Not all cows are created equal. In fact, says cattle breeder Kit Pharo, most beef cattle raised across the U.S. look and perform differently from the animals that roamed across our prairies just three generations ago. Today, they are larger and selected to finish their lives on feed lots where they’re fattened on grains laced with antibiotics. A far cry from that grass-fed steak more people clamor for.
So how do you raise a grass-fed hamburger? Or roast? Or juicy T-bone? I rely on my BueLingos for my family table and for sale to customers. These white-belted beef cattle grow and fatten on the 72 hilly acres of our Wisconsin farm, Bull Brook Keep. They’ve been bred for intensively managed rotational grazing. Yet there’s work I’d like to do to make these cows even more efficient: a bit shorter in the leg (there are no good cuts of beef between the hoof and the belly), and quite a bit more full in the rear quarter (where some of those roasts come from). I also want cows that will calve without human assistance, and will gain lots of weight grazing all summer and feeding off hay in the winter.
This is where Kit Pharo is expert. For the past 25 years, his Pharo Cattle Company in eastern Colorado has been working to find genetic traits that produce animals that thrive on grass, and only grass.
Like so many ranchers I’ve met in the last several years, Kit began raising cattle using conventional methods, approaches that left him exhausted physically and less than happy financially. He decided to change his cattle operation to achieve greater profit and a better life. He worked on his herd over the years to develop cattle that are hardy, easy to calve, and convert grass to product and profit. He uses clear criteria and makes tough choices. And he sells seed stock – bulls that other farmers, like me, can use to improve the quality of our grass-fed herds.
I hope you enjoy this Deep Roots Radio interview with Kit. He chats about his goals and his foundational principles.
What are you doing to improve your herd? What are your long-term plans? I’d love to hear them.