Typically when one thinks of quality beef, words like tender, juicy, and flavorful come to mind. Smooth, rich, sweet, or creamy describe quality milk. You may be satisfied about the job in those areas.

But how’s your H.I.L. quotient? Are you producing H.I.L. quality food? Does the food you feed your family or sell to your neighbor promote their Health, Intelligence, and Longevity? Have you ever looked at it that way?

The day I bought my first cow I realized I was then in the business of producing food and had some vague responsibility to be sure it was healthy. But it wasn’t until later that I began to realize the serious responsibility I, as a food producer, was taking on. Our food is intended to be not only pleasing to the taste buds and satisfy hunger, but it must also enable us to function to our fullest potential – healthy bodies, intelligent thinking, and long life free from disease.

I believe intelligence was at its greatest among the American people when they grew all their own food and took much of their meat from the wild. We often wonder what accident of history caused the men and women who developed this country to arrive at the same place at the same time. Their equal has never been matched since. I tend to believe that our Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the standards that were developed for self-government came about from minds that functioned on unadulterated foods. Those home grown foods created a spirit in man that enabled him to love and care for his family, to be responsible and look out for his neighbor.

Think about it. There was little need for state and federal prisons. Like the town of Mayberry on the Andy Griffith Show, the only reason for a jail cell was to let the occasional drunkard sleep it off. Compare that to today when we have literally hundreds of prisons that are over flowing with inmates and there’s a jail in every town housing criminals that are on the waiting list to enter the prisons.

What has happened? I blame it on the food that is produced and consumed today. We as a nation consider ourselves blessed with plenty to eat but our food has become empty of true nourishment. It holds little re-generative value for health, intelligence, and longevity. Sickness and disease has never been as prevalent as it is today for all age groups. In a sense we are starving while our grocery stores, our cupboards and our refrigerators hold an abundance…but it is an abundance of processed foods.

The meat we eat is generally processed, too. If the cow has not been treated with insecticides and pesticides, the grass she eats has been treated with herbicides and fungicides or fertilized with petroleum products or poultry litter. The toxins infiltrate the beef and the milk and eventually our bodies. Hormones and genetically modified food are there, too, and cloned meat is waiting in the wings.

Even if a quality animal should accidentally be produced against all the odds, it cannot be replicated. Today over 90% of the cowherds are a composite of two or more breeds. The popular wisdom talks about incorporating the quality traits of two different breeds in order to create something that is supposed to be better than either of the two original breeds.

But when cross breeding is practiced, only 50% the genetic material from each parent is passed onto the offspring. The genetic exchange and recombination that takes place does not work for our good. Hybrid animals often exhibit improved growth with the first generation but breed two crosses and the outcome is a roll of the dice. Crossbred animals cannot consistently produce fine quality meat. We must have more control over what we are selling to our customers.

Using a composite, crossbred or out-crossed (impure) bull of any mix is a major set back in breeding for quality in any livestock herd. For the finest in quality of beef and milk. the British breeds always have the highest potential.

When is comes to producing H.I.L. quality milk, a huge priority must be the care and management of dairy calves. It amazes me how low a priority calf management gets on the dairy operation’s to-do list. It is that first year of the calves’ lives that determines their future productivity and well-being.

There is no better food for a calf then her mother’s milk. When a calf is denied this nourishment and its system is forced to adjust to some supplement void of its mother’s hormones, enzymes, cholesterol, antibodies, volatile fatty acids (i.e. powered milk), it is no wonder it gets a pot belly, rough dull hair coat and runny stool. These are all signs of malnutrition. I call it functional starvation because most calves make it through this phase but at what cost? And of course half the dairy calves born wind up in our meat supply.

When the average dairy cow doesn’t even make it to her third lactation before she succumbs to health issues and is discarded, that alone should awaken the producer and the consumer about the food coming from that system. Was she doomed from the start? Did she ever produce H.I.L. quality milk? What are the consequences to those who consumed that milk? How many people do you know who have been told to avoid dairy products? Is the picture becoming any clearer?

I will interject here that health and nutrition starts with the soil. Those of us who practice pasture-based management are first and foremost in the grass business. If you let your animals manage your grass instead of properly managing your pastures, you probably won’t reach your goals.

Having said that, we as grass farmers must have animals that literally have the guts to get the most from our grass. Calves do not have a fully functioning rumen and the ability to efficiently utilize grass until about 10 months of age. During that first 10 months, it is mother’s milk (in addition to good pasture) that enables that to happen. Diary animals require H.I.L. quality food before they can ever produce H.I.L. quality milk for human consumption.

Beef calves are not treated the same as dairy replacement calves. Typically a beef calf stays with its mother six months. After weaning it gets to eat grass and/or grain until 10-11 months of age. All backgrounders know that around the 10-11 month mark, calves can be “pushed” to go from a pound of gain a day to 2-2.5 pounds/day on good grass. Keep in mind though that the increase in weight gain does not always mean the gut has developed to its full capability. It will not develop properly without a proper amount of butterfat from its mother’s milk. So calves that are shortchanged this butterfat may go through life without every having a fully functioning rumen and the ability to completely utilize any food consumed.

How does all this affect the milk and meat that comes from those animals? Is that food lacking in proper nutrition thus setting up the consumer to have a sick body as he/she enters into their senior years? If a baby calf is, in effect, experiencing starvation, what is that doing to the resulting meat or milk coming from that animal? I believe that that meat and milk are in part responsible for the health issues that plague people today.

The human body is truly remarkable but, like that calf, it too responds unfavorably to malnourishment. How has poor quality food been manifested in your life – allergies, acid reflux, poor bowel function, diabetes, arteriosclerosis, cancer? It’s bad enough that senior citizens have to deal with the onslaught of health problems, but when these conditions start affecting younger and younger people, well – that tells me our food production system is seriously flawed.

My wife Margie and I have raised most of the food we’ve consumed during our 48 years of marriage. We believed we were eating healthy. We ran a commercial dairy for 10 years and drank our own milk from grain fed cows. We raised our own grain fed beef. Turns out that my homegrown meat and milk weren’t any different than what most other people were buying at the store. I was growing it just like the progressive, high-production operators were. I was letting myself be influenced and educated by those who lost the sight of working with nature.

If you wish to discuss this further, contact me.

Gearld Fry