(Mikhayla DeMott) Good morning. And welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host, here in Hutchinson, Kansas, at the Grassroots Cattle Company, a strictly grass-fed cattle operation. Stay with us to learn about the herd genetics, grass-fed cattle as well as their direct marketing. Stay with us and we’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.
(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host here with Torrey Ball at his farm. First off, tell me a little bit of history and background of your farm? (Torrey) In 1982, my family moved here to the farm just right South of Hutchinson. My great uncle had owned it before that and he sold it to my parents. And his grandpa had started it as a dairy around the turn of the 1900s. And we moved in then, and the dairy had long been gone, the cows had been gone. And dad still worked off the farm for part of the time as we built up a land base and started to add cattle. And at one point we had hogs and chickens and sheep. Now we’re basically just cattle. It’s grown from that and then in 2004, I came back, I had been working off the farm. I came back to the farm part time and worked off the farm. And then two years ago, my dad wanted to transition and slow down some and so he retired, officially he’s retired but he still helps a whole lot. And then my wife, her family’s farm is just east of Buhler and so we put the two farms kind of together and so we farm about 1500 acres down south of Hutch and about 500 acres east of Buhler about 20 miles away; mainly crops in the Buhler farm, crops and cattle down here and Hutch. When I was in high school, Grandpa gave me two cows to start the herd and we’ve slowly built to that. In 2004 when I came back to the farm more, we decided to move towards grass fed beef and the reasoning for that was primarily to hopefully take the highs and the lows out of the market. And so we direct market some, we wholesale some and we sell some genetics bulls and females, into the grass fed sector primarily. Before that we were just a normal calf operation, sold calves at weaning at sale barn, just like most cattle operations around the state I would say. And some of the forages that like you’re seeing right here in the pictures, would be cover crops. There’s wheat, barley, rye, triticale, vetch, turnips, radishes, some of those kinds of things in this blend. (Mikhayla) Okay. Great. Thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.
(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host here with Torrey Ball. So first off, Torrey, tell me the difference in genetics when it comes to grass fed beef versus conventional feedlot beef? (Torrey) Good question. There are a lot of different people trying to do grass fed beef with a lot of different genetics. What we have found that works well for us in our program here in south central Kansas, is we were primarily Angus, black Angus and red Angus. And we have decided because we’re direct marketing some of our beef to customers and trying to get the best eating experience possible which means we need cattle that will fatten easily on grass. We’ve gone back and we’re using some genetics from many years ago, the old Aberdeen Angus genetics, for example. We’ve got two bulls on the farm, a red Angus bull and his sire was born a few years ago in Scotland, in the county of Angus. And then another bull we’ve got, he’s a nine-year-old now, his sire was born and imported into the States. His sire was born in 1953 and brought into the States back when you could still import cattle from the UK. We’ve used him very heavily. I’m really excited about his females, the daughters he’s producing and we’ve sold a couple bulls out of him. We don’t sell a lot of seed stock. But we sell a few bulls a year. We mainly have brought cattle in from the Wye Angus Herd in Maryland from a couple herds in North Carolina and one in Pennsylvania and then a couple herds in Montana. And we’ve tried to adapt them to south central Kansas. And then we’ll keep over five to seven bulls a year intact. We’ll probably use two or three in our own herd and sell the remaining ones. We’ll sell some bred heifers or open heifers every year primarily to people looking to get into grass fed beef but not always. Our cattle are more moderate frame than most of the cattle today, in size. But we’re looking for a thousand, 1100 to 1200 pound finished weight steer. And so most of our cows are going to be in the 1000, 1200 pound range size. (Mikhayla) Perfect. So tell me a little bit more about some techniques and strategies you use to keep your grass fed cattle healthy? (Torrey) By not being able to feed grain, we’ve got to have a year ‘round supply of grass or forage growing, forages as much as possible. We will feed hay as we need to supplement. But the field we’re standing in now is a winter annual mix. And these fall calvers behind us are grazing that. They’ve been grazing on a mix like this all winter long with very few supplemented bales to give them a little dry feed to supplement. If we get a calf that gets sick or a cow that gets sick our protocol is we will give it a shot of antibiotics to get it over that, we will segregate it, keep records of that and some of our customers don’t mind if they’ve been treated once or twice in their lifetime. Some don’t ever want any antibiotics and so we’ll make sure that that animal would not have gotten into one of those customers that doesn’t want that. (Mikhayla) Okay. Great, thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.
(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m back here with Torrey Ball to talk a little bit about his grass fed cattle. So tell me about your pasture management in your rotational grazing? (Torrey) Good question. We’ve got many different pastures and we use many different grasses. We have about 500 acres of native grass. That’s primarily used with the cow/calves. And then in the wintertime we will be grazing winter annuals, like we’re standing on now. And we will plant other covers for spring and fall. We have a cool season mix that we finish our calves on with Alfalfa and a couple kinds of clovers, endophyte friendly fescue. There’s reed canary grass out there, there’s broom grass out there, there’s some creeping foxtail there. And that’s a perennial pasture, then we’ll also have some annual pastures to supplement in the periods where, it gets too hot for the cool season grasses which would be either our crab grass or sedans, millets, those kinds of forages work very well for finishing for us. For example, this winter annual mix that we’re standing in now, there’s wheat, there’s triticale, there’s rye, there’s barley, there’s the vetch, there’s turnips, there’s radishes and dwarf essex rape. And a few of the other blends, we throw some other things in as well from the cover crop standpoint. But we do a lot of cover cropping with our no till farm ground but also for cattle for feed. (Mikhayla) So tell me a little bit about your agritourism business and how you have some crops that you still work it? (Torrey) Kind of like are our ground where we have many different species growing, most of the time with our cover crops. Nature likes diversity. So do my wife and I. We have the cropping business obviously in both farms. We have the cattle business and my wife is part of the sweet corn business with her sister. She and her family also have a corn maze and a pumpkin patch up at Buhler. She has a metal art business. And then dad and I have two sludge hauling businesses to help supplement and fertilize the ground as well. (Mikhayla) So you of course don’t feed that corn in that grain to your cattle, so then what do you do with it? (Torrey) Correct. We feed no grain to our cattle. Except, I can’t lie, we’ve got one 18-year-old cow still at the house, I want one more calf out of her and she is getting supplemented with grain but none of the other cattle on our property get grain. All the grain that we produce wheat, milo, soybeans, corn goes to town to the elevator or we do produce seed wheat and seed soybeans for Kauffman Seeds, which is located near Yoder. (Mikhayla) Okay. Great, thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.
