The inclusion of grain into cattle diets partially began and continues due to cheap grain prices. Feed grain prices, mostly consisting of corn, soybeans and wheat, typically exhibit a lot of volatility, but in general government programs are designed in such a way to help keep prices at the farm gate as level as possible and nearly at the cost of production. Large fluctuations in price are hard to manage for both the producer and consumer.
As higher percentages of these cheaper grains were added to the diets of fattening cattle, finishing operations transformed into much larger herds. It became a more streamlined operation than when we allowed animals to roam the fields foraging for their needs. It became a more controlled situation and thus much easier to fatten cattle on a feedlot by supplying them with a high energy diet that varies little in it’s day to day ingredients. Theses cattle don’t have options to pick and choose what they are going to eat, it’s all right in front of them in the bunk.
Contrast that to cattle which are are 100% grassfed to finish. The majority of their life is spent in the pasture identifying what they want and don’t want to eat. A significant influence in what a calf learns to include in its diet comes from the example of its mother while it is young. By observing her, the calf does not have to try every plant, good or bad on it’s own.
Many factors can cause variations in cattle’s diet. Seasonal growth patterns of the plants, differences in rainfall amounts, the type of plants occurring in a field, mineral deficiencies or surpluses in the soil, even the topography of the land can sometimes challenge the animals in their quest for what they desire to consume. This is where grass farmers must use their management skills and improvements in available grazing products to overcome uncontrollable variables as much as possible. We can now decide the size and shape of the areas cattle have access to much better than in the past with portable fencing. This also allows us to limit how much time they spend eating in any designated paddock or field.
The cattle can utilize the available forage and be moved on to a new area allowing the sun and natural biological activity to “sanitize “that grazed area. This natural sanitation effect reduces the pathogen load resulting in healthier animals as compared to animals that spend the last half of their life standing in the same concrete feedlot. Pressurized water systems and flexible piping can be utilized so that cattle don’t need to come back to the farmstead to get a drink. New knowledge is constantly being gained on holistic management of land and cattle for the betterment of both. So the challenges of finishing cattle on forage alone come from many fronts. What the cattle eat on a day-to-day basis may also vary. But what that also does is create a unique and genuinely flavorful taste experience every time. When you bite into a Green Vista Farm grassfed burger it reflects the diet of the animal it came from, so why wouldn’t you want a predictably healthy yet exciting eating experience?