Flying B Bar Ranch, located in Strasburg, Colorado, raises Black Angus cattle, and is the passion pursuit of the Buchanan family; Brad, Margaret, Grace and Will. We have chosen to grass feed and grass finish our cattle which means they are never fed any grains or corn.
Most cattle are sent off to feed lot at about the age of 6 months to “finish”, just after they are weaned from their mamas, and are penned up eating nothing but cracked corn, growth hormones and steroids. Cows in nature eat nothing but grass, in fact their stomachs aren’t even designed to process corn, but it sure will put the weight on quickly. This can get them to market at less than a year old.
At the Flying B instead of getting in a trailer for the feedlot after weaning, our cattle head back to the grass pasture, and there they stay until they are ready to come home for dinner. And if the pastures need supplemented during the winter we only feed hay farmed right here at the ranch, usually Sorghum/Sudangrass and alfalfa.
The steers never get growth hormones or steroids. Yes, this takes longer than the feed lot approach, 6 to 12 months longer, but it’s worth it. Our cattle live a much more content life, just like us and they get to hang out at the ranch getting the first class treatment that an animal only gets if it is cared for by my wife, Margaret. Margaret does animal massage, acupressure and Reiki for horses, and dogs, and yes, Cows!! Heck, in Japan Kobe beef is a delicacy and they get massaged too! Many a friend of ours has commented that it is their fervent hope to come back in the next life as a pet of Margaret’s.
Speaking of Kobe Beef, we just bought two Full blood Wagyu bulls to breed to our Angus Cows in 2012. This successful crossbreeding produces what is called “American Kobe” beef. Wagyu produces the best tenderness and marbling in the world and combined with the Genetics of the American Angus produces a perfectly built heifer or steer that thrives on grass and finishes out perfectly.
On-Site, Humane, Respectful Slaughter Process:
We are one of a very few ranches, I know of only one other in fact, that slaughters on site, at the ranch. When is comes time to slaughter cattle we bring a USDA inspected Mobile Processing Unit right to the ranch. That means our cattle are never in a trailer, never experience the stress of a long ride, and never end up in some strange place waiting in a feed lot outside a packaging plant. Why do we do this like this? Because we care and respect our animals. Its better for the cattle, and we think much less stressful for them. Our cattle literally live their entire lives at our Ranch, and when it comes time for slaughter at the Flying B, its a time for respect, appreciation and thanks. We truly thank our animals for what they provide to us, and for what they give our bodies. And it makes a difference in the meat as well. Our animals are never under any stress, even during the slaughter process. Death happens instantly and immediately, no pain, or suffering. And there is no build up of adrenalin, or other stress toxins in the meat.
Compare and contrast what we’ve just described with the meat you find on most grocery store shelves. Most meat in your local supermarket comes from facilities called “Confined/Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations” or CAFOs. The purpose of a CAFO is to produce large quantities of inexpensive meat. While the meat is available year-around at a low price, we are starting to recognize many of the consequences directly linked to factory farming, such as:
- Stressful and abusive environments for animals
- Feeding diets not natural, and stressful to ruminants
- Animals may travel long distances from ranch to feedlot to slaughter
- Processed by multinational meat packers
- Unsanitary slaughter practices – Self inspection (HACCP)
- Maximum use of hormones, steroids, beta agonists, sub-therapeutic antibiotics
- Reduced tenderness and quality
- Ground beef may include meat from 1,000’s of animals
- May be sourced from several foreign countries
- Typically 12% solution added with Modified Atmospheric Packaging (MAP)
- May contain water, beef flavoring, flavor enhancers, preservatives, etc.
- May contain Advanced Meat Recovery (AMR) like Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB aka Pink Slime)
- Detrimental environmental effects and pollution
- Local family farm decline
- Unethical farm labor and work conditions
While in the CAFOs, cows are typically fed a diet of grain, soy, and corn. This is an unnatural food source for cows who are supposed to eat fibrous grass and plants. Switching to high starch, low-fiber diets commonly causes disorders, including a condition called “subacute acidosis” where cows develop diarrhea, stop eating their feed, kick at their bellies, and eat dirt.
