Not What Was Expected

Those of us in agriculture are subject to the whims of nature, and that is especially true for Colvin Ranch. Our most limiting resource is moisture (for grass growth), and since we do not have irrigation, we are dependent on rain. I am programmed for the summer to be relatively dry with little new grass growth through September. I am making grazing management decisions in May and June based on what I expect the weather to be like in September.
This year was not what was expected. As you may remember, we received a lot of rain in June. I have never seen standing water in our meadows as late as this year- end of June. However, I “knew” what to expect in August and September (dry), so we managed our grazing with that expectation. As is typical, July and August were dry, but September was not as expected. We had almost 6 inches of rain in September, the most that I can ever remember- in fact it was the 2nd wettest September on record.
All this moisture has resulted in more grass on this place then I have ever seen-I love it!
Grass kept growing through July (with all that June moisture), and the growth in September was great. The quantity and quality of our pasture is more than I would ever have expected at this time of year. Of course, the cattle are doing remarkably well with these conditions. The calves are fat and happy, the cows are contented, and the market animals are putting on a nice finish.
For us, this year has been our perfect summer- we were able to take a few weeks off for a trip to Alaska, the conditions on the ranch have been perfect, and we have enjoyed the farmers markets, meeting new customers, and catching up with old customers.

Good News

Friends, we are fortunate that one of our friends is Shannon Larson, who is a Certified Nutritional Therapist. Shannon has agreed to contribute to this newsletter about some of the health benefits of eating grass fed beef.
Shannon is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable on nutritional issues, and best of all; she provides a common sense approach to eating and a healthy diet. The discussions we have had inspired me to ask her to write an article for us.

“Once upon a time, literally everything we ate was free range and fully grass fed.  Grass is the natural diet for cattle.  The unnatural diet of the feedlot is not healthy for the animal which should make it an easy choice to eat only healthy, all-natural, grass fed beef. The health of the animal is directly reflected in the quality of meat.  At the Colvin Ranch, it is clear to see that the cows are healthy from eating a natural diet of lush pasture grass.
Large quantities of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and folic acid are present in green grass that finds its way into the animals that are grazing.  The meat will also have considerably less fat in it than the meat of animals fed exclusively on grain.  No surprise in light of what we know about diets high in carbohydrates.  Grass fed meat contains less total fat and less saturated fats than grain-fed animals.
Pastured animals also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer, and which is absent from feedlot animals.  But perhaps most important, meats from pastured animals also contain higher levels of Omega-3’s, essential fatty acids that Americans don’t get enough of in our diets.  These Fatty Acids are created in the cells of green plants and play an important role in human health, especially in the growth and health of brain cells. The grain fed animal yield a distinctively altered fatty-acid profile with unnaturally high Omega-6 levels and virtually no Omega-3, which is otherwise found in highly significant quantities in exclusively pasture-fed animals.
Healthy Fatty Acid deficiency is epidemic in America leading to a many of our modern day health problems including cardiovascular, hormonal, musculoskeletal issues, as well as immune   and allergy problems.  Many of these diseases can be managed with a diet that is balanced in Fatty Acids.  A diet of properly prepared, nutrient rich, whole foods is never dull.  Eating grass fed beef is just one step in the right direction as it is a healthy source of Omega-3 Fatty Acid.”

Shannon, thank you for giving us an overview of the health benefits of grass fed beef.
Shannon is available for private private nutritional consulting, you may contact her…

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, literally everything we ate was free range and fully grass fed.  Grass is the natural diet for cattle.  The unnatural diet of the feedlot is not healthy for the animal which should make it an easy choice to eat only healthy, all-natural, grass fed beef. The health of the animal is directly reflected in the quality of meat.  At the Colvin Ranch, it is clear to see that the cows are healthy from eating a natural diet of lush pasture grass.
Large quantities of beta-carotene, Vitamin E, and folic acid is present in green grass that find it’s way into the animals that are grazing.  The meat will also have considerably less fat in it than the meat of animals fed exclusively on grain.  No surprise in light of what we know about diets high in carbohydrates.  Grass fed meat contains less total fat and less saturated fats than grain-fed animals.  
Pastured animals also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatty acid that some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer, and which is absent from feedlot animals.  But perhaps most important, meats from pastured animals also contain higher levels of Omega-3’s, essential fatty acids that Americans don’t get enough of in our diets.  These Fatty Acids are created in the cells of green plants and play an important role in human health, especially in the growth and health of brain cells. The grain fed animal yield a distinctively altered fatty-acid profile with unnaturally high Omega-6 levels and virtually no Omega-3, which is otherwise found in highly significant quantities in exclusively pasture-fed animals.
Healthy Fatty Acid deficiency is epidemic in America leading to a many of our modern day health problems including cardiovascular, hormonal, musculoskeletal issues, as well as immune   and allergy problems.  Many of these diseases can be managed with a diet that is balanced in Fatty Acids.  A diet of properly prepared, nutrient rich, whole foods is never dull.  Eating grass fed beef is just one step in the right direction as it is a healthy source of Omega-3 Fatty Acid.

