Updated: Nov 16, 2020
At Arrowhead Meats we are very particular about the source of our grassfed beef. We are in the business of superior quality meat retail, and want to ensure the quality of our meat supply. To achieve this we maintain a controlling interest in the farms that supply our original grassfed beef. This gives us the opportunity to specify the feed and conditions our animals are raised in. Our farms and farmers beef herds are "closed herds". This means that all the mother cows who produce calves to be raised for beef, are only produced on our farms, they are not "bought in" from other herds. This method of reproducing our herd gives us more control and better consistency in our beef products. It also allows our genetics to micro evolve over time to live in the conditions they are subject to in our damp eastern climate, without the need of routine antibiotics to keep them healthy. Our beef herds are "commercial" meaning they are hybrid or a mix of breeds mainly consisting of Angus, Simmental, and Scottish Highland breeds. For the first fifteen years, we brought in a new herd sire to our grassfed beef herds, every couple years. We are now at the place where our beef genetics are so varied that we have been able to isolate some of those genetics and produce our own herd sires that are unrelated enough to use with our cows. This again gives us more control over our herd management and eliminates the possibility of bringing in a strange pathogen that would make our animals sick.
To raise a brood cow, (mother cow) we retain the best heifer (female) calves, when we ween the calf crop at ten month of age, usually in March of every year. These calves are vaccinated one time, this is the only time they are vaccinated in their life. In May (now one year old) they are taken to a new pasture with fresh growing grass where they graze and grow for the entire spring summer and fall. In early August a bull (herd sire) is pastured with them, and by September most of the heifers will be in calf, and will calve in May or June of the following year on or around their second birthday. After they are in calf and the pasture is depleted for the year they are returned to the main cow herd for wintering, and continue to mature and get ready to calve. The first calf they have is often smaller than subsequent calves, but they are normally robust and born hungry. Calving the first time makes the heifer a cow, and she and her new calf learn together how to meet each other's needs. This young cow will then go on to produce up to 10 more calves during her lifetime
The calf will nurse all summer, fall and winter and in March of the following year will be weaned. The calves that are not retained for breeding stock are the animals we raise to become beef products we all enjoy and receive high density nutrition from. These calves are pastured on one of our grass farms that are free from chemical fertilizers, GMOs and herbicide/pesticides. By August/September they are fifteen to sixteen months old and the fastest growing calves are at a suitable size and weight to butcher for beef. Our business is small so we take a few animals to the butcher at a time in a small livestock trailer pulled behind a pickup truck, usually every month or couple months as needed. This way of doing it allows for the later born, smaller calves time to grow larger at their own pace without the need for added growth hormones such as implants or low grade antibiotics. As winter comes on and not all the calves have been butchered they are kept in a herd and wintered with indoor and outdoor access. We feed them high quality second or third cut hay harvested in the summer. The reason we feed them second and third cut hay is because....well first let me explain the hay cycle. In late June of the year the first hay crop is mature and ready to harvest, so we cut, sundry, and bale it. This crop is high in energy and roughage and very suitable for the mature cow herd who are not growing, but maintaining body condition. On the hay stubble we spread a thin layer of well rotted manure that is then harrowed to work it into the dirt a bit. The hay then re grows and by August is ready to harvest again, this is called second cut, and is far higher in protein than the first cut was mainly because the alfalfa (a legume) grows back much faster than the grasses do. This is the same as for third cut, usually in late September. So second and third cut hay are much higher in protein than first cut hay. Protein is a main building block for growing calves and when its delivered in a plant form as sun-dried alfalfa, it is doing many things simultaneously. It is sequestered carbon, high quality animal feed, being converted to quality high density protein for the human population. And as most of us know, good protein sources are the foundation of a healthy, efficient brain, and we need many more of those at work to tackle challenges of our century. So, keep enjoying your/our original grass-fed beef, and know that when you are buying it from a trusted source like ours, you are definitely doing your part to make the world a better place now and in the future.