Parenting and raising beef. They have more in common than one might think, including the fact that nobody does either one exactly the same.
Several of my closest friends are also moms. Despite our closeness and the crazy amount of things we have in common, we all have differences in the ways we are bringing up our kids. And that is okay. I am always telling my mom friends, “Just because we use different methods does not mean that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We are all doing our best to do what is best by our kids – and that is not wrong.” This same principle is true of raising beef.
Raising Kids and Conventional Beef
As parents, we all make choices based on the best interests of our kids, the resources we have at our disposal, and how we can raise successful contributing members of society. Anyone who raises beef has to consider similar things – what’s best for the cattle, how we can help our cattle reach their potential and provide safe and nutritious beef to tables worldwide using the resources we have.
Since Tom and I are doing both – bringing up a family and raising beef – we took all of the previously mentioned factors into consideration. And, that is how we decided that I would breastfeed our babies, switch over to mostly cloth-diapering, and raise conventional (sometimes referred to as grain-finished) beef. None of these decisions mean we think our way is the best way or the only way, but they are what works best for us and our unique situation.
I will spare you all of the gory details surrounding all of our parenting choices, but I would like to take a minute to elaborate on why we raise conventional beef. So without further ado, we raise conventional beef because…
We can better utilize our available resources.
Nebraska isn’t called “The Cornhusker State” for giggles. Believe it or not, we have a lot of corn here and corn is an excellent source of feed for cattle. Now, I know a lot of people say, “cattle aren’t meant to eat corn.” But think about this – cows are ruminant animals. The ruminant digestive tract is the only one that can breakdown cellulose and utilize the nutrients within each kernel. And furthermore, corn is a grain. The definition of grain is the seed from a cereal grass plant. So, one might argue that all cattle are actually grain-finished since all cattle eat grass and grass seeds. (steps off soapbox)
There is a lot of corn in Nebraska, which means there are a lot of empty corn fields come winter. But these fields are actually not as empty as they appear. The stalks and little bits of corn left behind from corn harvest provide an excellent source of nutrition for cattle during the winter months when the grass is dormant and not as nutrient dense. Grazing cornstalks is pretty win-win-win because our pasture is getting some much needed rest, our cows are getting the nutrients they need, and the corn field in turn gets a little natural fertilizer. If we were to raise say grass-finished beef, we would not be able to utilize the resource we have in cornstalks.
It is affordable.
When considering resources money is also one that has to take into account, and in our case there isn’t a lot of it sitting in our account. Other methods of raising beef, such as grass-finished or organic, have input costs higher conventional grain-finished beef. Taking advantage of grazing crop residues, such as cornstalks, is one way we keep our input costs low.
We do not retain ownership of our calves, meaning we sell them to another member of the beef community, usually a feedyard owner. In the feedyard, they are fed a grain-based diet that includes grass and forages as well, specially formulated by a nutritionist. The calves may also be given a small pelleted implant, containing a growth promoting hormone (read more about implanted beef here). The combination of their grain-based diet and growth promotant greatly improves their efficiency and help our calves reach market weight more quickly and affordably using fewer resources.
Raising conventional beef isn’t just more affordable for Tom and me as raisers of beef. Our lower input costs result in a safe and nutritious protein that won’t break the bank – one more option for beef consumers.
Quite frankly, it’s what we feel is best for our cattle.
I’ve talked before on this great tool we have in raising beef known as ionophores. In a nutshell, ionophores allow us to raise beef more efficiently using fewer resources, decrease waste, and reduce the need for therapeutic medications, all while maintaining efficacy and posing no detriment to human health.
Now despite all of the other benefits that ionophores provide, the improved health of our cattle and the reduced need for therapeutic medications is really important to me. As someone who understands the seriousness of antibiotic resistance, I like the option of having that tool in the box. Raising conventional beef provides that option.
Just because we use different methods does not mean that one of us is right and the other is wrong. We are all doing our best to do what is best by our cattle and consumers – and that is not wrong. This same principle is true of raising kids.
*As with any other topic – if you have any further questions about how beef is raised, please, feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post or send them to me using the Contact Me page.
**Tom and I live, work and are bringing up our family on part of large ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills. We also have a small herd of cattle that we own personally and run in partnership with Tom’s folks. The cattle most often featured, and referred, to here at Faith Family and Beef are owned by the ranch we work for. Although both herds are raised similarly and produce conventional beef, all references made in this post are regarding the cattle we personally own.