You hear a lot of talk these days about grass-fed beef. You might be thinking: What’s the big deal? Don’t all cows eat grass?
Well, yes and no. Except in some extreme cases, most cattle get some kind of grass or hay as roughage in their daily rations. After all, they are herbivores.
The real question is: What is the main nutrition source of their diet — grass or grain?
Most cattle in the United States are fed grain and given hay, pasture and in some cases silage as part of their daily diet.
Which is better: grass-fed or grain-fed? Rather than launch into the pros and cons of the meat and health qualities, let’s look at the considerations you’ll need to weigh before deciding which might be a better fit for your homestead.
Raising a cow on a 100 percent forage diet means having enough high-quality pasture and hay to feed them. If you have access to that kind of pasture and even better, land to raise hay, grass-fed could be a great option.
How much pasture will you need per cow? There is no definitive answer. It depends on several factors, such as quality of forage, soil type and rain fall in your area.
A good place to start would be two acres per cow and then closely monitor both the condition of the cows and the pasture.
You’re looking for the sweet spot of not over-grazed but not under-grazed to the point it gets too mature before the cattle can graze it off. If you have enough pasture, this is easily kept in balance by sectioning off the field and rotating the cattle through it.
If you don’t have much land and you’ll be purchasing hay, you should consider using pasture as much as possible and supplementing with hay and grain.
Many farms feed some grain to compensate for low-quality pasture and hay. Let the condition of the cattle dictate if they need grain.
If you want to raise 100 percent grass-fed cattle, you’ll need to make a commitment to creating and maintaining high-quality pasture. Look for cattle that will thrive on a forage-only diet.
Many times, it’s a good option to start out with the mindset of supplementing with grain and working to cut the consumption as much as possible until you learn the ropes of pasture management and hay selection.
Keep in mind that your particular philosophy of raising cattle is of no concern to the cows. They simply want to be well-fed.
If you can do that on 100 percent forage, I think that’s great. If it takes some grain to pull it off, feed some grain.
Either way, you will know exactly how your beef is raised. That’s more than most Americans can say.
What is your preference: grass-fed or grain-fed? Share your thoughts in the section below: