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Animal Health Notebook

Great grass-fed beef meals start in the pasture

Healthy soil and grass make grass-fed beef cattle gain better and their beef taste better.


Ya’ll likely noticed that my name is Cooke. It has been said that the "e" was added by an uncle of mine who had the same last name as a local dead-beat. Uncle Vernon changed his name to stop collection-company harassment that was pointed toward another Vernon Cook. My father, who was twelve or more years younger, followed suit.

Of course, "cook" means to prepare a meal using heat. It also refers to the person performing the preparation.

However, a cook is not necessarily a "chef." A chef is thought of as highly skilled and educated and runs the whole show as far as procurement, preparation and serving is concerned. By definition, chefs are generally held in a higher regard by the public than are cooks.

I am a cook, but when anyone starts bragging about my meals and referring to me as a chef, I get nervous. Chances are good that they have an ulterior motive and need to borrow some money. I have enough enemies.

My real friends give me their true opinion concerning my culinary skills and the resulting meal. It can be humbling.

I eat a lot of grass-fed beef on a daily basis. In fact I eat beef at most every sit-down or stand-up meal.

I define grass-fed or grass-finished beef as follows: Beef from cattle that have self-harvested standing forage and almost nothing else for a minimum of 120 days prior to the abattoir. Standing forage needs to be mostly green with at least some plant maturity.

Others might add specs they deem necessary for grass-fed beef and I seldom argue but I do not think it is necessary to be exhaustive with definitions.

Here are a few more management details which should I believe make my grass-fed meals more nutritious and quality eating. These are all pre-slaughter and pre-cooking.

1. Have fully recovered grass, mostly green, with at least one fresh break every day.

2. Weight gains on smaller-frame cattle need to exceed 1.25 pounds per day for 90 days or more immediately prior to harvest. The animals finish best with no major weight loss periods any time in their lives.

3. Energy and protein supplement should never exceed 20% of the total daily dry-matter consumption. East of Oklahoma City, meaning in higher-rainfall areas, 5-15% of the daily dry matter may need to be energy supplement throughout the year.

4. Develop good soil health and mineralization, especially calcium. It needs to be improving on an annual basis.

Some supplements such as apple cider vinegar may give us the opportunity to tweak the system for near year-around grass-fed beef production, but animal harvest near the end of the growing season will yield the best results. I'll write more on grass-fed beef meals next time.

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