Thankful for Driftless Grass



This bull is fifteen months old.  He was born August, 2013.  Wintered on his mama’s milk and hay.  Weaned onto spring pastures in May.  Grazed Driftless region pastures and hay fields for  another six months.  And now stands there weighing close to 1300 lbs.  His shrunk, sale barn weight was 1260 lbs, a few days later.

If you are a cattle farmer, the above paragraph may be difficult to believe.  If I heard this story a few years ago, I would have found it difficult to believe, and would have been on the lookout for qualifier words.

Qualifier words are used to hedge a statement.  They give the speaker wiggle room.

An example:  Someone says, “I pretty much exercise every day.”

Some people hear that and think, “Wow, that person exercises a lot!”

I hear the qualifier and break it down into fact and wish.  The fact in this statement is that the speaker does not exercise every day.  A good guess is that the speaker wishes he exercised every day.

I used one qualifying statement in the first paragraph.  Can you find it?

DSCF2064I said he weighed “close to” 1300 lbs.  The fact is he did not weight 1300 lbs, or I had no way to know for sure what he weighed, hence the qualifier.

If I ended the first paragraph on that sentence, it would have neutered the whole paragraph.  It would have been a list of what I did, followed with a guess statistic.  If that was all I had, I probably wouldn’t have bothered to write this post, as I’ve written before about how I manage my fall-calving herd.  But the sale-barn weight, an actual pay-weight, gives heft to the story.


Standing next to the bull in the middle photo, and in the bottom photo, is a fall-calved steer, similar age as the bull.  The steer did well and weighs around 1100 lbs.  Steers don’t gain as fast as bulls.

I sold most of my fall-calved yearlings, but plan to keep this steer and three others through the winter so we can have beef quicker next spring for our farmer’s markets.  They’ll probably be butchered after a month of good grass in the spring.

Why did we have a yearling bull?  He looked tremendous as a calf, so I sold him to my parents to be used later as a breeder.  They later had second thoughts about the temperament of the genetics from that line, so we sold him.

I was disappointed as I thought he was a tremendous bull, but this blog post is a way to make lemonade, I guess.  We probably wouldn’t have know his true weight if we hadn’t have sold him, which brings us around to the title.  I never cease to be thankful for the richness of the grass in the Driftless region.

7 Responses to Thankful for Driftless Grass

  1. Your bull and other cattle look real nice just being grass feed. I really like the looks of this breed, I am still trying to decide what breed to raise myself, I am not 100% sold on Scottish Highland cattle like I have written about. I don’t think they are suited for the hot humid summers of Iowa. Can you tell me what breed your cattle are? They look like they could be Red Devon or Red Angus.

  2. Thanks, Gordon. My cattle are 85% plus Red Angus, on a Shorthorn base, which is why you may see some white or roan.
    My partnership originally started because my partners were raising Scottish Highland cattle and growth and meat yield was too slow. Scottish Highland are a fine breed if you want to forget about them, but if you want some production, an English breed would be best for grass. I like Red Angus because it seems the red color does better in the sun and hot summers.

  3. Thanks Matthew, I didn’t know the Red Angus do so well on grass alone is that because of the 15% Shorthorn? I would love to have Angus that I could feed on grass and hay alone. I would love to have that bull and cows that look like yours in my herd.

  4. Don’t be surprised if I come to see you when I am ready to buy some cattle. I will start out with two calf, cow pairs. Do you ever sale any cattle like that?

  5. Gordon, I guess my blog posts are pretty good advertising. Sure, I would sell you some and you are welcome to visit anytime also.
    Red Angus is the best breed in my opinion, but you still have to pick within the breed. Shorthorns have pretty much ruined their breed by allowing outside genetics such as Maine-Anjou into the breed. That’s originally why we started using Red Angus, because we couldn’t find good Shorthorn bulls. Now I see some people are crossing Shorthorn with Red Angus and calling the resulting cross Red Durham and selling that. It’s just marketing, though. Might as well go straight to Red Angus in my opinion.

  6. grasspunk says:

    I like the look of the steer in photo 2. He’s going to finish out nicely.

  7. Thanks, Brent! Always like the look of your Salers as well.

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