As with everything, there are some upstanding and honest feedlots and there are others that abuse and mistreat their cattle. There are extreme examples where cows have been fed “byproduct feedstuffs” and repeatedly shocked with electricity.
In contrast, our cows spend their entire lives in wide open pastures. They eat grass—the food that they were naturally intended to eat, in the environment where they are naturally found. Because of their low-stress lifestyle, our cows are rarely sick, and grow at a natural rate. The result is the most nutritious, best tasting beef for you and your family.
Conservation is a way of life at Flying B Bar Ranch, and it comes naturally. From how we feed our cattle from grass right here at our place rather than trucking them cross country, to our approach to how we farm, to the way we treat the land, the natural resources, the habitat, the water and the wildlife, everything just works better when you work with nature instead of against it. Our pastures never get any fertilizers, herbicides or chemicals. We work to move our cattle from pasture to pasture whenever the grass tells us to. We use the cattle to control the weeds, for example the eastern plains of Colorado have a type of weed called a Russian Thistle and there is about a 3 week period every year when the cattle like to eat it. Pasture it too early and you miss it, pasture it too late and the cows won’t touch it.
The Kiowa creek bottom is “sub-irrigated” from the water that flows 10 to 20 feet below the surface. Through our ranch the sub water can be as much as a quarter of a mile wide. And that’s a bonus for us, but the ancient creek bottom and the wide historic path of the creek has left sand below the soil, and in the soil, in some places at the ranch more than 3/4 of a mile in width. In these areas we can’t farm because it just “stirs” up the sand and so we pasture those areas carefully, watching and timing the weeds and not over pasturing it. Its taken some time to notice these things and to learn their importance, and you can spend a life time learning here. That’s the beauty of the place.
The wildlife at the ranch is abundant and amazing. and the water spots we are fortunate to have, 3 separate ponds, draw everything from tons of deer, turkeys, coyotes, ducks, geese, Sand Hill Cranes to the 3 bald eagles we have living here this year. It’s tough sometimes to see them snag one of the 18″ Donaldson Steelhead or a 15″ rainbow out of the pond, but its a small price to pay to provide that kind of habitat. We also have badgers on the place, they generally help us keep the prairie dogs that occasionally try and take up residence, or the pocket gophers, a small mole like digger that can mess up an alfalfa field. The birds are amazing, the eagles, hawks, bunches of hawks, and great horned owls all love the riparian creek bottom habitat and keep the field mouse population in check. We have to keep an eye on the barn cats though because the eagles can snag them with no problem at all.
In 2006 we put a conservation easement on a portion of the ranch that isn’t in the flood plain and we’re proud to be a part of protecting the native grasslands that still exist on much of the ranch. The conservation easement prohibits any development of that land in perpetuity and we feel that is important as development moving east from Denver threatens the grassland habitat around Strasburg and Bennett, in fact just one mile east of the ranch there has been an area slated for over 150 homes on small lots. Its part of the price we pay being so close to Denver, less than 40 minutes to Downtown. So little of the native grasses still exist on the eastern plains because the ground is so valuable for wheat and corn farming. In 2007 we returned a 25 acre patch back to grass from alfalfa and decided to replant to native grasses, it takes longer, costs more but its worth it. Within 4 years it became an amazing grass pasture that does so well on the relatively limited moisture that there is here in Eastern Colorado. That’s because the native grass species like crested wheat, western wheat grass, sideoats grama, blue grama, prairie junegrass, little bluestem, needleandthread, and green needlegrass all know exactlly what to do and when to do it. These native species are the ultimate conservationists using the valuable water they get to its maximum utility.
The 3 ponds at the ranch are an extremely valuable asset to the habitat. The Kiowa Creek is a seasonal creek running only a few months each year and many years not at all. Because of that our year round water sources are a major resource for the wildlife and create all kinds of habitat for protection, rearing brood each year, and providing a wide variety of food sources. When you provide food, water and protection the wildlife will find it and use it, and that they do.
We also have a healthy selection of fish in the largest pond, its spans over 4 acres and is 15 feet deep. It holds Donaldson Steelhead, Rainbow Trout, Large Mouth Bass, Small Mouth Bass and Blue Gill, and they all have done very well there. And they’re a blast to catch too!