What Kinds of Forages Are Good in Grassfed Systems?

This article comes to us from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SARE) and Jan Holder's book, "How to Direct Market Your Beef." Jan and her husband took over management of their family ranch in 1992. Their plan was to "whip the ranch into shape in a few months and then spend the next 20 years canning vegetables and writing the great American novel." As you can guess, that's not how it went. The book shares how they turned "Ervin's Grassfed Beef" into a profitable venture selling beef in 11 western states and farmers markets in their home state of Arizona. In this excerpt, Jan talks about forage and what they learned about marbling a steer on pasture. All forage is not created equal. You can work to improve both the amount and quality of your feed. Each season, we work to improve our pasture, and a large part of that is managing how the forage is harvested. You’ll want to put your brood cows on your poorest forage. Granted, they will do better on better forage, but to get the biggest bang for your buck, you’ll want to save your good forage for your high-value animals, those you are finishing. These animals are gaining in weight and quality, as opposed to your cow herd, which is depreciating and doesn’t get as much of a benefit out of good forage. Some intensive graziers ev

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3 thoughts on “What Kinds of Forages Are Good in Grassfed Systems?

  1. We grass finish also using brassicas in Northern Nova Scotia overlooking the Northumberland Strait of the Gulf of St.Lawrence. By far the best fattening, what have become permanent pastures, some out of corn and grain fields over the last forty years, are predominantly a wild white clover and bluegrass,never seeded by me in 44 years of farming it with cattle and grassland husbandry. They also contain Timothy and many other medicinal weeds such as yarrow, plantain and dandelion. Read somewhere many years ago that the white clover gives 70% volume of Timothy with 130% of gain with annual ryegrass the opposite. It is about right in my experience. Working with nature and compensatory gain from outwintering we get 3.5lb gain average in 150 days of best grazing.

  2. We farm in the wet side of Washington state and run our entire herd together on a strip grazing program in fields planted to Orchard grass, alfalfa and a bit of red clover. Our British cross breeds gain very well without any grain and regularly yield 800+ carcass weights at 24 months. Marbling is very good, as good as any grass fed beef I’ve seen. They are always “on the gain” year round.

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