For the first several millennium, cattle lived off grass or whatever forage was around. Cattle were leaner and typically had a lower weight than they do now. Then some time after 1875, farmers started to wonder why pork was preferred over beef. As it turned out, pork had more fat. Fat was a valuable resource. It was used for everything from making soap to preserving and cooking foods. Besides all that, fat in foods gives it a silky feel and makes things taste yummy.
Cattle farmers decided they needed to see what they could do to increase fat content in beef. With trial and error, farmers discovered feeding cattle a diet of strictly corn for the better part of the year yields a fatter, heavier, and tastier beef. This spurred farmers to grow corn to meet the demand, and eventually cattle farms were relocated to regions where corn is produced to save on transportation costs of the grain.
Corn is a high energy food, if fed to any animal weight gain is going to happen. Eventually farmers realized they could reduce the amount of corn fed to the animals if they confined them smaller lots. This revelation reduced the time on expensive corn from eight or nine months to three months. Finally, some farmers rationalize that by further restricting the amount of movement, beef would be more tender on just thirty days on corn feed.
Of course, restricting movement, keeping animals in extreme close quarters, and little or no variety of feed, leads to less healthy animals. Those cattle require all sorts of veterinarian services from antibiotics to treatments for flies and other maladies. Some farmers also give their beef cattle steroids to produce more beef. Every pound of beef is money. Then cattle are taken to butcher or market, depending on the cattle producer’s choices. The cattle on the right are awaiting auction. However, the small pen is about the size of many enclosures prior to market or slaughter. Feedlot cattle stand around in muck twenty-four hours a day.
Many of you are aware of these facts. Some people think it’s just how business is done and it isn’t any big deal. Other people think conditions need to be changed for greater health of the animal to provide a healthier protein for humans.
In contrast, until recently, most countries in Central and South America were grass fed. They were pastured until they were wanted for slaughter. People accustomed to corn fed beef usually find grass fed beef less appealing in texture and flavor. For this reason, farmers in many countries have switched to corn feeding so they could enter into the global beef market.
What is interesting is the lack of discussion about cattle feed prior to 1875. This is where it gets interesting. Since cattle were mostly domesticated in Europe, those methods were brought along with the cattle as people migrated to the Americas.
Farmers grew crops not only for their own consumption and sale, but also to feed their cattle, pigs and chickens. Beets, cabbages and carrots are all perfect for cattle, just to start. Cattle will eat just about any fruit or vegetable except nightshade products like potatoes and peppers.
Considering that these crops can be grown in large scale on just a few acres, it is obvious that people have it within their power to raise their own beef cattle as well as feed a dairy cow or a gestating cow. Enough food can be grown for an entire year’s supply of cattle feed for the price of seeds. You can produce more beets and carrots per acre than corn by weight.
If you feed garden produce to your dairy cow, remember what a dairy cow eats effects the flavor of the milk. Cabbage is good food for bovine, but not so good for the flavor of milk. That is only important if you are consuming the milk yourself and it is not “homogenized” by a dairy company.
This is how it was done for centuries upon centuries. People more often than not raised their own beef using their own produce. This is proof that it isn’t too expensive to raise your own cattle. People have bought into the lie about the difficulties of cattle production. So much so that over time, almost 150 years, most people don’t know it can be done any other way. For most people, the skyrocketing price of beef means they purchase less beef. With this information, a little bit of land almost everyone can afford beef. Those who don’t have enough land to raise beef can partner with others by producing vegetables in exchange for a quarter or side of beef.