [Grow] Network Core Community, valued at $59 each
– 4 copies of the Grow Your Own Groceries DVD video set, valued at $43 each
– A Bug Out Seed Kit from the Sustainable Seed Company, a $46 value
– 4 copies of the Alternatives To Dentists DVD video, valued at $33 each
– 4 copies of the Greenhouse of the Future DVD and eBook, valued at $31 each