Rissman raises a mix of crops and livestock on 300 certified organic acres. Crops include: grain sorghum, food grade soybeans, oats, wheat, barley, brown and golden flax, alfalfa grass mix hay, and sorghum silage. Livestock fed yearly include: 60 – 100 head feeder cattle, 5,000 pasture raised broilers, 100 laying hens, 200 pasture raised turkeys and a few ducks. Rissman says, “I use cover crops, green manuring and inter-cropping extensively. I compost 90 percent of all manure thanks to another SARE Grant. I use buffer strips, strip contouring, and waterways to help prevent erosion.”
This project was the second phase of a 1999 SARE grant project (see: FNC99-249), and the main focus was to identify uses for flax other than direct sales into bulk commodity markets. Specifically, Rissman fed flax seed to beef cattle to see if it would enhance the Omega Fatty Acid structure of grain-fed red meat.
Sixty head of certified organic cattle weighing 600 lbs. each were divided into two groups and kept in a dry lot. One group received flax seed in their diet and the other group did not.
After 12 months of feeding, ten animals from each group were processed (1 per week as the animals were sold) and a pound of meat from each animal was sent to Iowa State University for testing. Tests identified the percent change from feeding flax as follows:
PROPERTY/ (PERCENT CHANGE)
P/S: Ratio of polyunsaturated fatty
acids to saturated fatty acids (-14.8)
MUFA: Monounsaturated fatty acids (-2.5)
SFA: Saturated fatty acids (+3.6)
PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acids (-11.9)
CLA: Conjugated linoleic acid (+44.5)
W-3 fatty acids (+20.1)
W-6 fatty acids (-19.5)
Ratio of W-6/W-3 fatty acids (+32.9)
The best results were seen in the CLA level, the W-3 fatty acid level, and the W-6/W-3 ratio. Rissman says, “The increase in CLA by 44.5 percent is highly desirable because of the anticancer, antiatherosclerosis, antiobesity, antidiabetes effect of this fatty acid.” He adds, “Another positive increase of 20.1 percent of the Omega-3’s is excellent, also lowering the Omega-6’s by an equal amount (19.5 percent) is good for diets low in Omega-3’s.” Concerning the ratio of W-6/W-3, Rissman says, it “was reduced from 7.8 down to 5.2 percent, a 32.9 percent change, due to feeding flax. This is very close to grass-fed beef at 3-4:1 and certain fish at 3-4:1. Anything below 10:1 is considered desirable.”
The P/S ratio was expected to increase, but it decreased 14.8 percent. MUFA is considered desirable, but decreased slightly (2.5 percent). The PUFA level decreased 11.9 percent, but an even lower result was expected.
Rissman concludes: “This one research project has shown that by feeding flax (or flax by-products), we can enhance the nutritional value of beef that is grain fed. We can bring nutritional values closer to those of grass-fed beef. We now need to start advertising these facts and capture the greater financial value of a more nutritious product.” He notes, “Overall, I feel we had very positive results, which would warrant further research.”
Educational & Outreach Activities
2/4/05 “Growing flax — our experience.” A presentation at the Flax Informational Meeting Series, sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Practical Farmers of Iowa, Crawfordsville, IA.
2/25/05 Flax Production Workshop. A presentation with Paul Mugge at the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference & Organic University, La Crosse Center, La Crosse, WI. Sponsored by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), www.mosesorganic.org