I grew up on the farm where most of our cattle operation currently resides. Now we have two herds of registered Texas Longhorn cattle, one on each side of Barron Road in southern Richland County, Ohio. Our total operation encompasses about 240 acres.
As a kid growing up, I recall seemingly endless summers, punctuated with the usual push to get hay into the barn as weather permitted. Mom subscribed to Organic Gardening magazine in the 1960’s and 70’s and we tried to stay away from nearly all chemicals as it pertained to our herd of Herefords. I went to work for a neighboring dairy farmer sometime in my high school years and soon learned to volunteer for just about any job that would enable me to stay out of the herringbone pit milking parlor. As most dairy farms did in the early 1970’s, chemicals were used for just about everything as were antibiotics. I soon learned to use antibiotics as well to keep my growing herd of Holstein bucket calves moving forward, and I can also recall complaining rather loudly, at times, about hauling hay into the barn all summer and manure out of the barn all winter.
All of the experiences of my youth as well as my love of the outdoors, especially deer and elk hunting, began to formulate the opinions that guide our operations today. Seventeen years of observations of nature at work in the elk and mule deer herds of Montana and Wyoming have convinced me that she knows what she is doing. The weak animals to not survive. The herds move and naturally rotate their grazing. Elk and mule deer don’t get sprayed down two or three times a year for lice or internal parasites. Wilderness animals do not have access to the corn and bean fields that Ohio’s deer do and yet they thrive on the natural grasses that the mountains and high prairies provide. Why couldn’t it be the same for cattle? Why shouldn’t it be the same? What breed of cattle could truly be described as a product of natural selection? Think back to your biology classes in high school or college where you may have studied genetics. Every purebred animal starts with the basic concept of a desired structure, color, polled or horned, and so on. Once the desired traits begin to appear, the inbreeding continues until they start to become fixed traits and eventually you end up with a “purebred” animal. You also end up with some mutations that can cause problems because of the extensive inbreeding. I know I have greatly simplified this overview of genetics, but the point is I wanted something that nature had been responsible for creating. All of these things, plus my lifelong interest in the American West, led me to the Texas Longhorn. 400-500 years of natural selection led to a cattle breed that is close to a wild game animal in terms of hardiness, disease resistance, and lean healthy meat. I would even say that our grass fed beef is more healthy than the deer that roam the herbicide, and pesticide laced corn and bean fields around our farm.
I had an interesting conversation with the spray operator from a large corporate farm about four years ago and I asked him point blank how dangerous he thought the stuff in his sprayer was. His response was quite different that what Monsanto would have you to believe. He said simply, he would not pet the dog after it had run through the field he was spraying. It should make you stop and think about what we are doing to our water, our food, and most importantly our soil.
We are fortunate. We control our watershed so our grass fed longhorns don’t have to drink the runoff and they are not on soil where the herbicides and pesticides are being applied. We are moving towards organic grass fed beef and letting nature raise our longhorns as naturally as possible. We are selecting genetics that show a natural resistance to parasites, lice or other visible ailments and have a beef confirmation. We want to lend nature a hand but not stand in her way by falling back on chemicals to make it easier for the weaker animals.
This means you should expect our grass fed beef to be lean, and require lower cooking temperatures and shorter cooking times. For those of you who have never had elk or mule deer killed in a wilderness setting, our grass fed beef could comes close to that level of flavor and healthy eating.
We’d welcome the opportunity to answer any questions about our all natural grass fed beef program and we’ll continue to update our thoughts and philosophy as we learn more.