Bio-Region NEWS4

Vale Farms

The good people and cattle at Vale Farms are part of the solution to fighting climate change. Their animals are grass-fed and grass finished which takes longer and costs more.

Cows belch methane on grass but that is not the same kind of threat as Tar Sands belching carbon dioxide. Consumers need to understand this and Vale Farms can help with consumer education.

In Canada, there are too few farms or ranches or orchards where the children take over the business. Vale Farms is an exception to the rule. There are a couple of generations working together to run this enterprise all year long. The core farm is a cow-calf operation where the steers (meat animals) are kept for up to two years to reach market weight on grass.

The conventional way to finish beef animals is to feed them grain so they gain weight fast for the last 2 to 6 months of their life. Conventional animals are finished in about half the time as grass-finished. Feedlots are efficient meat factories that create other massive problems eg large amounts of manure.

Which way is better – feedlot or grass? Studies go back and forth. You see a lot, though, when you go to a ranch. I visited many ranches during decades of organic livestock inspections.

At Vale Farms you have healthy animals on clean pastures and hay land. The cattle are allowed to grow and develop at a natural pace. The meat is nutritious and the animals are well cared for. The families involved are making a living by working together.

When younger and an urban dweller, I stopped eating beef. Who needs meat when you can just eat the plants? Things look different today, after decades working with ranchers,both conventional and organic. I like some meat, especially when I know the value grass-fed beef have for helping fight climate change.

Cattle make use of land that could not be used for any other agricultural purpose. Even in the USA, according to an interview by a livestock specialist from California, all livestock production accounts for only 3.9% of green house gas emissions.

There are serious issues with huge confined feeding operations, and clear cutting trees to grow cattle feed. But let us not condemn all livestock production without understanding the huge benefits that cattle can provide.

Could grass-finished cattle be one solution to fighting climate change ?