The Older Brother cowboys up

Howdy, pardners.

Well, this has been awhile in the making, but some friends, relatives (including Tom and Chareva), and I finally went all in on grass-fed beef. As in, not just buying grass-fed beef, not just knowing where your food is coming from, but in your grass-fed beef coming from your own beeves. “Beeves” is what us rancher types call more than one cow.

By ranch, I mean we’ve got two head. Meet Tartare and Royale:

This all started well over a year ago. In talking to Linda, who has the farm where I get my raw milk, I had talked up Joel Salatin and the whole intensive grazing/high density/rotational grazing approach. She has a few dairy cows on several acres, with part of her pastures segregated and rented out to a traditional rancher who brings cows in the Spring to pasture during the year, then takes them back and puts them on grain in the Fall for market.

She said if I found a grass-fed calf or two, I could pasture them with her cows. In the meantime, she’d started to put fences in to accommodate a rotational system.

As I said, that was over a year ago. It turns out you can’t just go down to the mega-mart and find a pasture-fed calf. I asked anybody selling grass-fed beef if they sold calves, but nobody had “extras.” Between demand increasing, the seasonality of calving, and last year’s drought preventing herd growth, there just weren’t any to be found.

A couple of months ago, one of the people I’d been talking to since last Fall suggested I contact Jerry Pierson, who raises some grass-fed cows in addition to his “day job.” Jerry turned out to be as nice and eager to help a “newbie” as everyone else I’ve talked to, and did think he might sell a couple. It took a couple of weeks to coordinate a visit (he’s about 45 miles away), figure out pricing, etc. then another month waiting for the rain and Jerry’s schedule to clear up enough to deliver them.

I went down to “help” — which pretty much meant staying out of the way. Cows are pretty easy to herd if you’re patient and know what you’re doing. Here’s Jerry making it look easy:

We stopped at a scale on the way to Linda’s so we could figure the weight, then took a slow 60 mile ride through the country to deliver next year’s steaks to their new home:

Cows are herd animals, and they and Linda’s cows immediately headed towards each other to make each others’ acquaintance.

When Jerry stopped on the way back to weigh the empty rig, I got a bit of sticker-shock. Neither one of us, especially me, had much experience, but the guy at the scale had looked in the trailer when we stopped and he guessed them at around 600 or 650 pounds each. It turned out they were actually around 870 pounds each.

That meant writing a bigger check today, but it also likely moved the anticipated date to put them in the freezer up from Fall 2014 to Spring 2014 or maybe even late this Fall.

It’s a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to that as much as our very own grass-fed beef. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, remember — never approach a Bull from the front, a Horse from the rear, or a Fool from any direction.


the Older Brother


20 thoughts on “The Older Brother cowboys up

  1. Kathy

    Congratulations! (and serious envy)

    Can’t wait to hear Tom’s ranching tales. He hasn’t said much about the farm lately.

    I think they’re (mainly meaning Chareva) gearing up for some sheep or goats. I’m sure he’ll fill us Fat Heads in as it develops.

    Linda told me we once I got cows out there we could work out an arrangement for me to try my hand at raising a batch of pastured chickens in a “chicken tractor” behind the cows. Looking forward to that, too.

    1. Kathy

      Had to Google “chicken tractor” – the name made perfect sense once I knew what it was! Just never know where you’re going to learn something new.

      Their popularity has grown with the idea of pastured meat poultry. There’s a couple of different styles. I don’t know if Joel Salatin pioneered them, but he sure popularized them.

  2. Oly

    Just in case it’s news for anyone else — but this lady’s automatic watering fodder growing system for feeding her animals is ingenious.

    Rapidly growing greens year round and feed costs down to whatever it costs to get the seed (she uses barley) per pound.

    That looks pretty interesting. I saw an article in Grassman Stock Farmer where someone was using a fodder system, but didn’t pay much attention. This looks like a good way to optimize nutrition during finishing without using grains. Thanks for the info.

  3. Julie

    Beautiful animals. It’s so nice that you know someone who will pasture them for you. We just bought a quarter of a cow recently who will go to the butcher in July. I’ve thought about going out to the farm to meet our cow, but I don’t know if I can actually do that yet. I think it might make my formerly vegetarian heart break to tiny little pieces, lol.

    Congrats on the cows! It’s good to know they’ll have a good life.

    Knowing they’ll be well treated makes a big difference. It’s what Joel Salatin would call “letting them express their cowness.”

  4. Elenor

    LOVE the names! I used to know a cow named Roastie — and she was delicious!


    Tartare is self-explanatory. Royale, for anyone who didn’t get the inside joke, is a Pulp Fiction reference where John Travolta’s character is explaining to Samuel Jackson’s character that in Europe, which is metric, they wouldn’t know what a “Quarter Pounder” is, so it’s called a “Royale with Cheese.”

  5. Jean

    Good luck with the steaks. We are lucky enough to have a farmer in the village (UK) who believes in grass fed so we can visit our future dinners. They are delicious!

  6. Bruce B

    My Brother put two cows on his pasture for the first time this spring. He named them Serloin and T-Bone. I’m waiting for him to get used to raising cows so I can buy a calf and put it on his pasture.

  7. Walter Bushell

    There is a business model here for aspiring grass farmers. You board other people’s cattle (for a fee, of course) and get the enriched soil and chicken feed etcetera for free. The immediate advantage to the ranchers is an income stream immediately and they don’t have to raise the capital to buy the cows or steers.

    In ten twenty years you have prime organic agricultural land (if there is sufficient rainfall in your area and can go to rejuvenate agricultural land that has been depleted by annual agriculture.

