2016 in Review

 

Winter 2016 16 Winter 2016 17 Winter 2016 18

2016 was a year of expansion!  Between building 25 acres of new perimeter fence on a new pasture lease and growing the herd, we’ve let our online footprint fade.  To counteract this, we wanted to take advantage of this quiet Family Day Monday to thank those who support our commitment to producing 100% grass-fed beef raised in an environmentally sustainable and friendly matter.

In 2016, we had 17 calves born at Banbury Grasslands.  Our cows usually give birth on their own in the fields.  Fortunately, our children were able to observe the miracle of birth this year ( https://youtu.be/04pQUhFgxNg ) and this has led to many wonderful discussions on how miraculously cows are made.

The interconnectedness between Banbury Grasslands’ ecosystem, our animals, and our family strengthened again over 2016.  This past year, we saw decisions that we made in 2013 about soil management pay significant dividends to our herd’s health.  This past summer when many farmers suffered through a drought and resorted to feeding hay or corn, our cattle grazed eastern gamagrass.  Gamagrass is a warm season grass native to North America that thrived with the enormous buffalo herds long ago.  It has deep roots and loves heat.  It now is well established at Banbury Grasslands and should last a life-time with proper grazing management.

We harvested 20 head this year, mostly 22-28 month old steers.  Due to a great year, we were again able to donate to the Waterloo Region Foodbank.

In the fall, we moved the herd to a new grasslands property that we had spent the summer fencing.  The cattle were unsure about the trip down the road to the new property, but loved it when they arrived at their fall vacation get away.

As winter returned, we went back to bale grazing – this time at the back of our property.  As we have rotated the cattle through our property, we have seen dramatic grasslands improvement resulting from the manure and wasted hay building soil fertility.  We have started to see the ridge where there previously been poor conditions improve due to the bale grazing we did last winter.

For the third consecutive year, we raised meat chickens on pasture.  The chickens certainly love being outside, pecking at new grass in search of bugs.  For 2017, our application for the Chicken Farmers of Ontario Artisanal Chicken Program has been accepted and we will be able to significantly expand our flock.

We had the good fortune of having Banbury Grasslands featured in a short film “Teriano” about a Maasai woman and her empowering journey.  We were excited to hear that this film was accepted into the largest US documentary festival (DOC NYC). Watch the trailer here: https://vimeo.com/90thparallel/review/187228737/ac8479b6aa

We thank our friends and family for their support with the farm.  Ernie, Alex and Teresa, and Marcus – thank you for catching chickens with us at 4am in the morning and moving cows to new grass each day when we were away.

Thank you to all of you for your support in 2016.  Farming is my passion.

David & Leslie

PS: Checkout & Like our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BanburyGrasslands/

2015 in Review

Cattle on the Ridge bale grazing 2015

2015 was a great year at Banbury Grasslands, and we thought we’d share some highlights

It’s ‘almost’ hard to remember given our green Christmas and relatively mild winter weather that last January and February were so bitterly cold! The cattle spent most of their time outside bale grazing and generally only went indoors during the worst of the storms.  We had a few frozen water lines, but were able to manage well.

In the spring, we had 14 calves born at Banbury Grasslands.  Only two first-calf heifers received assistance since I saw them being born and they needed a bit of help.  The rest I saw for the first time as lovely new calves – either learning to walk, being licked off by momma, or nursing.  Calving season truly is a wonderful time of year!   All female calves will join the cow herd as we expand and our grasslands continue to produce more grass each year under our management.

I eagerly anticipated grazing my eastern gamagrass for the first time last summer.  Gamagrass is a warm season grass native to North America that thrived along side the enormous buffalo herds long ago.  It grows really well during July and August loving the heat with its very deep roots.  It is nicknamed ice-cream grass owing to its sweetness (high energy) and the fact that cattle will kill it by overgrazing unless they are forced to keep moving and allow it to recover (electric fence in our case or predators in the case of the buffalo).  I planted it in 2013 after working through the import permits to get the seed in from the USA.  I could have grazed it a bit in 2014, but opted to let the plants develop and grow deeper roots.  Gamagrass can easily grow as tall as your shoulder and form big bunches.  Now that the grass is well established, it should last a life-time with proper grazing management.

We harvested 18 head this year.  They were mostly 22-28 month old steers who were born at my parents’ farm in Brighton in 2013 and moved to Banbury Grasslands after weaning.  Due to a great year, we were able to donate an entire grass-fed animal to the Waterloo Region Foodbank.

