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Monday, July 21, 2014

Cattle Eat Hay and Grass and Turn It Into Beef

Cellulose. This polysaccharide is an important component of the cell walls of the vegetation that carpets the ground around the world – which leads it to be the polymer in the most abundance on the Earth. It even makes up 40 – 50% of wood!

So, why do I bring this up? It just so happens that the most abundant polymer on Earth is also one of least digestible polymers for simple stomach mammals such as humans, and its main purpose is to serve as a “dietary fiber.”

A field of one form of cellulose - grass hay - that has been mowed and will be baled soon
A field of one form of cellulose - grass hay - that has been mowed and will be baled soon.
Ruminants such as cattle, sheep, and goats, however, are able to digest various forms of cellulose due to microorganisms that live within their gastrointestinal tract. To explain in further detail, ruminants have a complex stomach that consists of four compartments: the reticulum, rumen, omasum, and abomasum. The rumen contains certain bacteria, such as Ruminococcus, which break down cellulose into glucose that can be utilized during energy production. Simply stated, cattle and other ruminants are physiologically designed to eat cellulose because they have a very small amount of the exact right kind of bacteria in their stomach.
I find this astonishing! Such a small percentage of symbiotic bacteria present in the stomach of a ruminant animal allow an otherwise indigestible polysaccharide to be degraded to glucose and utilized for the production of animal protein which can be consumed by humans and feed our families. And remember when I said cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer in the world??
Baling grass hay to be fed to cattle during winter months
This is a hay baler - it picks up the mowed hay and winds it into
large bales which are used to feed livestock and horses.
These are some pictures from my family’s operation during the hay season. Yes, due to baling hay and other feed production methods, cattle can continue to utilize cellulose to convert it to animal protein throughout late fall and winter when grass is dormant and of poor nutritional value! Long after the pastures have turned brown from the cold, cattle are eating grasses and forages that are unfit for human consumption to produce safe, healthy and wholesome beef.

Thank you for reading,

Monday, July 14, 2014

…The chicken or the egg?

Poultry is not my expertise, nor is it my favorite meat to have at a meal. However, I recently started a position at my company in poultry marketing, and I have to say, the industry is fascinating.

According to the USDA Livestock, Poultry and Dairy Outlook June Report, the United States produces more pounds of chicken, 37.8 million (2013) to be exact, than any other meat. Add the layers with more than 6.8 million dozen eggs (2013), and you have a very large and concentrated industry.

Some background on the poultry business is helpful in understanding how your chicken and eggs are produced. This is a vertically integrated business, meaning companies control almost every point of production. (See the diagram below.) Poultry growers, or the people who raise chickens, can be contracted by a larger company, but it’s important to realize that the individual sites are usually operated by families. By owning and/or operating every point of the business, including breeding, growing broilers, raising layers (the chickens which lay the eggs), and the processing and packaging, a company can increase efficiencies and decrease costs.
Diagram Credit:
Through advances in research and technology, the business of raising chickens and turkeys has changed dramatically over time. See this video for an inside look at a primary breeder farm, one of the only parts of the poultry industry not included in the vertically integrated system. This farm focuses on producing females for broilers (the chicken we all eat) and males for breeding. (

I know many people question the poultry industry on the way they do certain things. However, one thing we can’t question is how much food they produce to feed people across the world. The turnaround on producing a broiler is under 14 weeks which means we can have a lot of chicken in a little amount of time.

 When it comes to making meat, they ain’t no chicken… Get it? J

Your fill-in poultry “expert,”
Cassie Kniebel

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Cattle Enjoy Confinement

If you’ve even driven by a feedyard/feedlot you’ve likely seen cattle standing close together at the feedbunk, under the shade or just out in the middle of the pen. It sure seems like they are crowded in there, doesn’t it?

Well, did you know that cattle are gregarious? That’s just a fancy word for being sociable or fond of company, meaning that they live in close herds and social groups. So, while you may think that cattle in feedlots don’t have enough room to move around, they actually just like hanging out with their cow-pals. Cattle in feedlots have plenty of room to move around, play, lie down and eat; they would just prefer to hang out next to each other. It’s their natural instinct!
You’re probably thinking, “But Buzzard, what about when they are in large pastures with hundreds of acres to roam and graze on? Surely they spread out more to enjoy all that fresh, green grass, don’t they?”
Cattle are fundamentally a prey species, so grouping together is a way to keep the herd safer.
See all that green in the background? They could be spread out all over the place, but they prefer to stay together.
Nope! As you can see, the herding instinct doesn’t go away when they are on huge pastures. Even though they may have hundreds or even thousands of acres to roam, they still prefer to chill out in groups.
The point is that feedlot owners and employees want to keep their cattle as comfortable as possible and one of the ways they do this is by providing plenty of room for the cattle, but that doesn’t mean the cattle will take advantage of it. However, it’s important that they at least have the option.

Do you have beef production questions? Shout ‘em out – we’d love to hear from you!
Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~


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