Free choice mineral licks. Update. Biological farming vs mechanical farming.

In February 2014  I wrote this article about free choice mineral licks.

Since then we have expanded the range of minerals that are available to our cattle and we also now have free choice minerals for our pigs and for our laying hens.

The principle remains the same. All soils are deficient, the plants growing in those soils are deficient, the animals eating those plants (in this case my beef) are deficient and deficiency manifests as disease. The cattle self medicate by choosing which lick they need. 30% is used to fix the internal imbalance and the rest comes out of the back end biologically available to the plants.

In the last year I have had to give one of my animals antibiotics. One injection only. I ascribe this to moving them twice daily to fresh pasture as well as having the smorgasbord of free choice minerals available to them every single day.

 

Click here free-choice-mineral-lick-sept-2016 for a spreadsheet with the exact mixes that we use as well as the suppliers we get the various ingredients from. The spreadsheet has two worksheets.

To understand what I mean by farming biologically versus mechanically you need to understand how different our (biological) way is from the conventional (mechanical) way. The mechanical way it to take soil samples, send these off to laboratory and then apply the minerals recommended by the agronomist or technical advisor of the company selling the minerals. The minerals are spread via compost spreader that is pulled by a tractor. Calibration is a nightmare. Tractors cannot have babies, they use diesel, they compact your soil and tractor drivers are expensive labour. Whereas cattle can have babies. I can eat them when they have finished working, they don’t compact your soil (provided you move them daily), they don’t have to be calibrated and their drivers never have hangovers.

Angus

29 September 2016

 

My first Limousin bull for sale

There are many reasons why I settled on the Limousin as my beef breed of choice. Cross breeding, Raymond Blanc, suitability to my farm, not black, slow maturing and more income for the same expense. If you are not interested in any of these reasons but want to see a video I took of him last week with his father then scroll down all the way to the bottom.

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The photo above explains the crossbreeding better than the medical explanation of the Myostatin F94L gene. Moeder in Afrikaans is Mother and Dogter is Daughter. Same expense (mother) but greater income (daughter). Mother (Dam) is an Nguni, father (Sire) a Limousin.

85% of Limousin bulls have the F94L gene. My bulls are all DNA tested and the one for sale is homozygous. What this gene does is double the number of muscle fibres, not double the size of muscle fibres which causes birthing problems. The result is small calves at birth but then a great expansion as they mature.

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A friend of mine sent me the above photo on Tuesday. The calf, photo taken on Monday, was one day old and you can already see that he is muscled like his sire, a Limousin, and not like his dam, an Nguni. Interestingly the calves always take the colouring of the mother and not the father.

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Raymond Blanc, the first chef in the UK to get Michelin stars, was visiting our farm years ago and he said that Limousin beef was best. Who am I to argue with him? That’s him in the white t-shirt above.

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Raymond was brought to the farm by Rudi Liebenberg. Rudi is the head chef at the Mount Nelson and has been a leading supporter of regenerative agriculture for many years. He even has to drive me around when he comes to visit.

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We are in the fortunate position where we can have bigger framed cattle such as the Limousin on our farm. We have winter rain and in summer we can irrigate. We apply the high density grazing methodology, most eloquently espoused by Joel Salatin and most famously espoused by Allan Savory with all our livestock. The cattle, our laying hens and our pigs are rotated daily to fresh pasture and regrazing only takes place 6 weeks later. The best breed for your farm is that which will adapt to your unique conditions.

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Limousin cattle are not black. If it is built like a Limousin but is black then the dam was an Angus and the sire a Limousin. We stopped buying in black cattle as they get so hot in summer that they get into the water troughs. We had to build metal cages to go over our water tanks so that the black cattle would not get in. The summers are only getting hotter.

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(A disclaimer before I mention maturing. I am talking about cattle on a grass only diet. Not the grain fed/confinement animal. Or the so called grass fed animal that is fed chicken manure and urea.) A slow maturing animal suits me. My production costs are very low. (1 labourer, solar powered electric fencing, average of 1 antibiotic injection across the entire herd every 6 months, no feed brought in from outside, food grown for free in winter and for a small irrigation fee in summer.) I want them to be 4 years old before they have the proper fat cover and intramuscular fat. The Limousin starts putting on that proper fat sometime after 3 years of age. The older the meat the greater the flavour. Also the bigger the carcass. Which leads me onto my next point.

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The photos above are of a Nguni hindquarter, on the left, weighing 53 kgs and a Limousin hindquarter, on the right, weighing 90 kgs. Both of them were 3.5 years old. It took me the same time to debone each one but obviously I got a lot more income (meat) from the Limousin for my expense (time). I elaborate on this expense/income story in this blog posting.

I am often asked which breed tastes best. An animal tastes of what it eats. Breeds are entirely irrelevant when it comes to flavour. South Africans have been bludgeoned into thinking that steak must be eaten with a sauce. This is because 99.99% of the beef comes out of a feedlot/grainfed/confinement operation and it has no flavour. The future of beef is terroir. A blog post on this will follow at some time.

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Finally we can meet the bull, SP 139. Born on the 12th of September 2013. Birth weight 45 kgs. His mother is a La Rhone cow. They are the famous stud near Tulbach. This means that he is genetically predisposed to know how to eat out of a feeding trough. His sire I bought from Sas Oosthuizen in Wellington. In the photo above he is with some of his brothers. They were castrated as they did not have the right form and semen count.

Angus

16 September 2016

P.S. The GoPro video below starts off a bit noisily so please bear with me. If you don’t understand the Afrikaans then contact me.

 

Our farming philosophies explained

I was put in touch with these guys recently and if you click on those highlighted words (especially scroll down to the photos with their subtitles) you will get an erudite explanation of what the philosophical underpinning is to our grazing methodology.

To understand what underlies how we farm in harmony with nature in the genuine sense of holism then you need to click on these words by Nicolas Joly and these by Monty Waldin. They are the most eloquent proselytisers for the BioDynamic movement.

Blogs to follow soon on eggs, pigs and the poison/carcinogen/descaler Glyphosate.

Angus

6 September 2016

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