We have spent plenty of time talking all about cheese and the wonderful people who are helping make our “cheesy” dream come true (pun intended). Today, we are going to switch focus and talk about beef! We at East Hill Farms are pretty diversified folks, as most farmers have always been throughout the ages. If you read the blog about our daughter Holly last week, you can see some examples of diversification in our family business. Holly has 600 laying hens, along with her cows and her farm land. And if you read about our son, Ryan and his family, you might recall that his wife runs a pick-your-own berry farm. So, we aren’t afraid to try new things, and those things always involve some sort of food production. Which brings us to today’s blog….. how we also produce steak!
Obviously, only the female cows can produce milk, and we don’t have 100% female baby calves every year. So, that might lead to the question: what do we do with all the male calves? Well, we posted a while back a blog about our cow herd and the baby calves, and we mentioned that we do keep back 60 bulls to use the genetics in our own herd. We choose the bulls based upon their genetic potential. For example, if we have a cow that is a great milker, has a good disposition, and is put together nicely, and we breed her to a bull that has some great genetics, we will probably keep her bull calf to use for reproduction in our herd.
However, we have 350 bull calves each year just at East Hill every year (not including Holly’s herd), so that leaves 290 other calves that aren’t going to be used for reproduction. Our beef calves are a combination of our New Zealand dairy genetics and then some Angus and Limousin genetics (beef breeds). And that is where the beef portion of our business comes in….
Through a friend of a friend of a friend, we met a great man from Kansas named Rod Weeden. Rod runs a small feedyard on the Oklahoma/Kansas border. We send him several semi loads of our bull calves every year, after they reach 300 pounds in the fall. He grazes them on wheat pastures for a few months before finishing them in his feedyard. We also buy some other calves at a local sale barn to send to Rod as well. He is a very caring man that takes a lot of pride in what he does, and we know that each of the animals we send to him gets taken care of very well. The cattle leave New York State and are rested and watered at the half way point of the 1900 mile trip. When they arrive in Oklahoma the objective is to de-stress the animal by giving them hay and spreading them out to allow them to rest as soon as they get off the truck. This alleviates a lot of health issues from the long ride. If you drove that far, you would be hungry and thirsty too, so Rod makes sure that they have a nice ‘hotel’ room upon their arrival.
They get the proper vaccinations, and if any are not feeling well, they will get some medicine so that they are not sick and feeling under the weather. Then, most often, they get sent out to wheat pastures where they spend several months. When they are finished on the pasture, Rod brings them back to the feedyard to finish them out.
During their time in the feedyard, the cattle get fed a designated ration that a Ph.D nutritionist designed. It is a combination of grain and roughage (hay, silage, etc.). It’s a pretty basic diet, and they do really well there. There is also a veterinarian that works for Rod and monitors all medicine usage, vaccine programs, and takes care of any sick or injured animals.
They get the proper pen space and water, and most importantly, they get to be around their friends. Cattle are very social creatures and do not like to be separated. These calves are used to being handled since they are very little, so it’s good for them to be in a pen together, like they had been since they were babies (remember our nipple bar for them?). When they have reached finishing weight (about 1300 lbs.), the cattle will go on a short truck ride to one of the nearby processing facilities. And, that is how we get steak!
Rod does a great job, and we know he will answer any questions that you may have about the industry he has worked in his whole life. Please ask us anything you would like to know about the beef industry. Thanks for reading today, and go enjoy a nice, juicy steak!