Calving Season

Friends- While I am happy to see the first calf of the year born, I think I am just as happy to see the last. This years calving began on Mar. 14th, and ended on May 3. This is almost ideal in that we want to have all the calves born in a relatively short time. All the cows were able to have their babies without assistance which takes a lot of pressure off of me. However, we did lose one calf- it was born in that cold, west nasty period we had in April and died the next day. I think we were fortunate that we only had that one problem.
Almost as soon as we are done calving this year we start planning for next year. Each year we designate a few 1 year old heifers as replacements for the older cows. We evaluate the heifers, choosing ones that are not too small, or too large. We also look at here dam (mother) to help us choose which ones we will keep. The final step in choosing replacements is to measure their pelvic area to make sure that they can have a calf unassisted. This whole process helps us over time improve the cow herd. Now we get ready to breed the cows and replacements heifers. On about June 15, we will separate the cows into two herds. We have 4 bulls (2 black Angus, and 2 red Angus) that we use. We put 2 specific bulls with each herd of cows as another way of working to improve the cow herd. The bulls will stay with the cow herd for 45 days, and in that way we will again have a short calving season next year.

Beef availability- we are now taking orders for halves or quarters for our next harvest scheduled for June 18. If you would like to order, I can email you an order form.
Beef by the Box- we have our popular Beef by the Box available now. Just email or call if you would like to get a box.
Pork for you Fork- we have a half available for June 18th- let me know if you are interested.

Winter Feeding

I always enjoy feeding our cattle in the winter. Even though the weather can be miserable at times, it is good to get outside; the air is cool, clear and invigorating. Even the cold snap we had in December- it got down to 6 degrees- was enjoyable. The cattle will do just fine in this cold weather if it is dry and calm. We had our challenges such as having to break ice in the water troughs and keeping the tractor running. But all in all, we got through the cold snap just fine.

With feeding everyday, the cattle become real friendly; they even allow me to scratch them behind their ears. We can closely monitor them for any problems. Fortunately, they came through the winter in good condition.

The only thing I like better than feeding is…not feeding anymore in the spring. I have had enough. It is time to move on. The last few weeks were real spring like weather. It was very mild and not too wet. The grass started to green up, but is not yet growing much. Yes spring is in the air, at least until this week. This cold weather will slow down the grass growth, and I will need to revise our feeding plans. I had originally planned to stop feeding about March 15th, now I think I will need to go an additional week or so. Such is life…

I will be sending out an email with an order form attached for those that wish to reserve a quarter or half a beef for this spring or summer. Also, we will have some pork available in May. I will send out more information about ordering later this week.

Colvin Ranch video

Visit one of the biggest and oldest farms in Thurston County: Colvin Ranch. Settled more than 150 years ago in Tenino, Washington, the ranch is about 550 acres in size, and most of that is pastured grassland.

The August, 2009 Farm to Market video produced by Thurston County Connection includes several minutes with Fred Colvin of the Colvin Ranch, in which he describes the history and operation of the ranch.

Scatter Creek goes through the entire ranch. Fred demonstrates how nose pumps bring water to cattle, keeping them from going into the creek to drink. Pastures have been improved with fencing and water tanks, allowing closely controlled timing of grazing as cattle are moved from pasture to pasture.

Blue Camas

Blue Camas

Through the Grassland Reserve Program, Colvin Ranch works to enhance native plant communities through careful grazing. Instead of burning the prairie to remove excess grass, grazing animals remove the grass, allowing blue camas to thrive.

Colvin Ranch offers grass fed and grass finished beef directly to consumers. Call us at (360) 264-2890 or email fred@colvinranch.com for more information.

Is she… or isn’t she?

Cattle Tales

I always look forward to the end of summer and the beginning of fall because of the nice green pastures that come with the fall rains. This year is no exception, I just wish we had more rain, and earlier then we did this year. Fall is also a very busy time as there are many things to do with the cattle.

Each fall we pregnancy check all the cows to find the ones that are not carrying a calf. Reproductive performance is probable the most important characteristic for a cow/calf ranch. Each cow is expected to breed back after having her calf in the spring, and to do this within a 45 day breeding period. Each year that are a few cows that turn up open (not breed), and these animals are culled from the herd. As we continue to do this year after year our fertility and reproductive performance in the herd will improve.

We did try a brand new method of checking the reproductive status of the cows this year. We used a method called a BioPRYN test that has been developed. It works by taking a small (2cc) blood sample from each cow, and sending this sample to a lab. Within 2 days we get back the results-pregnant or not pregnant. The process worked very well for us. It took about the same amount of time, and the cost was less. At this point, I think we will use this technique in future years. Of course, we will know next spring if there have been any errors.

