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What do Grassfed Livestock Eat When There is No Grass?

Interacting with our customers at events like the Freight House Farmers’ Market or our Farm Tours has taught me a lot. Customers are constantly asking me questions, but the truth is, I don’t even always know the answers. The phrase “you learn something new every day” has become more true than ever since I started working at Grateful Graze. One of the most common questions I get asked is “How do your livestock survive during the winter?”, so when Monte asked me to do an update on the livestock, I thought it would be a great idea to inform you all about what our grassfed livestock eat when there is no grass.

So if the grass has been destroyed by frost or is covered by snow thanks to the harsh winter weather of Illinois, the question is what do our livestock eat? Well, we weren’t lying when we said our beef and lamb are 100% grassfed, we just change the form of grass they are receiving in the winter. Instead of giving them fresh grass, we are feeding them tasty bales of hay. Hay is actually still grass, but it has been cut-usually during the summer or fall-and then packaged and stored for use in the winter. Once the frost and snow start to cover the grass, we begin spreading out a week’s worth of hay bales using a tractor and bale roller and then let them graze on it. This is called bale grazing. Hay, which is a type of forage, is important for both nutrients as well as a way to keep an animal’s body temperature warm enough when it is cold outside. Speaking of cold temperatures, there’s no need to worry about the livestock freezing to death during the winter because, unlike humans, cows are able to withstand temperatures as cold as 20 degrees Fahrenheit without feeling any stress on their bodies. The snow also helps to keep the cattle well insulated because it keeps their heat in sort of like how we wear hats to keep our heads warm.

It’s not just the cattle and sheep who are enjoying the delicious and nutritious hay, but our chickens are also taking advantage of the energy provided from the alfalfa. Of course they are still eating their usual additional nutrients such as oyster shells. Most importantly they are staying warm thanks to access to our mobile hoop buildings!

Another vital nutrient we make sure our livestock always have access to is clean drinking water, which is more important than ever during cold temperatures. Pictured below is our new water tank, which is completely powered by our solar panels.

While Austin Taylor showed me around the Ranch,

guard dog Sam came over to make sure everything

was okay and say hello!

All of our hay bales are stored in the newly built

hoop building at Ranch 226! Look at how tall it is compared to Taylor!

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