(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host here at the Grassroots Cattle Company. First off, tell me a little bit of some trends you’ve seen over the years and how you dealt with those trends? (Torrey) When we started thinking about grass fed beef in 2003, 2004 and decided to take the leap, we really didn’t know what our customer base would be to a certain degree. We knew there were some nationwide kind of buyers. But over the years we’ve developed enough of a clientele locally that we sell everything off the farm, goes to Yoder Meats, seven miles away. Everything we produce is butchered there and either wholesaled or sold retail locally to friends, family and other customers. It’s interesting many of, I have to say actually most of our customers that buy our beef were either non red meat eaters or they weren’t eating beef at all for whatever reasons. And for some reason they have come back and decided they wanted to eat grass fed beef. And most of them want our story, they want to know it’s locally produced; they want to know who produced it. And that’s where the majority of our customer base has come from. (Mikhayla) And what are some challenges you’ve seen over the years, since you’ve been in this industry? (Torrey) The biggest challenge is weather. A few years ago our finishing pasture was totally flooded out. And we lost all our forage that we were going to finish those calves on and we had to go to plan B and plan C really quickly. We have irrigation and we graze under irrigation which helps and that’s an advantage we have that I know not everybody has. But so we can somewhat protect ourselves from drought in the finishing herd by doing that. But flooding actually was worse than the drought for us from that challenge but just dealing with the weather and keeping that energy level high enough to finish them on and that’s the reason we only butcher the fat steers from primarily June through September when we’ve got good growing grass and they’ve been on that grass for a few months. In the wintertime we just can’t seem to get the gains that we need to get to finish cattle. (Mikhayla) So when it comes to grass fed beef, how do you market that? (Torrey) We’ve got a website grassrootscattle.com. But most of our customers were actually word of mouth from friends and family. We have three major wholesale outfits that are within a ten-mile radius of here. Yoder Meats, the meat that they sell most of it goes into their three Wichita retail stores. JaKo Farms near Hutchinson buys a number for their store, they have a farm store. And Jackson Meats and Smith’s Market in Hutchinson also sells. And then we’ll sell by the quarter, by the half or by the whole directly off the farm for retail to friends, family and other customers. (Mikhayla) Okay. Great, thank you, Torrey. We’ll be right back after these messages from our sponsors.
(Mikhayla) Good morning and welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Mikhayla DeMott, your guest host here with Torrey Ball with the Grassroots Cattle Company in Hutchinson Kansas. First off, tell me a little bit about the growth and the future of this operation? (Torrey) The limiting factor in our operation is our land base. Grass fed cattle take more land than feedlot cattle obviously do. And there are opportunities within grass fed beef. It’s a segment of the beef industry that’s growing very rapidly. I know we could easily double the herd and sell everything we could produce here locally. And we just don’t have the land base to do that. If the opportunity presents itself, we’ll try and do that either from a cropping side or the cattle side. But right now we’re probably maxed out about where we’re at. (Mikhayla) And elaborate a little bit more on the future of this farm and how you took over from your father? (Torrey) When my father and my wife’s father decided to retire two years ago, we’ve transitioned all the management to us now. They’re still helping a lot, like I had said previously, but it’s been a very smooth process. We’re trying to just get our feet underneath us by buying equipment and getting the land base locked in long term force. And so future plans we really haven’t decided, we would sure love to have a family take over in the future but that’s going to be up to them. And so at this point, we just see ourselves continuing this path as long as we can. (Mikhayla) And on the agritourism side, do you continue or plan to grow that as well? (Torrey) That’s more my wife’s baby with her family. And every year they try and do something new for the corn maze and the pumpkin patch. So I don’t know that I’m the best one to say that but as far as I know they plan to continue for the foreseeable future with both their sweet corn business and their corn maze and pumpkin patch business. (Mikhayla) So, having a grass fed operation requires a significant amount of sustainability, what are some techniques, strategies that you do to ensure to stay sustainable? (Torrey) Everything we do around here, we try and think about that there’s always room for improvement and I’m sure there’ll be new technology in the future that helps us to do that even better. Cover crops and soil health is something we’ve really started to concentrate on in the last couple years. And I think we’re making progress. But we’ve got a long ways to go and a lot more to learn about them. There’s so much to learn about soil health and the biology within the soil. As some people say the livestock under the soil and in the soil. (Mikhayla) Okay. Great, thank you Torrey. And thank you for watching this episode of That’s My Farm, stay tuned next week to see the next episode.
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