All About Grass Feeding Animals
Farm animals are fed in a variety of ways. It usually occurs in stalls, pens, and feedlots. The animals are usually packed close together. Industry factory farming started in the 1930s. It has progressed to the point where veterinary drugs, feed additives, growth hormones, and nutraceuticals are used to increase the quality of livestock and increase livestock production. Grass-fed-only animals are the exception. Grass-fed meats are for sale in markets. Read on for more information about grass-fed animals.
Raising Grass-Fed Animals Only on Grass Isn’t Practical
Grass-fed animals eat grass. They may also eat other plants that are available on the pasture. A 100% grass-fed cow may have consumed other plants besides grass including alfalfa, sainfoin, birdsfoot trefoil, and vetch. They may also eat clovers of various colors including red clover, white clover, and crimson clover. If the cow only eats grass, it may eat orchardgrass, canary grass, quackgrass, foxtail, Timothy-grass, ryegrass, Bermuda grass, fescue, or bromegrass. Most grass-fed meats on sale are procured from animals that consumed these plants.
Mixed Rations and Concentrates are Preferred
Conventionally fed cows eat total mixed rations and concentrates. Total mixed rations contain grains, grain silages, hays, haylages, soymeal, and commodity feeds. Grain silages are grains that have been fermented, harvested, or stored. Haylages are alfalfa, clover, or sorghum, and their fermented versions. Commodity feeds contain corn gluten, soybean hulls, distillers grains, citrus pulp, beet pulp, molasses, and other ingredients.
Concentrates provide protein, calories, and other nutrients in a condensed form. It usually contains cottonseed meal or linseed meal along with vitamin/mineral combinations and protein concentrates.
Meats that were procured from animals that were fed these types of feeds compete in the market against grass-fed meats that are on sale.
The Benefits of Grass Feeding
There’s more nutrition in the meat and dairy products derived from cows fed grass. These food products have better fat quality and more conjugated linoleic acid. There’s more omega-3 fats and there’s a better ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. There’s also higher quality saturated fats in meats and dairy products derived from 100% grass-fed cows. These facts are bullet points for grass-fed meats that are on sale.
The Requirements for Grass-Fed Certification
The grazing season for grass-fed cows is interesting. It depends on the climate and in different regions of the U.S. the grazing season takes place at different times of the year. The grazing requirements for grass-fed cows varies among different certifying agencies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires grass-fed cows to graze for at least 120 days. Other certifying agencies require more grazing time.
The American Grassfed Association (AGA)
This organizations certifies meat and dairy products as grass-fed if they were procured from grass-fed animals. This label is more stringent than the USDA requirements for grass-fed animals. An AGA-certified product also is a USDA certified product. Look for these labels when shopping for grass-fed products. Most grass-fed meats on sale will carry this label.
The Food Alliance (FA)
Another organization that certifies grass-fed products is the Food Alliance. This organization is more stringent than the USDA for grass-fed testing and labeling. If the products are certified by the Food Alliance, they are automatically eligible for certification from the USDA. Most grass-fed meats on sale will carry this label.
Other Interesting Information
The fields where feed crops are grown has a term. It’s called leys. On these fields, feed crops and non-feed crops are grown on a rotational basis. Grass leys contain grasses. Leys can be classified as ‘short-term’ or ‘long-term.’
Sheeps and goats are different than cows. They spend less time indoors than cows. The young and pregnant sheeps and goats eat different things than the mature sheeps and goats. Barley and cereals are only fed to the pregnant and lactating ewes and lambs.