NEW CASTLE, Pa. — Rotational grazing is making an impact, not just for the earth, but for consumers as well.
That was the message given by many in attendance at a pasture walk held in Lawrence County, Pa., May 20.
The Northwest and Southwest chapters of Project Grass, along with the Lawrence County Conservation District, USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service, Pa. Resource Conservation and Developmental Council and the Pa. Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, sponsored the event.
It began at the Lawrence County Fairgrounds with grass-fed beef producer Ron Gargasz talking about the benefits of grass-fed beef versus beef raised on a feedlot.
One benefit is being found in cancer patients. Gargasz said oncologists are prescribing grass-fed beef to patients in their fight against the disease because it is high in “conjugated linoleic acid.”
In addition, he said the fatty acid Omega-6 is found to be 17 times less in grass-fed beef, making it a healthier source of protein.
Environment benefits. Besides those benefits, Gargasz said the grazing is better for the environment. For example, the ground is not being tilled, conserving soil, and the use of insecticides is not needed.
He said finding what grasses work on your property and having the right mixture may take some work. Gargasz added that it is important for producers to keep their eyes on paddocks and be sure to move the livestock as needed.
Fall growth. One thing he noted was that many people don’t realize grasses generally have a busy growth spurt between Sept. 4 and Oct. 5. He emphasized the worst thing a producer can do is to let the grass get depleted at that time because it will take even longer in the spring months for the growth to come back.
Gargasz, who farms organically near Volant, Pa., wrote the curriculum for a master’s degree in sustainable agriculture at Slippery Rock University and has taught biology.
The group then set out to visit Crestview Farms owned by Warren Reagle, to see a solar pumping system Reagle installed on the property. It is the main water source for his rotational grazing system.
The system was paid for in part through grants from the NRCS, the RC&D and the county conservation district.
The solar pump is just what it says. It is a pump that gets its energy source from the sun.
Reagle said when it is sunny, you can hear it working more, and when it is cloudy it is a little slower, but they have not had a time without water.
The pump gets the water through a waterline to the top of the pasture. It is pumped over 100 feet in elevation.
On top of the hill sits a set of tanks where the water is stored. Water is then gravity fed, as needed, to troughs in the individual paddocks, making it easy for the cattle to get the water they need.
Reagle has 77 Texas Longhorns on 55 acres of property using a rotational grazing system.
He became interested in the meat because of its leanness and low fat.
“I tried it once and decided right away I wanted to raise it,” Reagle said.
He added that in addition to the meat quality, the Longhorns are easier to raise than some other types of cattle has tried.
Reagle said his herd has been very healthy since he began in 1999.
“I very seldom have a vet bill,” Reagle said.
In addition, calving is easier than in other breeds. He said Longhorns have one of the highest unassisted birth rates.
Reagle said there are some disadvantages to raising Texas Longhorns, but they can be overcome with some planning.
The problem comes in with their horns. Ordinary cattle equipment does not always meet the design needed to account for the long horns.
He said feeders, waters and feeding wagons must have pipes that go across and not up and down or the cattle can get stuck in them.
In addition, a special chute that accommodates the cattle’s horns must be used at the farm.