When it comes to ruminants (cows and sheep) we feed strictly 100% Certified Organic Pasture, Certified Organic Hay (winter) and some supplemental Certified Organic Alfalfa. We feed absolutely ZERO grain or silage because these animals have a completely different digestive system than monogastric (single chambered stomach) animals such as chickens and pigs. In nature, you will not find herbivores eating grain. They may consume some seed heads of the pasture species but this “grain” goes through their rumen (four chambered stomach) undigested and is one of nature’s ways of spreading seed. When conventional farms use processed grains as feed for herbivores, it disrupts their rumen and can cause acidosis even in small amounts which makes for a sick animal. Nature already has this perfect so we mimic her to the best of our ability.
With the growing demand for grass-fed meat and dairy these days, we see a lot of marketing aimed at these consumers. Everyone seems to be claiming “grassfed” but what does this mean? Essentially all cows and sheep are “grassfed” at some point in their lives so how does one differentiate? The devil is in the details. There are no current labels (with inspection) to tell consumers how much of an animal’s diet is grass so it is up to the consumer to dig in, research, visit, investigate and determine if a farm is truly a grass-fed operation or not. Since we still do not produce all of our meat (beef), we have to do the same. What we have typically found in our quest for 100% grass-fed beef is that there is very little choice for quality 100% grass-fed beef out there. We find some claiming “grassfed” but then see a whole truckload of stale conventional bread roll up and the loaves being tossed to their cows. We see cows on poor overgrazed pasture eating silage and hay throughout the grazing season while the hay fields stand lush and un-grazed. Why!? A cow has four legs and she is fully capable of sourcing out her own feed and nutritional needs in a quality pasture. It’s actually what she prefers!
We also see dairy products claiming “grassfed” and even coming all the way from New Zealand but the butter is nearly as pale as most other stall fed conventional butter. This is NOT REAL GRASSFED! It is nearly impossible to source real unpasteurized grass-fed dairy. Although we make all of our own dairy products from our raw 100% grass-fed milk, we still occasionally buy hard cheeses. There is only a single commercial 100% grass-fed raw cow dairy that we have found in B.C. which is unfortunate.
Claimed "pasture butter" (white stuff) vs. our truly 100% pasture butter!
Label reads: fresh milk from grazing cows at the height of pasture season... hmmm
We raise our cows and sheep on intensively grazed organic pasture. We impact an area then give it the rest it needs, up to 40 days. In this way, cows are not eating in areas soiled with a build up of droppings. It gives them new FRESH pasture every day. As Dr. Weston A. Price discovered, only rapidly growing fresh grass provides superior levels of fat soluble vitamins and activators such as Vitamin A(color) and K2. Holistic planned grazing prevents soil compaction and overgrazing. It allows the cycle of grass growth to flourish developing strong roots systems and a build up organic matter which sequesters carbon (removes CO2) from the atmosphere. Imagine that! What we choose to eat directly affects the environment we live in!
The recent bad rap that cows have been receiving in regards to climate change etc. is not so easily justified if you look at the whole picture. It is complex, like everything, and not so black and white as movies like “cowspiracy” make it out to be. Yes dairy cows managed with stall feeding and minimum fresh pasture and beef cows finished in grain feedlots may have a detrimental contribution to our health and the environment. But when we bring our cows back to pasture and graze them holistically, we mimic the hundreds of millions of bison that used to roam North America. These bison, with pressure from predators, intensively grazed sections of the prairies and then left without returning for a significant amount of time. This is why the soil across the plains is(was) so deep and rich... an organic farmer’s dream! The previous North American bison estimates outnumber the current number of cows here today, so we know cows alone aren’t the issue. The problem lies in the way in which most cows are currently managed.