Here on the farm we produce beef raised and finished on grass, and as you can expect some of the most influential books for us are those that deal with grass. Pasture-finishing has a different set of challenges than grain-finishing, so there are plenty of things to learn. One of those books is Allan Nation’s Grassfed to Finish.
The best part of the book was the detailed look into the world of Argentinian beef. They have a climate similar to ours and they finish their beef on pastures. They use a lot of lucerne pastures just like we do here on the farm. The Argentinian beef model has a lot of relevance to us.
Argentina is represented in the book by Anibal Pordomingo, an expert in ruminant nutrition and beef quality. He spends some time in the book going through the Argentinian system, but I was left wanting to know more. Thanks to the awesomeness of the Internet, I found it.
First there is a big slide deck on Fattening grass-fed beef. It can be hard to follow but the photos are worth looking at. They can achieve well-marbled beef on lucerne. There is plenty of detail on the health benefits of grass-fed beef, mostly talking about how grain finishing trashes the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio. The forage cycle they use throughout the year shows how you can get finish-quality pastures at any times.
Still I wanted to hear the man talk. Youtube didn’t help me but Virginia Tech has two talks online. Yay Virginia Tech! They have Anibal’s live audio running over his slides.
His explanations make the slides a whole lot more useful.
There is a sad note to end this post. Argentina is in some political confusion, with the government making some short-term popular decisions that affect the country in a bad way in the longer term. Beef prices are set on the world market, but Argentina seems to have set a price restriction on its internal beef supply, banned beef exports and subsidies grain farming. In the short term this keeps the price low but over time it pushes beef farmers out of the beef market and into cereals. Now the supply of beef has dropped and the price has tripled. I don’t think this is what the government had in mind when they proposed the export ban.
4 thoughts on “Anibal Pordomingo and grass-fed beef”
I feel I should point out that that is my hand holding the book. I wouldn’t want your readers to think you had petal hands or anything.
Hi Brenty C and JC,
We are thinking of raising a 2-3 cows soon — nothing big, just a few to raise and split with friends. A lot of the cow books I have seen seem to concentrate on large scale operations with max yield as the goal. Our goal is least effort with less efficient use of land, yet quality beef. Is that possible? Have you ran across any resources that would be useful for such a venture?. We have about 1-2 acres of pasture to devote to them.
1-2 acres is 1-2 cows, depending on size. A cow an acre is pushing it but if you are buying in hay I guess it would work. I think that’s what homesteaders do. There’s a pretty good forum called homesteadingtoday.com that has a cow group with a lot of folk with a cow or two up to large herds.
First thing I’d do would be to find someone on the island with cows and swap cider for a couple of cow lessons. Then figure out what you want. If you just want beef for you and your buddies you can get a calf or two of a grass-friendly breed. There are some awesome hornless cows that do well on grass. On the smaller end of the scale are Galloways and Dexters, And then you have the Aberdeen Angus which is a little larger. All three marble very well. A weaned calf will cost some hundreds of dollars. If you have met a cow person on the island they might have something suitable to sell.
At the cheap end a lot of folk buy bottle calves from a dairy. Dairying is an odd industry where the cows give birth then they dump the calves cheap so all the milk goes to the machine. So there are a lot of cheap bottle calves out there – they should be milking on their mother so you have to bottle feed those guys twice a day. I’ve never done it but I imagine a lot of people like it and the calves get very tame. Bottle calves are cheap. The downside is they are a dairy breed or cross and don’t provide as much meat as a beef cow. But the meat can be great, depending on the breed. Jerseys are supposed to make excellent meat, just not very much of it compared to the beef breeds above. If you get males have them pre-castrated (or do it yourself). Intact dairy bulls are dangerous.
I know you asked for resources and not advice. Hmm, let me think. Matron of Husbandry has a large book list of interesting stuff: http://matronofhusbandry.wordpress.com/bookshelf/
Fat of the Land was an awesome book by John Seymour (and a fine Prodigy album, but that’s an aside) where the dude has a cow or two, but it isn’t a how-to guide. The same author did in fact write a how-to guide: The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency.
There are other fora online but the homesteadingtoday one has the folk with a few cows.
I’m no expert, which is why if you can find someone nearby who is you’ll be in great shape.