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Managing with mineral

Year-round supplementation is worth the investment for beef cattle producers
Story and photos by Chris Villines 1/26/2017

 

The Hermitage Hotel’s Double H Farms in Dickson County features 200 head of Red Poll cattle. The storied Nashville hotel launched this agricultural enterprise in 2012 to regularly supply quality beef for its acclaimed restaurant, the Capitol Grille. The grass-fed cattle are given Co-op cattle mineral for nutritional supplementation and grass tetany prevention.
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It’s an old saying but one that’s apt for longevity in the volatile world of beef cattle production: You get out what you put in.

Today’s top producers do, indeed, put in the research needed to stay abreast of the beef industry’s latest trends and prices. They put in time to continuously learn about the cattle business and carefully map out a path to profitability.

And, perhaps most crucial, they put in the investment to more thoroughly manage their herds, utilizing these resources to implement a complete nutritional program — one that yields positive results at breeding time and maximizes cattle performance. Year-round mineral supplementation is a key component of this program, says Dr. Paul Davis, manager of TFC’s Feed and Animal Health Division.

“Forages in our market area are almost always deficient when it comes to vitamins and minerals,” says Paul. “Complementing those forages with an appropriate mineral supplement helps cattle perform their best. With all the genetic improvements in beef cattle, these animals have a high capacity for growth, milk production, and reproduction. We never want a nutrient — mineral in this case — to be the factor that limits an animal from reaching its full potential.”

Because of this, savvy forage-based beef operations like Dickson County’s Double H Farms have made the commitment to always keep a free-choice mineral available in feeders. Double H is a 250-acre venture launched in 2012 by Nashville’s historic Hermitage Hotel for the sole purpose of raising cattle to supply the 5-star hotel’s downtown restaurant, the Capitol Grille. Farm managers Chris Turner and Crystal Miller tend to the 200 head of Red Poll cattle that rotationally graze the 12 pastures at Double H (see accompanying article).

“We’re a birth-to-butcher operation,” says Chris, who came onboard at Double H in 2013. “To keep the finishing lot here full, we have to be spot-on with the breeding, he adds, “there are no second chances; it’s either a calf or meat.”

As soon as Chris took over, he implemented a continuous mineral regimen using a high-magnesium product. He chose Co-op Foundation Hi-Mag Mineral (#675).

Chris says he knew the added benefits that improved animal health can have on breeding success, and the herd’s performance has continued while on the mineral program.

“I haven’t seen a single case of grass tetany or had a cow die from bloating since I started using the Co-op Hi-Mag,” notes Chris, who purchases his minerals from Dickson Farmers Cooperative. “When the animals are healthier, they breed better.”

How much better? Chris says that thanks in large part to his Co-op mineral program, the most recent calving season at Double H resulted in an almost-unheard-of 100-percent conception rate — a marked improvement from the 50-percent rate average he inherited.

“Every cow on this place was bred, even the ones with babies we had just weaned off of them,” he proudly says. “We kept back 10 first-year heifers, and they all bred in the first 21 days. That’s really good. I think the Co-op mineral absolutely has a lot to do with the success, so we keep it out free choice in all our feeders all the time. We’ll go through 10 bags in 10 days. It helps a lot.”

With the farm on a schedule of four calving seasons to keep up with meat production needs of the Capitol Grille, Chris stresses the importance of continuing this high conception rate.

“I have to have everything bred so that I don’t fall behind,” he says. “It’s like a big chess match.”

Fred Adams of Readyville is another producer staking his claim in a year-round cattle mineral program. The Rutherford Farmers Cooperative director, who raises some 200 head of Angus-based cattle and hay on 1,000 owned and leased acres, believes the investment in high-quality minerals makes sense.

“You can buy a cheap mineral to save money, but you’ll be sacrificing somewhere else,” says Fred, who’s helped on the farm by his nephew, Anthony Adams. “What’s the point in spending the money if the product isn’t going to do a good job or if it takes two years before you see any benefits from it? That’s the way I think of it.”

