Well, it's that time of the year again..... calving.... We are almost finished (just waiting on 1 more!) and so far the crop has been a good one.
Here's a taste for you - we would love to introduce you to Stirfry (son of one of our commercial girls, Marigold) complete with milk moustache at 3 days old!
So, we had some help from a fabulous graphic designer.... who re-did the logo. It shows some of who we are - we breed great Belted Galloway cattle on multi-species pasture grasses. We are sure you will agree that this new logo is a vast improvement on the old one!!! Thanks Rach - you're one in a million and we are so privileged to have your help!
This week, I was stunned and amazed to see the cost of beef in the supermarket. But a "sale" price of $32 per kilo for porterhouse (sirloin) steaks is hideous!! We had a customer contact us and let us know the eye fillet was $60 a kilo in their local. We know a number of people who have said to us that they can't afford beef anymore.
So what's happening? Why is it so? Basically, we are seeing the results of years of issues are culminating right now.
We have, as a country, engaged in agriculture that has not built the soil and cared for the land. We have allowed our soil carbon levels to be depleted, the soil to become packed down and dry. There was no resilience built in in the way paddocks and water were built in. As a consequence, when the drought came, most farmers had to choose between selling off stock for next to nothing, or shooting them when they had no grass.
Many of the smaller operators (like us) not only were not eligible for the drought package from government, and the feed supplied through "buy a bale" type schemes, but were unable to buy feed. Because much of the feed was already purchased by the "buy a bale" type schemes and was simply not available for purchase. We were fortunate to have a relationship with a small Lucerne grower who supplied all of his regular customers first - we couldn't get as much as we wanted, but we got enough to keep our cattle alive and in reasonable condition.
Many farmers literally went out of business. Without rain, there is no grass. With no grass, most cattle operators had nothing to feed their cattle. We know a number of beltie studs that closed. We were fortunate to buy several great breeding animals as a result at prices we could afford. Many bloodlines were lost as breeders were simply sent to the abattoir.
For some farmers (particularly the big operators), once they considered the cost to transport their stock to the sale yards and the price they got at sales, it was cheaper to shoot them. Basically, they lost money because the cost of transport exceeded the price they were paid at the sales. Best guess - tens of thousands of cattle were simply shot and buried.
Speaking honestly, that last 8 months before the rain started was very difficult. We were buying water in for the stock, and watching the paddocks and trying to make sure our cattle had enough feed to keep healthy, but conserving what we had to last as long as we could. There was no ability to buy feed basically. We had less calves on the ground this year as a result, and we weren't finishing beef the way we wanted. We did start to reduce stock, and we were about to start the acceleration of de-stocking when the rain arrived. Add in the difficulties associated with crossing borders in Co-Vid and the stress has been considerable over the end of 2019 and through 2020.
For those of us who were able to ride it out, there were increased costs associated with feed, supplements (think vitamins for cows!!) and sometimes water. But little or no income coming in. Many bloodlines carefully bred over many years have been lost or greatly diminished -sold for slaughter because they couldn't be fed anymore.
And now many areas have had rain. Good rain, soaking rain. Rain that has filled the catchments, moistened the soil at all depths and filled dams. Now some of us have an abundance of grass, and not enough animals to graze it!! A good problem to have really. But that means that farmers now have feed, and the opportunity to breed up and build up their breeding stocks that have been wiped out in the drought. Those who could kept their very best breeders and everything else was made into burgers. Now the plan is to build up the breeding herd again, and thus anything able to breed (so all the girls, and the better bulls) are being held onto. Cattle sale volumes have plummeted. From selling anything including your breeding lines (because selling or killing was the only option), to cattle farmers holding on to whatever they have that can breed in the space of a few short months.
Classic supply and demand economics says that when there is more supply of cattle from farmers (like in the drought when farmers were selling what they could) than demand for beef from consumers, the price goes down. What was heartbreaking was some farmers we knew were paid $0.33/kg for their animals. Good animals. Young, and in good condition. The steaks consumers were buying - still ranged between $15 - 25/kg in the supermarket. Where the money was going in between - well, I'll let you speculate. It certainly wasn't going to farmers!
Now? Well, farmers are getting a good price at the yards for those who have cattle to sell. Our price to consumers remains fairly stable, and overall likely about half the cost compared to what is available in the supermarket, but the catch is you have to buy a minimum of a quarter and fill your freezer. If you're keen to fill the freezer, please email us - we are starting to plan now for our next beef run in about 3 months. We are expecting to have more requests than available beef for the next run, so please do let us know if you are thinking about ordering as soon as you can.
Well, winter is well and truly here, and we expect our first frost tonight. All told, we ended up with 7 calves for the year, and they are all up and chasing each other around the paddock as we head into winter. More piccies will be published here shortly. We have a number of steers that are almost finished and ready to go, and are collecting a few more orders, so if you are chasing more beef, please let us know.
