A Sea of Grass…A Bountiful Food Supply!

As I drove around in a jeep across Central Kenya last December, I saw a sea of grass that brought me a sense of déjà vu.  This visual image is a familiar one to me… I see it every time I drive across Nebraska visiting ranches and procuring cattle for my feed yard…

A black rhino wandering through a sea of grass...

In Kenya, much of this grass is used to feed wild animals which drive one of the largest industries in the country: tourism.

Some of my cattle---amidst a sea of grass in Nebraska...

In Nebraska, much of this grass is used to feed millions of cattle which drive the largest industry in the state: beef production.

Nebraska is home to the top three cow counties in the United States which means that we have a very large number of cow/calf ranches where baby calves are born.  Nebraska also ranks 1st in commercial red meat production and 2nd overall in all cattle and cattle sales.  This means that there is also a large number of cattle feed yards (like mine) where millions of animals are finished in preparation for harvest, and several packing plants to harvest the animals.  With a reported statistic of 99% family owned and operated the vast majority of these cattle farms are like Matt’s and mine.

Megan learns great life lessons learning the personal responsibility that it takes to care for cattle...

Grass is a wonderful resource which is not only aesthetically pleasing, but also a critical component to raising beef.  Cattle, as ruminant animals, have a digestive tract that is made up of four compartments.  This unique digestive process allows for cattle to be tremendously efficient grass converters. This provides a core component in our effort as farmers to convert a non-edible resource (grass) into a nutrient packed and great tasting human protein source (beef). Because the average beef producing bovine spends the first 12-18 months of his life grazing, and reproductive herds spend their entire lives grazing, it requires a large amount of grass to sustain Nebraska’s herds.

The great converters...

The topographic blend of 23 million acres of grassland (more than ½ of Nebraska’s land mass) with millions more acres of fertile crop ground make Nebraska a truly unique ecosystem.  It is this blend of resources that enables us to be The Beef State.  I mentioned this fact to my girls a couple of weeks ago when they were dramatically exposing their disappointment of being left out of Jason Aldean’s new song The Flyover States…

You see, we may be a "left out" fly over state, but we are The Beef State!

My oldest daughter responded to my proclamation with a toss of her head and an eye roll that both appear to me to be attitudinal actions unique to teenagers…She then remarked, “Yeah, they’ll figure out how important we are when they don’t have anything to eat!”  This is the same child that periodically asks me if I think that she would make a good President of the United States someday—I am thinking that she will require some intense media training before she will be able to successfully infiltrate the world of politics…

I I vastly prefer this expression over the “eye roll” attitude expression…

So, Nebraska has grass…Nebraska has crops (corn, alfalfa, wheat, soybeans)…Nebraska has cattle…We make BEEF! This is our claim to fame…

I have, at times, run across articles and statements that liken corn to something evil.  I am always at a loss when faced with this because I believe corn to be a very diverse and useful plant.

It can be used for many different things...

The main source of grain that I feed to my cattle is something called wet distillers grains and it is made from corn.  It is what is left of the corn kernel after the ethanol has been extracted, and it makes a wonderful feed for my cattle.  We blend it with forages (alfalfa, cornstalks, wheat stubble, or soybean stubble) in order to make a palatable and nutrient balanced diet for the cattle.

Wet Distillers Grains presented by one of my favorite blondes...

In fact, a large percentage of my cattle ration is made up of stuff that is left over.  The wet distillers grains, cornstalks, wheat stubble, and soybean stubble are all things that are left over after the primary harvest of the plant.  Cattle serve a very important purpose with their ability to convert these leftovers into a great tasting human protein source.

A blend of ground corn stalks and wheat stubble that we feed to our cattle shown by my other favorite blonde...

The next time that you look at the beef in the grocery store, remember that cattle are great recyclers, and that there is a good chance that the beef that you are buying came from The Beef State (which you all now know is Nebraska)! 

Fortunately, you can purchase this product from a friendly butcher instead of a teenager who might have a bit of a chip on her shoulder...

Thanks to Certified Angus Beef for sharing their friendly butcher with us!

6 Comments

Filed under Environmental Stewardship, General

6 responses to “A Sea of Grass…A Bountiful Food Supply!

  1. dawn

    Great points once again Anne!
    RE: teen attitude….this too shall pass …..eventually. My youngest is 19…..but we had a favorite saying around our house for all three boys….”don’t argue with him, he’s a teenager and knows everything”. In time they will come around to acknowledging you may know something and will ask for advice again. LOL!

  2. I may be new to farming (only 5 years) and to 4H but I see the disconnect between production and eating. Once watched a woman walk her kids through the steer show barn at our farm show and tell her kids this is where they get their milk from. I guess she had not been to the dairy show barn yet. I took the chance to say hello to the kids and asked if they wanted to touch the steers. I then asked them “where’s the beef” and told them about their burgers and steaks 🙂 P.S. I still can’t point out on the steer where all the cuts of beef come from.

  3. Bill

    Great post, Anne. It sounds like teenage daughter should beware.

    Here are some questions. You often mention the need for bovines to eat grass. You mention it in this post. But, you also mention other dietary feeds for the same animals. So here are some questions. Does a bovine that eats a diet of all grass for its entire life taste different from one that eats grass and is then ‘finished’ in a feed lot? As you tasty beef food is important to me.

    Also, would a bovine destroy a corn, soybean or wheat field if they got inside one? Do they prefer grass, or are they creatures of opportunity? Would a bovine’s meat taste different on a diet of pure corn, soy or wheat?

    In another related question, the Feds seem to be heavy handed in their use of rules. I read a reply from what appeared to be a Nebraska state official in your post on the Feds and your waste water treatment facility. That person seemed to be more of a valuable team member in Nebraska’s beef production. So… what is Nebraska’s government role in the state’s beef production? Do they help manage the industry’s brand? Are they the reason why the entire U.S.A. and overseas Nebraska beef exports should be trusted? Or are they more like the Feds? …Throwing around weight instead of solutions.

  4. I love reading your blog! You have the ability to make everyone understand about farming and where our beef comes from. As a college student on a larger campus, I constantly get to express my knowledge to others who have illusions of our farming practices. Keep up the good work!

    • Nicole-

      Thank you for reading and leaving such a nice comment. I hope that you will continue to follow the blog and also continue to share the great story of “where your beef comes from”!

      Anne

  5. Pingback: Feed Yard Foodie | farmNwife

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