Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Happy almost spring!

We are three days away from our one year anniversary of living in the farm house!!!  

This winter has been very cold.  Too many days in the negatives to even count.  Weeks on end below freezing.  There were times where having temps in the teens was a 'warm' spell.  We didn't get as much snow as usual, which is worrisome for spring.  I really hope we have a rainy spring to get caught up on the old precip.  

Things have been uneventful around here.  Maybelle had her calf a few days before xmas.  She was a cute little thing!  Luckily, she was a heifer (girl) and after drinking 2-4 gallons of milk a day for two months, she was worth a bit of cash.  So, we sold her and bought a day old Holstein/Jersey bull for next years freezer beef.  I am considering trying this second calf as a grass fed beefer.  He will have 20 months to mature, and will be able to have 2-3 gallons of milk per day for about 10 months.  He should be delicious!  

Slider only got 1 gallon of milk per day for 3 months and he currently gets 3lbs of high protein pellets per day.  As he gets closer to finishing, we will feed him corn for his last few months.  The advantage of corn feeding is adding a nice layer of fat.  The more fat, the longer the carcass can hang in the locker.  The longer the carcass hangs, the more outer layer you lose to drying.  If that outer layer is fat, it will be trimmed off anyway, so there is less meat lost from a longer aging.  And we all know what a nice long age can do for fine foods!  

It will be fun to compare flavor of grain fed vs grass fed beef.  I think when people hear 'grain fed' they assume that cattle are living their lives in a barn with grain in front of them 24/7.  Bovines are ruminants and MUST have forage.  If your beef is grain fed, it has likely spent the first portion of its life on pasture, with its mama.  The last few months were in a stinking, nasty feedlot where it was fed a TMR (total mixed ration) that includes forage as well as grain and probably antibiotics.  So, yes, grassfed beef has a better quality of life and better feed at the end.  However, home raised, grain fed beef is not the same beast as commercial grain fed beef.  So, there are really three things to compare- commercial beef, home raised grainfed beef, and grassfed beef.  I think that the the latter two categories will outperform commercial beef in taste, but I have doubts that they will be very different from one another.  

A grassfed beefer raised by us will be significantly less expensive than a grain fed.  Because slider got so little milk for such a short time, I felt he needed the high protein feed through winter.  This is about $14/mo.  A spring calf, that has had tons of milk for many months will go into his first winter in very good condition and will be fine on hay alone.  

In other news, I have had my first cheese success!  After about 12 failures, I got a new cheese press and have a cautious optimism about my future cheeses.  The first one we tried was pretty good!  Very nice, dry, firm texture.  I think my main problem was in not pressing at the right weights, thus not getting the cheese dry enough.  Plus, I was using more rennet than I needed which can cause a bitter flavor.  I cut the rennet in half from the recipe and things are still coagulating just fine!  

I am anxiously awaiting spring.  I have a garden to look forward to and I am going to fertilize and mulch all 17 trees and 4 blueberries.  I will  be transplanting 7 raspberries, and planting 6 blackberries and 4 grapes.  

I hope I update again before another 5 months goes by.  :)

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