Reserve your July 2018 beef here!
In 1917, Israel Bennion, our great-grandfather moved his cattle operation to “Greenjacket” and built a house that we live in today. Cattle graze the ranch pastures and the adjacent public land and are within 3 miles of home throughout their lives.
I didn’t learn to swear until I began working with cows about 1998, and broken-down farm equipment in 1999, but the other half of the story is that I have repented and we have learned to be gentle with cows. Don’t yell. Herding is like selling real estate, it is all about location—or at least position. We raise in a natural way, in other words, we don’t use hormones; we only use antibiotics on the rare cattle that get infections; we give vaccinations and treat for parasites.
My wife Elizabeth knows every cow. She knows how old they are, whether they’ve ever lost a calf, what markings the cow has, which mother’s they came from, and whether we’ve kept any of their calves. She watches the cows through their lifetimes and knows their body score and fertility, whether they calved early or late, and whether she will knock you down when you go to tag her calf. She frequently prints a roll call sheet and takes her magic marker and sometimes her granddaughter Madelyn and roll-calls the herd and notes any problems.
For 2 decades our primary crop was selling calves in the fall. Occasionally we have kept some as sold them as grass-fed beef. We have introduced bulls with high marbling and sold to an association that promised data on the finished product. According to the data we’ve received, most of our finished steers have graded “prime.” Under the USDA grading system of select, choice, and prime, less than 2 percent grade prime. Our cattle make good beef. So we have decided to transition to selling the finished beef. Two years ago we began with Wagyu, a breed out of Japan that grades beyond prime because of its marbling and tenderness. But quality comes at a cost of both time and inputs.
We want to offer three kinds of beef in the future: Wagyu/Angus Cross (American Wagyu), Grass-Fed, and what we will call Ranch Beef (Grass-Fed, Barley Finished).First, what we are calling a ranch beef that is a Black Angus or Red Angus calf raised here its entire life. Born in March/April under those trees over there, from May to August following its mama throughout 10,000 acres of permits north and east of here. In September returning to these alfalfa fields here to be weaned. In December start eating hay until April when the grass begins to grow and they are a year old and weigh 700 lbs. They will continue on pasture and receive ranch-raised barley until they weigh 1400 lbs are ready to slaughter in the fall at about 18 months.
The next category is Grass-fed beef. These will be like the ranch calves except they will received no grain inputs. We have raised these before and some people here have bought them. They take an additional year to get mature—or about 28 months in all. Because of this, we need to charge more. The meat MAY be less tender, so we have our butchers hang them for at least 14 days to let the meat cure.
The Wagyu/Angus Cross are calves with an Angus mother and a Wagyu father. Wagyu matures more slowly and doesn’t look as hearty as the Angus. But if the beef is better it may not matter. Because our herd is well-adapted to conditions here, we don’t dare own Wagyu cows, but we own a Wagyu bull that produces the wagyu/angus cross. Because Wagyu matures so slowly the calves will be finished with grain in a feedlot.