Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Jeffrey Island's Mob Grazing

Two weeks ago my dad and uncle and I went to Nebraska to attend a University of Nebraska sponsored Hollistic Management grazing demonstration on Jeffrey Island. This island is about 4000 acres in size and sits at the junction of the north and south Platte rivers. The island is being hollistically managed by Chad Peterson who practices Ultra High Density Mob grazing to simulate what the buffalo use to do to the great plains. He concentrates about 1 million pounds of animals per acre for short durations (about 2 hours) then moves the animals to the next section where they stay another 2 hours. Using this grazing method he never grazes the same spot twice in the same year. The reason this is impressive is because of the possitive impact it has had on the islands grasslands. Prior to Chad applying his unique grazing techniques, the island was full of Musk Thistle. After several years of mob grazing the island is virtually thistle free and the traditional native grasses have taken over. We are applying this technique on a much smaller scale here at Aquilla Hill Angus Farm to work on some of the trouble spots where we have some weeds. I hope to report back with good results.

Double Barrel The Bull

This spring we acquired a new bull. His name is Double Barrel. We got him from Pharo Cattle Company in Burlington Colorado. He is a Red Angus bull. This is a new direction for us since we have historically raised Black Angus cattle. We want to go to Red Angus since they tend to handle the Texas heat better. We plan to start shifting the herd to Red Angus over time as we need to buy replacement heifers.
We are excited about Double Barrel. He comes from the premier breeder of grass fed cattle genetics in the U.S. He has been ultra sounded and found to have some of the highest scores for marbling, tenderness, rib eye area and back fat. His offspring should carry these traits as well. His ability to finish on grass should help us finish cattle faster in the future. It will still be about 3 years before we know how his offspring will do in our environment but we are pretty confident that he will be a great addition to our enterprise.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Back at the Market

After missing the first half of the 2008 farmer's market season, we are back at it. For those that don't know, Bill (my dad) had an accident back in April. He was thrown from his horse and broke his pelvis in 2 places and fractured his shoulder blade. He was flown by care flight to the hospital and went thru surgery. Under doctor's orders he had to remain in bed or wheel chair for about 12 weeks. Gratefully he is out of the wheel chair, off the walker and back to doing what he loves to do (mainly work!). Having him back on the "payroll" has allowed me time to devote back to the market. So be sure to come see us every saturday at the Mansfield Farmer's Market. Sign up for our newsletter to make sure you are kept current on any new specials we may be offering at the market.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Distiller's Grain Increases E Coli 0157:h7

You may wonder what the significance is of this? Well in our push for environmentally friendly fuel and to lessen our dependence on foreign oil we have come up with Ethanol as an alternative fuel source. Ethanol is made from corn and distiller's grains are what is left over after the processing of the corn into Ethanol. So what to do with all of this by product? Feed it to cattle of course! The problem is that doing this seems to be no better than feeding straight corn and possible even worse. Researchers at Kansas State have found that cattle fed distiller's grain have twice as much E Coli 0157:h7 as cattle fed regular feedlot rations. Now we know that feedlot cattle already have a high occurence of E Coli 0157 h:7. This is pretty disturbing. With the increase of Ethanol production forcast to 2ouble by 2010 there will be a huge amount of distiller's grain that needs to be disposed of and it will be fed to cattle. Feedlots are already moving their base of operations from current locations (panhandle of texas, New Mexico) to places like Nebraska and Kansas to be closer to the source of the distiller's grain. You see distiller's grain doesn't trasport very well, it is heavy, usually wet and hard to handle. Since current distribution channels can not be utilized efficiently to handle this cheap by product, it makes more sense to move the cattle closer to the distiller's grain. Did anyone ever think to just let the cattle eat grass and solve all these problems? We did.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

King Corn

I came across this movie trailer for a new documentary that I thought looked interesting. Seems to be along the same lines as Michael Pollan's best seller "Omnivore's Dilemma" which among other things chronicles the journey that America's corn takes from field to feedlot to plate. Pretty amazing how one commodity can dominate a society so completely. Enjoy the trailer.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Summer Update

The summer is going by quickly and we have much to report. So far we have enjoyed an abundance of rain and moderate temperatures which has produced an overflow of grass. The destocking we did last summer due to the draught has left us with fewer animals to eat all the grass that we have been blessed with. The Mansfield Farmer's Market has been a modest success with many repeat customers who continually praise our beef. We are truly thankful to those who keep coming back, without you we wouldn't be able to do what we are doing. We hope the farmer's market will grow and become a popular place for people of the Mansfield area to attend, so please tell your friends about it and us.
We have been busy adding cross fencing to enhance our MIG (management intensive grazing) capabilities. By creating smaller paddocks we are able to use the land much more efficiently, keep animals moving to fresh clean pasture daily, and reduce winter feeding costs. The benefits of this are numerous but due to recent events, the more efficient use of land will be the biggest asset. The event I am referring to is the loss of our lease land which comprises about 2/3 of our operation. Leasing land is a cost effective way of running cattle but unfortunately you are subject to the whims of the land owner. We hope to be able to maintain our current level of inventory and maybe expand a little, even with this setback, by using what we have more efficiently. Being able to rely solely on the main farm has been the goal from the start so we are not too disappointed in the turn of events.

Monday, May 7, 2007

1st day at the Mansfield Farmer's Market

This past saturday we ventured into new territory by attending our first farmer's market. My morning started at about 5:00 to do some last minute loading and just usual getting around stuff. Mansfield is about 35 minutes from Cleburne. The market opens at 7:30 and I wanted to get there by 6:45 to have plenty of time to set up and to avoid any unforseen mishaps. The weather was fairly nice. We had a bit of mist in the early morning and it threatened to rain all day but except for an occasional drizzle we were spared any major wet spells. It did keep it nice and cool though. Being the first weekend in May and not too much produce available yet, the market was a bit slim on farmers. There were only about 10 booths set up counting us. The traffic was light but steady. I don't have an official count of the day but there were probably not many more than 50 people who showed up. Luckily the Mansfield News Mirror had a little write up about the market and mentioned Aquilla Hill being in attendance and that brought some people by to see what we were about. I would like to thank those folks that came out as it made us feel like we were really providing a needed product. I also want to thank my wife Belen and son Rex (2 1/2 yrs old) for coming out to keep me company for part of the day. All in all it was a great first day and I look forward to many more saturdays this season. See ya at the market!