Just when you thought mass-produced beef couldn’t get less appetizing (remember the “pink slime” hamburger controversy?), along comes Zilmax, a new growth drug being fed to feedlot cattle across the country. According to author Christopher Leonard, Zilmax was originally developed to treat asthma in humans. In feedlot-raised cattle, it produces faster muscle growth…and more profits. It’s FDA approved, but according to Leonard, it makes steak tougher, less flavorful and less juicy than beef from untreated cattle. Beef McNuggets anyone? Read the full article from the San Jose Mercury News, and a longer article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Cows are more athletic than most people think. They are also usually pretty sensible. But every once in a while they do something really weird.
This is number 601, veteran of five calving seasons, steady mama, six years in the herd without incident.
Until last Tuesday.
We had just finished separating cows from calves in preparation for branding and vaccinating the little ones, when a passing ranch hand let us know we had a cow with a high-center problem. We dropped our syringes and branding irons and ran to help.
We don’t know what possessed this cow to take up the sport of high-jumping. But her labored breathing and frantic leg thrashing told us she was in a world of hurt. Her hind legs, stuck through the gate rungs, were in danger of snapping.
What to do?
Our cattle manager had the wit to thrust a piece of plywood between the cow’s back hooves and the gate, then clip the wires holding the gate panel to the fence. We slowly tipped the panel forward to the ground. Number 601 scrambled off, huffing for breath, drooling, wild-eyed, and looking like a candidate for a bovine psych ward.
As we tried to edge closer to assess any damage, Number 601 eyed us as if we were the cause of her troubles and galloped off to the far side of the corral. That’s gratitude for you.
In response to an article by Bobby Magill in the Ft. Collins Coloradoan about a new “Ecosystem Services” Conservation Effort in Larimer County, one reader questioned whether city dwellers should contribute funds to help farmers and ranchers reduce nutrient or sediment pollution that flows from their lands into the watershed. Shouldn’t there be regulations that force landowners to assume these costs themselves? he asked.
A legitimate question. Here is the answer prepared by the Steering Committee of the Colorado Conservation Exchange, the group promoting the ecosystem services concept.
There are hundreds of small livestock and horse operations in our watershed, and thousands of agricultural crop lands. Individually, none of them releases significant pollution or sediment into lakes and streams. Collectively, they hold the potential to improve water quality for all. Read more on Why Help Ranchers Improve Our Watershed?…
Filed under Eco-friendly beef by on .
October 25, 2012
Our first snow of the season. Wet flakes, barely covering the ground. I woke up, peered out the window and glanced at the date on my watch. With a start, I realized it was my father’s birthday. One-hundred years ago.
He passed away in 1993 at the age of eighty. A terrible lung fibrosis stilled his great heart. During the nearly twenty years of his long decline, he never complained. He kept plugging away at his dreams and projects at Sylvan Dale, the place he loved, even when he had a hard time moving from his chair to his desk.
We still experience the beauty of the place he and my mom developed and nurtured. A great privilege. My sister, Susan, delved into the files and pullout out the “Remembrances” book for his memorial service. I thought I’d share what we wrote about him: Read more on Maurice Jessup Would Have Been 100 Years Old Today…
Publishing your first novel is a bit nerve-wracking. First you get an ego adjustment from your critique group as they pick apart your precious prose. Then you get more character-building experience by having your finished manuscript rejected by scores of harried agents and editors. When you finally get published, expectations sufficiently lowered, you wonder whether anyone will come to your book launch. You’d be happy with a crowd of three, over and above your immediate family.
So it was with a sense of wonder and gratitude that I peered out at a crowd of over one hundred book enthusiasts who elbowed into Loveland’s Anthology Book Company Friday night, October 12, to hear about my historical novel, Mariano’s Crossing. Thank you thank you and thank you. The book store thanks you. They sold some eighty books, and not a few beers. And let’s add the thanks of the Loveland Historical Society, who will receive my part of the proceeds of your generous purchases.