In the fall, we tried something new – making apple cider.  We collected the wild apples and brought them to a cider mill.  We’ve been enjoying hot spiced apple cider this winter.  Since I feed the cattle apple cider vinegar in their water (1%-2% by volume) and we had lots of apples, I decided to do another bulk batch of 430 litres and ferment it myself. Some of you may have seen this bubbling away in the shed when picking up meat orders.  Apple cider vinegar is a natural immune boosting tonic and stimulates the rumen microbes to improve digestion.

As winter returned, we went back to bale grazing – this time on the ridge.  For the previous two years, we bale grazed in the fields by the house and have seen dramatic grasslands improvement resulting from the manure and wasted hay building soil fertility.  We are looking forward to seeing the change in the ridge this spring.

For the second year, we also raised meat chickens on pasture, and I think I’m getting the hang of it :)  The chickens certainly love it when I move their pens forward each day, pecking at the new grass, scratching the new ground and chasing bugs.  We’ll do it again in 2016.

On a personal note, the family and I managed to get away for a camping trip as well an extended visit to Manitoba. Many thanks to Ernie, Alex and Teresa for checking in on the cattle and moving them to new grass each day we were away.

Thank you for your support in 2015 as we strove to produce high quality 100% grass-fed beef raised in an environmentally sustainable and friendly manner.  We look forward to another great year and wish you the best in 2016!

David & Leslie

Join the Daily Pasture Mooove!

I often get questions or funny looks when I tell people I move my cattle every day to new grass.  We put together this video to show you how easy it actually is and how it works.  They actually were a bit difficult this time!  But mostly that was because they were very satisfied and relatively full from the previous day’s grazing.  You can still see plenty of grass in the strip they are in, but compare that to where they are going!  We like to leave a good amount of residue behind, grass that is still several inches tall that has had it’s top bitten off along with taller stemmy grass that has been trampled to the ground.  This enables the pasture to recover and regrow much faster as its solar collectors are not completely wiped out.  The trampled grass will break down providing food for earth worms and soil microbes, building organic matter so the soil will hold more water and nutrients and grow more grass next time – sustainable!

The strip is about 45 feet wide and runs 850 feet over the hill (almost an acre), it will keep the ~40 cow/calves/yearlings happy for just one day.  It will then be allowed to rest, recover and regrow for approx 45+ days before it is grazed again.

Dung Beetles & the Perfect Manure Patty at Banbury Grasslands

The video shows dung beetles working on a fresh manure patty.  The patty is pretty close to perfect, the right consistency that stacks up just a bit with a tell-tale divot in the middle.  This tells us that the cattle are getting a good balanced diet and are gaining weight.  If the patty was too runny and very flat it indicates too much protein in the diet from immature grass plants or that they are eating the plants down too far (in which case they need to be moved to new grass faster, or given more at a time).  If the patty stacked up very high, it indicates they are eating too much low quality over-mature grass with very high non-digestible fiber.  In both too runny, too firm cases the cattle will be gaining slowly or possibly loosing weight.

 

 

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The cows are here!

We’re very happy that the cows are back at Banbury Grasslands this spring (2013). Two weeks ago, 22 shorthorn yearlings (some grass-fed steers and some replacement females) we raised at my parents farm arrived and settled into their new home. Needless to say it has been very busy here for the last little while!

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The Grassland ecosystem, what it’s all about…

This is a very powerful TED talk by Allan Savory, in which he explains how Holistic Management and high density planned grazing is reversing desertification and quite possibly saving the planet.

 

 

 

 

Shorthorn Cattle

 

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Two of our Shorthorn yearling heifers, Victoria & Audrey. (June 2010)

The Shorthorn breed of cattle originated in the North East of England in the late 18th century. The breed was developed as dual purpose, suitable for both dairy and beef production; however there were always certain blood lines within the breed which emphasized one quality or the other. Over time these different lines diverged and by the second half of the 20th century two separate breeds had developed – the Beef Shorthorn, and the Dairy Shorthorn. All Shorthorn cattle are coloured red, white or roan, although roan cattle are preferred by some, and completely white animals are not common.

I purchased my first purebred beef Shorthorn in 1995; she was a beautiful roan heifer that I showed in 4-H.  We chose Shorthorn cows because they are fertile and docile. We breed and develop our animals with a focus on grass-based cattle that are moderate framed, fertile, and easy keeping (meaning they excel on our grass/hay, putting on weight easily and bringing in a good calf every year).  We continue to improve on the strong carcass characteristics – marbling & tenderness – for which the Shorthorn breed is well known.