LAKE MACBRIDE— Breeding livestock is as old as dirt and the season for cattle and sheep is wrapping up now. Bulls and rams have begun their fall courtship, and the question remaining is whether or not the ladies are pregnant during the first go-around. Some farmers can “tell” if the females are pregnant, while others consult with a large animal veterinarian. The idea is to impregnate the livestock now for spring lambs and summer calves.
As a flexitarian, I’ve given little thought to where meat comes from since my days of working in a slaughterhouse more than 40 years ago. The animals with which I am familiar now are grass and grain fed and well cared for. While confinement operations are de rigueur in Iowa, in the local food system, we don’t talk much about concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), except to criticize the environmental issues associated with them. We believe our way of managing livestock is better.
That said, my intersection with raising livestock is more tourism than economic activity. I enjoy reading about the complex solutions to cattle feeding involving corn, silage, alfalfa, distillers grain, corn stalks and grass, but wouldn’t want to spend my life in a constant analysis of nutrient values and costs. There is a knack, rather than a science to this, and farmers seem to do what pleases them with an eye to what others may be doing and saying.
At the end of the day, when a person works in the local food system there is exposure to the entirety of things people consume as food. Learning more about livestock this year has been another valuable lesson in sustainability.