We also use this opportunity to give the cows their annual vaccinations. This assures that the cattle will stay healthy. The health status of our cows is excellent, and I credit this to our isolation, our management, our feeding program, and the vaccinations program.

If you have any questions or comments, I would be please to hear them. Just drop me an email. Should you not want to receive future Cattle Tales, let me know and I will take you off the list.

We still have Beef by the Box available, just send an email or call (360-264-2890) if you have questions or would like to place an order.

Thank you,

Fred
Nov. 12, 2009

Beef by the Box

Beef by the Box…

We are now offering our local, all natural beef…by the Box. If you have limited freezer space, this box of meat will fit your needs. Each box will have about 30 pounds of packaged beef from the Colvin Ranch. There will be about a third ground meat and stew meat, a third will be various roasts, and a third will be in steaks.

This beef is our own grass fed and grass finished beef, of the same quality as our beef that we have been selling by the half or quarter.

Pricing is based on the actual packaged weight in each box and includes a 10% discount from the individual package price. Each box will vary somewhat in the actual weight of ground beef, steaks and roasts, and we anticipate that the total cost of the boxes will be $185-$205 each. (Note: we can now accept credit cards through PayPal.)

Availability of Beef by the Box will begin during the week of Sept. 7.

In order for us to ensure there will be a Box for everyone, please let us know if you are interested. Simply email us now and we will reserve a box for you.

As usual, if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by email, or phone, 360-264-2890 or cell 360-239-8862

Thank you,

Fred Colvin

Hot and Dry

July 22, 2009 – We have started to go to two farmers market this summer: the Tumwater Farmers Market and the Steilacoom Farmers Market. Both of the markets are on Wednesday, Tumwater 11 Am- 2PM and Steilacoom 3PM-7PM. Needless to say, this is a very long day for us, but it is very worthwhile and fulfilling. We have met so many great folks who are truly interested in our cattle operation. Also, many of you signed up to receive Cattle Tales when you met us at the markets.

We are using the farmers markets as a way of getting the word out about the Colvin Ranch and the availability of our grass fed and grass finished beef. The farmers markets are the best way for us to connect with folks who are looking to buy local, and buy quality. If you have a chance to be at either of the markets, please stop by and say “hello”.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

It has been a much dryer and hotter summer than we think of as normal. We still have green grass in the meadows where the market cattle are grazing now. They are doing a good job of maintaining their weight and finish that they put on earlier this summer. I have been pleased with the beef that have been butchered this summer. I believe that our wintering program (high quality grass and alfalfa hay) and our spring pasture grasses are the right combination to produce high quality grass fed and finished beef.

We are about to the end of our breeding season. In another week, we will take the bulls away from the cow herds, and put the bulls in a separate field. Then the two cow herds with their calves will be joined together. It is much easier to manage the cows when they are all together. We only leave the bulls with the cows for about 45 days, so the calves are all born in a relatively short period of time next spring, and the calves will be uniform in size and age.

Please let us know if you would like to reserve a half or quarter beef for this summer, it is best to get on the list before we are sold out. Just send us an email.

Colvin Ranch Day

Cattle Tales

May 16 was our second annual “Colvin Ranch Day”, and it was great! The weather was perfect, the wild flowers were in full bloom and there was a big turnout. If you were able to join us, thank you, and I hope you had a good time.

Some folks have asked why we are doing this. About a year and half ago, the Port of Tacoma identified our ranch as a possible site for a truck/rail trans shipment site. I was very upset, and felt threatened that a large entity could take the land that has been in our family for 150 years. We wrote letters to our neighbors, to local decision makers and others that we had not sold out, nor were we for sale. A public hearing was held on the proposal, and many folks from the local community testified in opposition to the Port of Tacoma’s proposal. I was extremely grateful for their support, and I realized that our ranch is important to them. Our Colvin Ranch Day was a way of saying “thank you” and to let them see why our ranch is so important to us and to the community. The idea evolved from there, including inviting agencies with an interest in protecting working lands, inviting our beef customers and inviting local officials. The Port of Tacoma eventually abandoned their plans, but it is still important that the community feels a connection with us.

We are taking orders for our grass fed, grass finished beef. It is available by the half or quarter (half of a half). The freezer space for a quarter beef is about 4-5 cu. Ft. Many of the large upright freezers are about 18-20 cu. Ft. in size. Buying direct from the producer is a good way to support the local agricultural community, as well as have an economical supply of beef for your family. It is easy to order from us by sending me an email that you are interested, I will then send you our order form. The beef will be ready in about 3-4 weeks after you have placed an order. Please feel free to call with any questions to my cell, 360-239-8862 or our house number 360-264-2890.

Fred
June 15, 2009