A Local Pasture-Based Beef Production System for Northwest Michigan
The third and final year of the project was slated for 2015, however we requested and received a no-cost extension which extends the project until fall of 2015. The highlight of this year was Michigan State University hosting the Grassfed Exchange at Lake City Research Center. A NCR-SARE sponsored event, we enjoyed 250 visitors at the farm from 23 different states, Argentina and multiple provinces in Canada. Importantly, multiple producers who are participants in this project spoke at the conference. First Jon Nelson spoke of his transition from a row crop system to a grazing, grass-finishing system. A link to his talk can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYsMsR5UpdI. Secondly we had a producer round table group discuss the opportunities afforded to them from the grass-fed business and did an outstanding job discussing the industry; their talk can be accessed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw6Qcu-9V8k.
This year was a working year where we worked to help producers expedite each of their producer grants. Most of the grants were oriented towards improvements in soil health or forage production. A few producers actually purchased scales to help them monitor weight gain and mature cow weights on the farm.
One abstract was presented at the Joint Annual Meeting for the American Society of Animal Science and Dairy Science. This abstract used data collected for the grant and then did a life cycle assessment of the management practice. I then took a sensitivity analysis on the amount of carbon sequestration necessary to see the system break even. This data was also the impetus for the publication of a journal article co-authored by multiple well know scientists including Rattan Lal, Mark Rasmussen (head of the Leopold Institute), Jerry Hatfield, Richard Teague and others. The journal article can be accessed here: http://www.jswconline.org/content/71/2/156.full.pdf+html.
Another aspect of the grant we are working on is getting the grazing app online. This has been a challenge primarily because of the costs that continue to rise when addressing complications. We are beginning to use the Ap in the field however. Finally, we have made chapter writing assignments and are working to compile the grass-finishing manual.
- Three cooperating producer pasture walks occurred in 2015.
- Grazing Ap was beta-tested; kinks are being worked on
- Post Survey for grant conclusion is being finalized
- Grass-finishing manual chapters assigned and being worked on
- All mini-grants have been expedited and lack final report to indicate project outcomes
- Multiple farm visits by investigators
- New Value Chains Created
- Beef Distributor has expanded their beef purchase
- All education activities completed
- On-farm innovation grants are approaching completion
- Grass-fed Exchange hosted- SARE producers were centric to the national meeting
- Lake City hosted farm tour with over 200 people from 23 states, Canada and Argentina
- One abstract presented
- Project approach led to one co-authored manuscript
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
First, for our program at Michigan State University is emerging into a leader for grass-finishing of beef, an extension article from our grant investigators can be accessed here: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/michigan_grass_fed_beef_production_update. This genesis is directly associated with the support we have from the NCR-SARE. We are very thankful. As an indicator of the impact of our outreach, research and producer involvement we hosted the 2015 Grassfed Exchange which is the national meeting of the grass-fed beef industry. The first day was a tour of a neighboring farm and for a majority of the day at Lake City Research Center. A short recap of the tour can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9u4mlSbVVCY. Importantly, we enjoyed 230 people from 23 different states, Canada and Argentina.
Another important outcome of this grant was to generate a minimum of 200 head of cattle to go through a value chain in NW MI. This has been accomplished with a multitude of producers contributing cattle to the value chain. Because of this, new value chains have also been created. An article about one of the value chains with a participating producer can be accessed here: http://www.therapidian.org/placematters-new-butcher-shop-opens-wealthy-street-baxter-east-hills-neighborhoods. Another important outcome is our participating producer, Cherry Capital, has gone from sourcing 15 head of Grass-fed cattle a year to now over 100 annually. This is largely due to our efforts to improve their supply. Using a $3.50 multiplier for beef, based on a purchase price of $3.15 per lb of carcass weight, this is an additional $654,500 to the local economy of NW MI. We envision the overall economic impact of this grant to actually well surpass this when all of the cattle in the value chain are accounted for.
One of the most fun aspects of this project have been the mini-grants. Just from a testimonial perspective, the 17 cooperating producers have been very appreciative. We are very excited to continue this relationship and quantify the impacts we have made at the participating farms.
Our final outputs are to generate exit surveys, conduct a final focus group of all participating in the value chain we have created and to finish our grass-finishing manual. I wanted to share with you the outcomes of a survey we conducted on the Grassfed Exchange meeting we hosted this past year showcasing the outreach and research from the NCR SARE Grant.
We administered a survey of the conference and on average 45 participants responded. First was a survey of the tour at Lake City Research Center. All responses were graded from a 1 to 5 (with 5 being outstanding). For the speakers, transportation, materials, location and meal the overall scores were 4.71, 4.69, 4.71, 4.70 and 4.53 respectively. We received many important comments on what the attendees learned which are as follows:
What did you learn:
– Individual minerals supplementation
– Information about soil health. A good visual of rotational grazing pastures
– Annuals fill the slump. Balance C&N in annuals
– New fence products.
– MSU research
– Rotational grazing
– Good info on annuals
– Importance of crop/grass variation
– Add basics to summer mixes
– Importance of fertility and forages on pastures to maximize forage growth/acre
– How different forages grow
– Expand knowledge on grazing
– That intensive pasture rotation builds soil
– It is possible to grass finish at 18-20 months of age
– Cover crop grazing
– Importance of soils and all the organic regulation
– Different management styles of various grassfed producers.
– Annuals for grazing/finishing. Lovely cow herd.
– MSU is developing a premier research/education presence in the grass finished beef industry
– Ways to wipe out weeds in crops for grassfed that nitrogen compacts the soil
– Causes of compaction
– Importance of knowing your processor
– Pasture management
– There is hope for land grant universities (my favorite)
Pertaining to the overall program, we too enjoyed very favorable responses. Responses for the Speakers/Presentations, Topics and Overall value the score were 4.59, 4.59 and 4.5, respectively.
Other comments about the conference were gleaned:
– Stocking enterprises, grassfed market projections, contacts
– Marketing from Seven Sons
– Put effort into website marketing
– Put a wider variety of seeds into the cover crops
– Leaving trees in pasture
– Direction of grassfed market
– Different ways to market product
– Marketing from Seven Sons
– Woody perennial poly culture and importance of diversity
– Marketing both retail and wholesale
– Importance of networking
– Diversity in important
– Jason Rowntree program was well worth the trip
– Network, production, marketing
– Amazing speakers, too much to list
– Management practices, research trends
– Farm Succession, Cover crop transitions
– Ability to create a larger amount of area.
– Know what you know, know what you don’t know & know who you know that knows what you don’t
– Don’t be afraid to have conversations
– The frankness and sharing of personal management, finances, generational turnover was so valuable.
555 W. Cedar Ave
Gladwin, MI 48624
Office Phone: 9894267741
Grazing and Crop Management Educator
301 West Upton Street
Reed City, MI 49677
Office Phone: 2318326139
Michigan State University
Natural Resources Building
480 Wilson Road, Room 310A
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5174320293
Meat Quality Extension Educator
1142 S Van Dyke, Suite 200
Bad Axe, MI 48413
Office Phone: 9892699949