How to Implement a Grass-Fed Program on Your Farm
Updated: Sep 15
Getting started Implementing a Grass-Fed Beef Program on Your Farm
If you're a beef producer, you may be considering shifting your operation to grass-fed beef production. There are benefits to doing so - grass-fed beef is leaner and healthier than conventional grain-fed beef, and consumers are increasingly aware of these benefits. But the process of converting your farm from grain-finished beef to grass-finished beef can be daunting. Here are a few tips that will help make the transition easier:
1. Determine which cuts of meat you want to produce.
Determining which cuts of meat you want to produce can be a difficult task, as it requires an understanding of your farm's infrastructure and resources as well as the market demand for each type of animal.
For example, if you have a large number of cows on your farm and you're interested in producing beef, then it is likely that you'll want to sell whole carcasses rather than individual cuts (e.g., steaks) because whole carcasses are easier to store and transport than individual cuts from the same number of animals.
2. Get in touch with a farmer or farmer's market that will buy your product.
Get in touch with a farmer or farmer's market that will buy your product. Find out what they want to buy and when they want it. You should also find out if they have a regular customer base.
Ask about their requirements for grass-fed, organic certification and other certifications that may apply to your product (such as Kosher).
3. Develop relationships with local consumers and restaurants that would like to purchase your grass-fed products.
In order to get your grass-fed program off the ground, you will also need to find local consumers and restaurants willing to buy your product. The best way to do this is with face-to-face meetings. Meet with potential customers in person and develop relationships with them before trying to convince them that grass-fed products are worth paying more money for.
If you're selling direct from your farm or through a farmers market, there are many ways for people who want grass-fed meat to find you: word of mouth, social media posts about upcoming events where you'll be selling meat (and other products), etc.
4. Educate yourself and others on the benefits of grass-fed beef.
Grass-fed is better for people, the environment, and the animal. Talk to local restaurants, grocery stores and food distributors about your products. They could be interested in carrying them if they don't already have something similar on their menus or shelves.
Talk to the public about the benefits of grass-fed versus grain-finished meat products. This conversation can happen at the local farmers market, or even with customers who come to buy products on your farm.
Here are some of the benefits of grass-fed beef:
Grass-fed meat is healthier because it contains more omega 3 fatty acids (the good kind) than grain-fed meat.
It also has more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is known for its immune system boosting abilities.
Grass-fed beef is also leaner than conventional beef; this means there will be less fat marbling in your steak or burger when cooking with grass-fed meat compared to regular supermarket products from factory farms that raise cattle on corn feedlots.
The nutritional value of grass fed animals makes them an excellent source of protein - especially if you're looking for a lean source of protein without any added hormones or antibiotics.
5. Assess your livestock's grazing potential.
Before you can implement a grass-fed cattle program, you need to assess your livestock's grazing potentials. This includes forage availability and quality, available water supplies and climate conditions.
• Climate conditions:
growing season in your area will determine how much time is available for grazing and how often you can rotate animals through different pastures. You may also want to consider geographic differences within your farm (such as hillsides vs flatland) when determining which areas are best suited for grazing or hay production.
• Forage availability:
If there aren't enough pastures on your property or nearby sources of high-quality hay or silage, then it could be difficult to meet all of an animal's nutritional requirements with pasture alone - especially if they're being raised organically! It might be necessary in this case to either supplement with grain or add some type of concentrated feed into their diet during the winter months when grasses are dormant (like cornstalks).
6. Make sure you have a sufficient supply of forage.
• Get a soil test. The first step in implementing a grass-fed program on your farm is to determine how much fertilizer you'll need. A soil test will give you an idea of where the nutrients are and how much of each nutrient is needed to increase productivity. This will help ensure that you don't over- or under-fertilize, which can lead to poor growth and quality in both crops and livestock feedstock.
• Increase the amount of forage by planting grasses and legumes. Once you know how much fertilizer is needed, it's time to increase the amount of forage available at any given time by planting native grasses such as switchgrass or big bluestem along with legumes like clover, alfalfa, etc. These plants provide excellent nutrition for cattle.
Determine how much pasture your livestock will need each day and how much forage is required for each animal at various stages of production.
By determining how much grass each cow will eat each day and how much hay, grain, and supplements they will require, you can get an accurate picture of how much a grass-fed program will cost you. You can then compare that cost to a grain-finished program, and weigh the pros and cons of each before making a decision.
7. Know how to market your products and services.
You need to know how to market your products and services. Marketing is not just a one-time event, but rather a process that can be done with a small budget or even for free!
Marketing is all about telling your story - the story of how you produce food in an ethical way, using sustainable practices and local ingredients whenever possible.A grass-fed program can be a great marketing tool to drive sales at the farm stand or retail store.
Grass-fed beef has several benefits that make it attractive to consumers:
Grass-fed beef is a niche product. It can be a great way to differentiate your farm stand or retail store from others in the area and drive sales.
Grass-fed beef is generally considered healthier because it's lower in fat, especially saturated fat, than conventional grain-finished beef (which may contain more than double the amount of total fat).
The humane treatment of animals raised on pasture makes them more appealing to some consumers who care about animal welfare issues like welfare standards at slaughter facilities or antibiotic use during growth periods.
8. Consider the other costs of maintaining a grass-fed program.
In addition to the cost of buying and feeding your herd, you will also need to consider the additional expenses associated with maintaining a grass-fed program. These include:
• Insurance and veterinary costs for your herd
• Planting cover crops
• Planting hay fields
• Equipment costs
• Building a barn or other shelter for animals and equipment storage
• Pasture rotation (moving cows from pasture to pasture) can be an expensive process in terms of seed, seeding equipment, fertilizer and hay baler costs
9. Use rotational grazing practices.
Rotational grazing is a system of animal husbandry in which livestock are moved regularly to fresh pasture or range, rather than being kept in one area. The practice helps to prevent overgrazing and soil erosion by allowing plants to recover between periods of use.
The goal is to mimic the movements of wild herds as closely as possible, which generally means moving your animals every few days or weeks depending on weather conditions and local vegetation growth patterns. It is ideal to use this system in a grass-fed program to maximize the productivity and health of your pastures.
10. Plan ahead for the future of your business
Be prepared to learn and fail. You will get some things wrong, and that's okay - it’s part of the process. You can always learn from your mistakes and try again!
Plan ahead for the future of your business by knowing your market, competition, costs and other factors that may affect whether or not grass-fed products are a viable option for you in the long run. You can do this with farm management software. Check out Farmbrite and try it today.
Final thoughts on implementing a Grass-Fed Program on Your Farm
Implementing a grass-fed program is not easy, but there are many benefits to doing so. If you have the resources and know-how, raising your own cattle or sourcing them locally can be an excellent way to ensure that your meat comes from animals raised in a humane manner.
It's important to remember that grass-fed beef is not just a trend. It's a way of life, and it has been practiced by farmers across the world for centuries. Whether you're looking to start your own grass-fed program or want to buy some meat from one, these tips should help guide you through the process.
Check out Farmbrite’s other resources on pasture and livestock management here.