Now the euphoria is fading, and I’m wondering if anyone will like the book.
Attention, readers: If you do like it, feel free to infect the social media with your viral accolades. Tweet away, however that works (it’s a mystery to me). On the other hand, if you don’t like it, contact me privately. I’m used to it, but why spoil it for others? Heh, heh.
PS. You can buy autographed copies from my website at www.davidmjessup.com. The book is also available at Anthology Books, 422 E. 4th Street in Loveland, CO, and will be distributed through regular channels to bookstores and on-line retailers after November 26.
By David Jessup
She was supposed to be a companion dog for my wife, Linda. Suburban-raised, well trained, affectionate, calm (the dog, that is). A classic Australian Shepherd: blue-black back, white collar, buff patches around brown eyes. A polite dog. She’d chase a ball to humor you, but nothing obsessive, like some Aussies we’ve known. Nothing unusual about her.
Until she spotted her first elk herd. (See video here)
Promise came to us in Maryland, courtesy of a friend who had to move away to take care of her aging mother. A month later we flew Promise out to Colorado for our annual nine-month stint at the ranch. It was April, time to begin irrigating our Big Valley hay field. I invited Promise to go along. She cocked her head and stood by the open car door.
“Hop in,” I said.
She sat down.
“Up,” I said. I tried to make my voice sound excited. I snapped my fingers.
Promise looked at me as if she suspected I was taking her on a one-way trip to the dog pound.
Read more on Promise, the Elk-chasing Cow Dog…
The demand for our 100% grass-fed beef has increased so much that to supply our customers, we have more than doubled our production. We’re now taking advance orders for beef to be available in late fall, 2013. If you’d like us to reserve some delicious beef for you, please send a $100 deposit to the address below, or call the office with your credit card info, at 970-667-3915.
Sylvan Dale Ranch
2939 N. County Rd. 31D
Loveland, CO 80538
By David Jessup
First I thought we were cattle ranchers. Then I learned we were grass ranchers (the cattle are merely a way to get the grass to the bank). Then at a 2010 Quivira Coalition conference, I found out we are really carbon ranchers, of all things.
Plants scrub the air of Carbon Dioxide during photosynthesis. Some of the carbon goes into the soil through the roots, where it gets stored in humus. Humus lasts a long time. It enriches the soil while removing excess CO2. Unfortunately, our chemical-heavy agricultural system is destroying it at a scary rate. “Don’t treat soil like dirt,” one speaker said.
Following the conference, Linda and I paid a visit to John Wick, a California rancher working with the Marin Carbon Project. He’s all hepped up about the potential of wrangling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and storing it in soil humus. How? By spreading a thin layer of compost on his cattle pastures. He claims that a mere 2 percent increase in the carbon content of agricultural soils in his state could absorb all the annual CO2 emissions from California vehicle traffic. Oh, and by the way, the increased soil carbon makes the grass grow taller and faster.
So you can improve your pastures and help save the planet at the same time? Sounds like a bargain.
We’re now trying to replicate some of his research here at Sylvan Dale Ranch. With some advice from John and carbon researcher Whendee Silver, a UC Berkeley professor, and some baseline soil samples taken by Rich Conant at Colorado State University, we spread compost on one side of our pasture in a checkerboard pattern to create a number of sample plots. CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation helped pay for some of the compost (it’s expensive!). We’ll mob-graze some of these plots with our cattle herd to see if trampling hooves and manure also enhance carbon storage. Then more soil samples. Results will be posted here as they come in (not soon, I might add – soil building is a long-term process).
In the meantime, I found some riveting internet sources on carbon ranching:
- The Carbon Pilgrim. Courtney White, founder of the Quivira Coalition, writes eloquently about carbon ranching and explains the carbon cycle in a way that inspires the same goose-pimply feeling you get when contemplating the universe. White chronicles his trip to find out whether farming and ranching could play a significant role in reducing CO2 using carbon sequestration. A book is in the works.