We are also assessing our current stock, and have one A grade Beltie Bull we are looking to sell. If you are chasing a bull, drop us an email and we would be happy to call you to discuss whether our Maxie might be just what you're looking for. We potentially also may have commercial breeding stock that are available for sale, so if you are looking, drop us an email.
It's been an interesting run over the past couple of months - I've looked with amazement when the shelves were empty at supermarkets, and meat in short supply. Rest assured, we still have beef, and thanks to another round of calves that have arrived over the past month supply for the next while is still looking good!
Beltie beef will soon be available again! We are sending another couple of steers in the next week or two with likely delivery to Brisbane at the end of May. If you are interested in buying a quarter this time, please have a look at how to order, or email us to get an order form. We are collating orders at the moment, so please email us in the next few days and let us know if you are wanting to order - firstname.lastname@example.org
We'd love to hear from you!
So, this post is a special shout out to 2 Gold Coast young ladies who are mostly learning @ home due to Co-Vid-19 restrictions, and their Grandparents who are doing an AMAZING job. You two deserve more wine!!!
So ladies, you've shared your puppy with me for cuddles, here are some piccies of some calves for you.
Meet Cooee Sienna and first calf Aloncaws Roast
And New England Nellie and Aloncaws Rose...
And this is Aloncaws Riccochet....
The first of our steers has headed off to the butcher. These cattle are almost wholly grass fed over the course of their life. These ones were purchased from other studs, and weren't born on Aloncaws. For that reason, we can't say that they have been entirely grass fed - just because we don't know what they ate before they came to us.
That said, they have had free access to grass, and been hand fed hay regularly. Beyond that, they have had some seaweed mineral lick blocks (think vitamins for cows!). They have been on grass for all of their life, and have had a happy life.
Cattle in feedlots are predominantly fed grain in situations where cows are not usually on grass, they generally have less space and generally their manure has to be removed and spread elsewhere - a situation that does little to reflect that cattle are a ruminant - that is, they eat grass, and that their manure is a soil fertiliser - and in their natural environment, not a toxic by-product.
The miracle of cattle is that they can take grass, that is inedible to humans, and turn it into food and fertiliser - nourishing the very soil that grows the grass that they eat, and providing food to us. The recent miracle of making burger patties from plants? So what? Cows have been doing that forever!!
We've had people tell us that the land could be better used to grow many more vegetables to feed more people than the meat we grow. But that is usually said by people who haven't seen our land, and have never grown a food plant in their life. Truthfully, much like much of the land used for grazing around the world, there is simply no way that large portions of our property could grow food plants. The land is too steep to do so safely in places, it is too steep to do so without causing major problems with erosion in others. The soil is the wrong soil type for many types of vegetable or grain operations, and irrigation would be required and would likely upset a variety of existing ecosystems.
Finishing cattle on grass to a reasonable standard is hard work - particularly in a drought. But we did manage it, and we have proved it's possible. We've learnt a few things along the way, but are looking forward to the next round of beef orders. Email us at email@example.com if you are interested in ordering beef from us the next time round.
It's that time - we have sent the first couple of steers in, and are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the beef. Can't wait for some Beltie Burgers!!
We expect to have more beef available in the next month or two, so if you are interested in purchasing beef, please email us. For NSW buyers, you will need to arrange to collect from Lismore. For Brisbane Delivery to Brisbane
We have also been assessing the herd and have made some tough choices - we are going to be reducing our numbers and that includes a mix of stud breeding animals (both cows and a bull), and commercial breeders (including a Murray Grey who is expected to have a calf (Beltie Dad) at foot shortly, a Brangus also expected to have a calf )Beltie Dad) at foot shortly and some commercial cows/heifers.
All of our cattle are mustered and moved on foot, and will eat out of our hands. If you are interested in purchasing any cattle, please let us know. Depending on your location, it is possible we may be able to assist with transport if you are nearby.
What’s in a name? A lot of things are said about agricultural approaches these days. There is conventional or industrial agriculture approaches (using synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, GMO’s, CAFO’s irrigation, intensive tillage and other nasties), sustainable agriculture (which is supposed to be to farming without (further) compromising future generations ability to farm), and regenerative agriculture (focusing on building soil, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle etc).
We don’t think that conventional or industrial agriculture is the way of the future. But sustainable agriculture doesn’t work for us either. Sustainable really means working on retaining the status quo. But when the status quo is soil that is degraded, with the usual issues that come from farming conventionally for a while, do we want to keep the status quo? No – not at all.
So we are pursuing a regenerative agriculture approach. Seeking to manage holistically to build soil, increase biodiversity, sequester carbon in the soil, and care for the animals and land we are entrusted with. To improve the water holding capacity of the soil, and reduce erosion and run off. To build a farm that is healthier for everyone and everything. Over time, we plan to improve the soil, heal the damage to the land, improve carbon storage and cycling, increase biodiversity, and have happy cows and produce tasty beef. Sustainable Ag is not for us - we have no intention of maintaining the status quo - we want to use regenerative ag to heal the land and grow healthy food. Now that's something that is worth the effort!
So, this blog is just an update of what we are up to on the farm - nothin' fancy...