Ahh, spring. Once we get the mud over with, it’s my favourite time of the year. The dull greys and browns of winter are replaced with the vibrant greens of the countryside coming alive. Late April is a time of expectation: we’re anxiously awaiting the new growth in the pastures, the first cows are starting to bag up and getting ready to calve, the first litters of pigs are already running around and our first batch of chicks is almost feathered out.
Getting to Spring on a Grass fed Beef Farm
This year spring has a little more “expectation,” we’re trying to stretch our hay supply to last until the pastures are ready. Normally we put up more hay than we’ll need, just to be on the safe side. Last summer’s drought cut into our hay production and, even though we purchased some extra from a neighbour, we’ll need to be on the grass by the second week of May at the latest. This is one of the places where being 100% grass fed adds a challenge. We have more than enough home-grown grain for pig and chicken feed and could have easily stretched our hay by supplementing with some grain. Believe me, the temptation was there. I could have rationalized it by only feeding it to animals that wouldn’t be slaughtered before we were back on grass for at least a couple of months. It would have been easier to pull grain out of our bins than cash out of our wallets to purchase hay. But then I would have to explain why we needed to feed “a little” grain.
I like the simplicity of being able to say 100% grass fed, no grain – period. That’s the only definition accepted by the American Grass Fed Beef Association. If they certified farms in Canada, we would certify with them. I have my fingers crossed that they will eventually and therefore I meet their standards even though I don’t have to.
And so we eagerly await the new growth in the pasture. The cows eagerly await it too. They’re in a “sacrificial” pasture right now. Sacrificial because cattle hooves on the wet ground of April tears up a pasture pretty quickly. Despite all the pounding, there are some brave grass plants putting up green shoots and the cattle wander the pasture looking to get a small nip of a sweet treat. I can understand why. After four months of nothing but dry hay and water, a juicy, sweet grass shoot must be a delightful treat. When I let them on to the first pasture in a couple of weeks the cattle will go dancing and skipping across it looking for all the tastiest bits. And I will smile because feeding the cattle for the next 6 or 7 months won’t involve starting a tractor.