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Grass Fed/Corn Fed

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  • Grass Fed/Corn Fed

    I have below a Twitter conversation I initiated with a cattle farmer in my state. Nice enough guy but I wanted to reprint his replies for all to see. I'm still new to PB, so wanted to pass on what he had to say. Start at the bottom and then go up (that's how Twitter works, my apologies) I started the talk off with if his cattle were corn or grass fed:

    TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Most of all, thanks for asking a rancher these questions rather than google.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 I hope you found this information helpful & informative. Please feel free to ask any other questions.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 One other thing, there are 29 #lean cuts of #beef. So avoiding beef because of any "fat fears" is unfounded.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 No sure where u live, but I'd love to give u a tour if ur ever in western SD. U can see Mt. Rushmore and tour the ranch.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 of our current herd and be down to one family. It would also put more pressure on our range land than we would be happy with.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 r ranch supports 4 families, if we had to got to a grass finished program in our environment, we could only support 1/3 of...

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 It's unfortunate that many of the "horrible" things u hear about cornfed beef aren't accurate.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 I really enjoy teaching ppl about how the rumen of a cow works, it's an amazing thing really.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 a good source of omega 3's, please support my friends that are in the aquaculture business.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 As for omega 3's, even in grass fed beef, there isn't enough to make much of a difference. Unfortunately, if u are wanting...

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 It only takes a pin head's worth of e coli to make ppl sick, so regardless of diet, harvesting methods need to be the same.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 On a higher corn based ration, the e. coli levels do increase to a certain degree. But that's more of a harvesting concern

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 E. Coli is always present in the rumen, along with many other types of bacteria that break down the feed.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 But just like too much green grass can kill a cow, so too can too much corn. Like everything in life, moderation is important

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 The bacteria in the rumen, that actually break down the feed into absorbable components, can handle corn just fine.

    Reply Retweet FarmerHaley enjoying the conversation between @TroyHadrick & @jpickett1968, happy to see consumers asking ranchers about beef quesitons

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 corn plant ground up. Cattle prefer corn and silage to just hay, so that's why we mix it so they can't sort thru the ration.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Interestingly enough, the corn plant is a grass, with the kernels being the seeds. When we feed silage, that is the entire..

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Here's an interesting fact. If we wanted to grass finish cattle in this country, it would require an additional 165 mil acres

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Not sure what u consider the definition of commercial beef is.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 What we do is pretty typical for most of the cattle in the US.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 R calves will be finished on a corn based ration. What did u learn is bad about it? I prefer it myself.

    Reply Retweet Bamarunner @jpickett1968 I'll see what I can add when I get home or this weekend but if I get started it might not have room - ha

    Reply TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 that's where we have them harvested as well. Here they will be put on a balanced ration that will include more grains.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 R steer calves will be finished in a yard in KS. They have more feed available, much better weather normally, and ....

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 It also provides them with the best protection from winter weather being in the yards. Calves r sorted by sex into dif pens.

    Reply Retweet Bamarunner @jpickett1968 nope, not offensive here, you probablly could have kept on the soapbox a little longer & hit a few more subjects along the way

    Reply TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Since growing calves have very different nutritional requirements than a cow, they will be a silage based ration.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 Our calves r weaned from the cows in the fall and placed in the yards right next to our house for the winter.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 their diets with alfalfa. What we feed them in the winter is based on stage of production and the weather. Computer balanced.

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 All of our cows that live their life on the ranch will eat grass most of the time. During the winter, we supplement... (cont)

    Reply Retweet TroyHadrick @jpickett1968 We have a cow calf ranch in western SD. Your ? about grass-fed is a little vague, but I will answer best i can.

  • #2

    Yeah I've always been confused by grass-fed vs grain-fed because... isn't grass a grain? Maybe because it's eaten before it germinates?


    • #3

      Interesting info and fun to hear it from a person in my neck of the woods (yeah SD!).

      I've heard others comment on the Omega-3 ratio in grass-fed vs corn-fed and it's made me wonder about the legitimacy of the claims.

      I'd be curious if this guy knows much about the CLA levels in grass vs corn. That's usually been the key selling point I've heard about grass fed (well, other than being much kinder to the animal).


      • #4

        Cattle aren't meant to be on corn-fed diets on a long term basis as it causes them lots of digestive and other health problems. Therefore the quality of the meat goes down and in turn isn't as healthy for us to consume.


        • #5

          I guess it depends on the proportion of concentrate (corn) to grass - both day to day and over the animal's lifetime?

          Also depends on the quality of the corn feed - soy based junk or "home grown"?

          FYI, silage is just fermented grass and is more nutritious than hay.

          Also, assuming corn = maize, the dairy cattle here get fed the whole plant chopped up (not just the kernals); same idea with any wheat or barley they get.

          I'm starting to think that the actual amount of grain fed is a smaller proportion of total diet than I (we?) fear.


          • #6

            I know that it would be much more difficult to feed everyone in the US grass-fed, grass-finished beef, but I also know that most people don't care about anything but price.

            I am happy with my grass-fed, grass-finished, HUMANELY slaughtered bison.

            Reading about commercially produced meat was enough for me to seek out small, family farms that produce meat more 'naturally.'

            It's about the animals as much as my health.

            I don't want to eat a chicken that has had to spend its entire life in a cage.


            • #7

              Read the Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food by Micheal Pollan, that will give you much more information I think. From what I remember, rotational grazing has to be done at the right time, because the cows have to get to the new grass before it goes to seed. If the grass goes to seed the cows don't want to (won't?) eat it. Taking that into account, having the cows eat the actual corn (the SEED of the plant) is giving them far too much of that portion of the plant than they would be eating by their own choice. I believe The Omnivore's Dilemma has the best description of the practices of CAFOs vs. rotational grazing, it really is worth reading.

              You are what you eat,
              and what you eat eats too - Michael Pollan


              • #8

                I think the corn fed vs grass fed debate assumes that grass fed cows graze on open land while the corn fed cows are penned up. The penned up cows require antibiotics to protect them from increased chance of disease because of the conditions they are raised in.



                • #9

                  It seems there is a continuum of conditions and feed. From fully injection free, grass fed, pasture ranging animals, to the confined grainfed/fattened operations. And it would seem that getting the closest to nature is going to have the best profile for OUR nutrition.

                  I'm lucky to live in Western South Dakota and I have a buddy that operates a cattle ranch. The bulk of his animals go off to auction to any number of situations from there. Some will be fed on corn for weeks before slaughter, so they start off healthy happy cows in the wide open South Dakota grass, livin' under the clear sky and sun.

                  I just got a young steer from him, that was "wild" from start to finish, 200lbs of finished meat, organs, oxtail, marrow bones, the whole nine yards. I am trusting that it is the best nutritional profile for me, and sounds like it certainly is. But the local angle, the lack of petroleum used to get this little fella into my belly is a bonus as well.

                  The market certainly will react, when more folks ask for and by "wild" beef or bison, the stores will stock it!


                  • #10


                    You are correct. Stores will stock it, but one of two things will happen:

                    1) Can't meet demand, so prices will skyrocket

                    2) To meet demand they cut corners and the quality of the meat will suffer.