Friday, April 17, 2009

Is Grass Really Greener?

I've begun hearing an argument among "green" activists and some Grass Fed niche marketers that grass fed cattle are "greener" and produce less methane (CH4) than their grain fed counterparts.

Folks, go back and review your feeds and feeding class, nutrition class and biochemistry class.

First, grain has a higher TDN (total digestible nutrient) than forages. Due to higher TDN, in most comparisons, grain digestion results in an average of four times less methane (CH4) production. In addition, due to the higher digestibility of grains, it requires less energy to breakdown, thus results in a higher net comparable energy gain than forage digestion.

For example, think back to that steer you fed in 4-H or FFA. When you started them on feed your ration was probably around 80:20 (roughage:concentrate or hay:grain) and over the course of feeding, as you neared the end point, that ratio changed to around 35:65. A lower energy, higher protein diet was utilized to maximize growth at the beginning of the animals growth curve and transitioned into a higher energy, lower protein diet to encourage inter muscular and subcutaneous fat deposition. Now, remember how that steers phenotype changed over the course of feeding him? At the beginning, he walked around the pen with a what? "Hay Belly?" Correct! and as time went on, that belly gradually diminished as the ration increased in the percentage concentrate being fed. That "Hay Belly" is methane gas (CH4). OK, enough for the feeds and feeding lesson.

Those in the beef industry need to make sure that the information they present to the consumer is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I fully support niche marketing, however, utilizing mis-information to gain a market share, mislead the public and potentially hurt others within the industry is not the Christian thing to do. Utilize the true scientific merit or consumer preferance to support your endeavors.

For those in the general public, before you believe what you read or hear on the news or from a friend, or organization, always check the science.

The grass is not always greener.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Jeff. I've always been suspect about grass-fed beef being so good. You have any more info on the nutritional value of grass-fed vs. grain fed?


About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.