- The Soil Solution, a five-minute film on Youtube. Sustainable World Media visits with farmers, scientists, and educators who are exploring the connection of soil fertility to water quality, food security, and carbon sequestration.
- Peter Donovan is an educator from eastern Oregon who has created a $10,000 prize for a farmer or rancher who can convert the most CO2 into soil carbon during a five year period. During his yellow school bus trip around America, he has managed to sign up fifty takers. Maybe we’ll add our ranch to the list. All in favor, say “Aye.”
Enjoy. This is good stuff.
A Pilot Project of the Colorado Conservation Exchange
By David Jessup
Can ranches and farms in the Poudre-Big Thompson watershed improve the quality of water used by Front Range urban dwellers? That question is being addressed by a pilot project at Sylvan Dale Ranch, a 3,200-acre working guest ranch located at the mouth of the Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland, Colorado.
Owned and operated by the Jessup family since 1946, Sylvan Dale hosts family dude ranch vacations in the summer and everything from weddings to corporate events during the rest of the year. The ranch also runs a cow-calf operation that raises 60 calves per year to grow and sell as grass-fed and grass-finished natural beef directly to local consumers.
The Jessups have been concerned about runoff from manure in their cattle pens and horse pastures next to the river. Although small in amount compared to feedlot operations, the nutrient runoff reduces water quality in the river and may even contribute to recent duckweed blooms in the ranch’s trout ponds below the pastures.
In 2010 the ranch invited the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to analyze the problem and suggest solutions. Three options were suggested, all of which required considerable cash outlays. As with many close-to-the-margin family ranches, such expenditures sometimes fall to the bottom of the list as equipment repairs, leaky roofs, broken water pumps and other urgent projects rise to the top.
Several organizations came forward to help. CSU’s Institute for Livestock and the Environment (ILE) provided an implementation grant with a community outreach component to share lessons learned with a larger public. A group in formation at CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation, preliminarily called the Colorado Conservation Exchange (CCEx), saw an opportunity to demonstrate how a marketplace might be created for community members to support land stewards who seek to conserve and enhance natural resources. The Big Thompson Watershed Forum (BTWF) provided technical expertise to measure nutrient runoff before and after any changes are made. Northern Water (NW) agreed to provide a Parshall flume and rain gauge for these measurements, and the City of Loveland Water Department agreed to do lab tests.
All sought an answer to this question: How many pounds of nitrogen, phosphorus and organic matter can be kept out of the river by implementing a solution, and what is the most cost-effective way of doing so? All were interested creating a pilot project to serve as a model for other water quality efforts.
Wider Implications for the Watershed
By itself, the Sylvan Dale effort will have a negligible effect on overall nutrient loads in the Big Thompson River. But there are hundreds of small livestock and horse properties in the watershed that collectively have a considerable impact. Large-scale animal feeding operations are required by law to mitigate their runoff and environmental effects. Similar rules for small family operations would likely put them out of business. The CCEx hopes to implement a voluntary marketplace whereby communities, organizations, and individuals who benefit from cleaner water will provide resources for land stewards who seek to provide it. If this is done on a wide scale, the improvement in water quality could be significant. All would benefit: water users, city dwellers and family farms and ranches.
(Note: This article was originally published in CSU’s Center for Collaborative Conservation Newsletter, Spring, 2012.)
By David Jessup
There’s no such thing as a routine cattle drive. Just ask the group of Sylvan Dale Ranch “adventure riders” who helped move sixty yearlings from their winter pasture back to the main ranch on Saturday, April 14, 2012.
Seven of us saddled up at 9 am, the spring sun warming our faces, the deep blue Colorado sky and crisp air thrilling our senses. We figured we’d be back by noon. We figured wrong.
As we rode toward the winter pasture, we took note of the problem areas we’d encounter on the way back: several driveways, a home with an inviting lawn, a stretch of county road with occasional cars, a highway crossing, and a steep, red-rock ridge to cross. The yearlings had made this trek in the opposite direction six months ago with their mamas. Now they would be on their own. Read more on Troubled Teen Cattle Drive…