    There’s a popular model pushed by Jim Gerrish where you lease the land from (generally) absentee or retired owners, then custom graze (or board, as you said) other people’s cattle, maybe along with some of your own. Same benefits without someone having to mortgage their soul to get started.

    Rotational grazing is much more efficient at adding weight as opposed to traditional open pasture along with the soil-building benefits, so this type of operation charges by weight added.

  8. Tess

    This looks great! As a rancher, you should know, though, that a cow is female. Cattle raised for meat are generally castrated males, and are called steers. For your roundup, it’ll help to have a good pair of boots and the correct terminology. . .
    Happy eating!

    Actually, they’re heifers. I’m not going for all out meat production, so went with what fit my size/schedule goals. But technically, since they’re young and haven’t calved, I still shouldn’t call them cows.

    I was going more by the generic, as per Wikipedia:

    “Cow” is in general use as a singular for the collective “cattle”, despite the objections by those who insist it to be a female-specific term. Although the phrase “that cow is a bull” is absurd from a lexicographic standpoint, the word “cow” is easy to use when a singular is needed and the sex is unknown or irrelevant – when “there is a cow in the road”, for example.


    1. Suzie_B

      “Cattle raised for meat are generally castrated males” – these are always raised for meat, but a rancher only needs to replace 10 – 20 percent of the breeding stock every year, so generally he/she keeps the best of the heifers and sells the rest for meat production. Dairy people have different methods.

      Tom/Older Brother, be sure to check up on any necessary vaccinations. Where I used to live we had a disease or two that was deadly if not vaccinated for. Cattle may also need some salt.

      They’ll get free choice minerals (salt) separately. These come from a line bred for grass and no vaccinations. Haven’t had a needle in them. We’ll see how it goes, but the plan is to keep it that way. Thanks for the tips.

  9. C Mcguire

    Cindy said , “Holy cow you have too much time on your hands” lmao

    Yes, The Wife always feels I have too much time on my hands. Many readers here probably agree.

  10. Suzie_B

    Heifers also present one problem that steers don’t have – estrous cycles.

    They won’t be sharing the pasture with any bulls.

  11. Phocion Timon

    We keep the naming system simple: “Dinner” is always used for the annual steer or bull.

  12. Jim Butler

    You may also want to look into the Umai dry aged beef system. A bit like a food saver, but the machine and bags are different. I dry age my own beef almost all the time now. I buy primal cuts from BJ’s, usually a whole boneless ribeye, or sometimes a whole NY strip. You “bag” them, seal them with their machine, and then set them on a rack in a spare fridge for 30-60 days. Take them out, trim them, and eat some of the most tender beef you’ve ever put in your mouth. True steak-house quality. Dry aged beef sells in the specialty markets around here for $25/lb. My initial costs on the primal cuts is usually $6/lb, and I usually lose about %10-%15 weight during aging (which is the point) 🙂
    If you’re going through the effort to get really good beef, I’d certainly take the extra step and dry-age the steaks. Whole set up costs about $150. don’t bother with the smaller bags, they’re pretty much worthless…just buy an order of the primal cut bags and you’re good to go.

    Also, on the chicken note, take a look at heritage turkeys. They’re less work, don’t need a closed in coop, eggs are terrific, and so is the meat. I’ve raised both Blue Slates and Red Bourbons together. Can’t believe the difference in flavor between one of those and one of the freaks of nature they sell in the stores around T-day. And they’re a lot of fun to raise. You can make a cheap “hoop house” out of cattle panel fencing, which is heavy gauge wire fencing that comes in 5’X 8′ panels. Bend them over per any of the hoop-house designs, cover them with poly, add a few 2X4s under the poly for roosts, and you’re good to go. I think I built mine for about $75 all in. Finished size was about 8′ X 12′ and I put up some fencing around the whole thing so they could “roam”. I raised 20 in that space without issues. There’s a local turkey farm nearby that will “process” the birds for $5/ea., which is MORE than worth it when you figure out how long it takes to dress 20 birds. We hatched our own eggs for a couple of years, so preserved the blood lines in that regard. Easy to do with a $50 styrofoam incubator and some space in the garage.

    Keep up the good work 😉


    The Oldest Son actually already got one of the dry-aging systems. It does make for a great steak, but I’ve read elsewhere that grass-fed beef shouldn’t be aged as long.

    Linda had some turkeys before, but some were a bit aggressive so she’s not keen on the idea. I’d planned on building a hoop-house type of tractor, but Linda already has an old one on her ground she said I could use, so that worked out well. I’m going to look for some Freedom Ranger chickens. I went to a presentation by a pastured poultry producer who said they take a little longer to raise, but aren’t pathetically heavy and lethargic by butchering time. At this point, I’m planning on starting with a couple dozen and processing them myself. I think it’s good experience to deal that intimately with our food once in awhile.

    Thanks for the input.

    1. Jim Butler

      Interesting comment on the “aggression”…never saw that with our birds. They would be “intensely interested” if you had a tomato or apple in your hand, as that was their favorite treat of all time 😉
      They would also peck at the red tab on the back pocket of my blue jeans when I went inside the coop to refill water, etc.

      One time the Tom’s all went to full display, snoods turning bright blue, wings out…couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then I realized I had a gray Tshirt on with some blue text. I must have looked like the biggest Blue Slate Tom Turkey they’d ever seen. Changed the shirt and no problem…

      Funny birds.


  13. JStheguy

    [Insert whiny vegan asking how you could murder one of gods innocent (also precious, beautiful, and infinity times better than people) creatures to eat them.]


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