To give his herd — which is “99 percent grass-fed” — a nutritional boost that pays dividends at calving time, Fred relies on a lineup of Co-op mineral products.

In the fall, winter, and early spring, he uses Supreme Cattle Mineral (#678) to supplement his herd’s forage-based diet. When the weather warms up and flies become an issue, Fred switches his cattle to Supreme IGR Cattle Mineral (#96622), a nutritional supplement containing (S)-Methoprene insect growth regulator. This mineral prevents the emergence of adult horn flies from the manure of treated cattle.

“There’s been no grass tetany around here in years,” Fred says. “Now, I can’t say that’s strictly because of the mineral, but I do know that we haven’t had any problems since we’ve been using it.”

With less-stressed, more nutritionally sound cattle, Fred has seen improved conception rates during calving season, which usually starts around the first of September and is done by artificial insemination on the first service. A cleanup bull is used the morning after first service.

“We haven’t had a retained placenta since we started using the Co-op mineral,” says Fred, who purchases his minerals from Rutherford Farmers’ Woodbury branch store. “Our conception rates have been very good the past two years. In 2015, we were at 86 percent on first-calf heifers, and this year we were at 88 percent. We sell off anything that doesn’t calve within the first 45 days.”

Fred adds that although he tends to lean toward the conservative side with his operation to increase efficiency and profitability, the benefits of using Co-op minerals for his cattle-feeding program make it worth the expenditure.

“I took some of my cattle to a sale in Nebraska recently, and folks there were trying to figure out why my cattle had a better hair coat, color, and shine than theirs,” he says. “I attribute a lot of that to the mineral. It’s helped us.”

Co-op offers a variety of cattle mineral supplements to help meet the needs of all types of herds. If you aren’t currently using Co-op minerals, let your local livestock experts explain how they can benefit your particular operation.

Historic hotel takes ownership of growing its food

For more than a century, The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville has left no stone unturned when it comes to offering each guest a first-class experience. A major part of this is the 5-star hotel’s restaurant, the Capitol Grille.

But even with this lofty rating, the hotel wanted to do more in serving top-quality food. The solution? Establish its own farming enterprise, Double H Farms, and have direct input into the fruits, vegetables, and beef raised for the acclaimed eatery.

The initial step came in 2008 when, through a land conservation partnership with the Land Trust for Tennessee, The Hermitage began an heirloom garden at Nashville’s historic Glen Leven property. On two acres there, crops such as kale, beets, carrots, turnips, corn, watermelon, basil, and pumpkins are grown for use by the restaurant.

Next, in a move unique to U.S. hotels, The Hermitage bought 250 acres of rolling Dickson County farmland in 2012 to raise its own herd of Red Poll beef cattle. The beginning of every beef dish served at the Capitol Grille can be traced back to Double H.

“We are in our own special niche,” says Chris Turner, who manages Double H Farms along with Crystal Miller. “We’re supplying a top Nashville restaurant, so we do everything we can to produce the best quality beef.”

At the grass-based operation, cattle are raised from birth to an average of 1,200 pounds when finished at the 15-month-old stage. After processing, the beef is dry-aged for 30 days before being delivered to the restaurant. The hotel’s commitment to agriculture on such an involved scale is what Capitol Grille Executive Chef Jonathan Hawks says drew him to the position.

“For me to be involved in the whole process and work closely with Chris at the farm on how much marbling I would like in the finished cows is amazing,” says Jonathan, who came to the hotel in August last year after serving as chef at several high-end restaurants in Charleston, S.C. “It speaks to what I believe in as a chef, and being here I get to practice this at a whole new level. It’s a fantastic opportunity.”

For more information on the Capitol Grille, Double H Farms, and The Hermitage Hotel, visit www.thehermitagehotel.com.

 
 
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