How We Use Technology to Run a Grass Fed, Pasture Finished Ranch in 2018
The pasture finishing methods we use here at Acabonac Farms are very much in alignment with those of our ranching predecessors. Before industrial grain feed lots it was common to find American cattle grazing freely on open pastures like ours do on the East End today. One thing that distinguishes Acabonac Farms as an innovator is our creative application of modern technology in order to honor the past. Just because we pride ourselves on preserving our historical legacy of sound agricultural practices, that does not mean we are against adapting. Producing 100% grass fed, pasture finished beef on Eastern Long Island requires much more than physical work. In fact, we would not be able to successfully implement our old fashioned methods in the field without assistance from modern technology. Aside from the soil, technology is the backbone of our day-to-day business. Here’s how...
Producing 100% grass fed, pasture finished beef requires lots of math. Unlike many other beef producers our priority is always raising the healthiest, most delicious beef in a way that promotes soil health and the wellbeing of our herd. That’s why we use an intensely managed system of rotational grazing to finish our beef on healthy pastures. Our system is based on complex calculations designed by our ranchers that consider the quality, quantity and timing of our grass. Though we’re in the business of grass fed beef, we really consider ourselves grass farmers. In order to keep track of how much grass is available, how many head our pastures can sustain, and how much grass we have to give our cattle, our team forumateed unique grazing math based on our East End growing conditions. We then input this data along with weather averages into an Australia program called Maia Grazing, which double checks and confirms our calculations. As the weather of the season evolves, we input variables like average rainfall, grass height, and herd size into Maia Grazing so our Ranchers can access that data from a central location. Maia Grazing is helps us confirm and keep track of our daily rotations.
Raising cattle on pasture requires infrastructure design and engineering. Our cattle graze rich and nutritious grasses across multiple locations on the East End from Shelter Island to Middle Island. Like our team of ranchers, each property we adopt comes in unique shapes and sizes. Though it would be easy to employ the same design to each one, we take the topography, layout, and neighbors into consideration when designing our fencing. Google Earth allows us to get a close up view of the ups and downs of each ranch. Not only do our Ranchers use the birdseye view for fence design, but also for more “cow math.” The unique flavor and fat content of our grass fed, pasture finished beef is dependent upon a steady supply of grass for our herds. By designing the number and size of daily grazing cells on Google Earth, our Ranchers can make sure each animal will have enough space and grass at each ranch.
Not only are we producing healthy beef, but we are also building healthy soils. We get up close and personal with the soil at each of our ranches. Building healthy soil requires a plan. Unlike industrial agricultural models, we customize our soil health management plan for each property. We use soil mapping technology from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Science (NRCS) database of National Cooperative Soil Surveys. By dialing into the specific soil types of each property and taking soil samples, our Ranchers can customize that property’s grazing plan and soil organic matter needs. We also take soil type into consideration when selecting sites for new ranches. Our rich, beautiful sandy loam soil on the East End grows nutritious grass for grazing cattle. Not only are our ranches valuable for the carbon sequestering capacities of our rotational grazing system, but also their prized Bridgehampton and Riverhead loam soil types.
Finishing cattle on 100% pasture requires unique genetics, record keeping, and steady growth. Growing an animal to their finishing weight on strictly grass is not easy. Our ranchers are constantly keeping records of new calves, pedigree and genetics, growth, feeding rates, and sales. We purchase calves as soon as they wean from their mama cows. Keeping track of every calf, their dietary needs, and growth progress requires organization. We use Ranch Manager software to keep track of breed, age, birth date, size, ID tags, and much more. Keeping track of this information during the hustle of day-to-day ranch work can be overwhelming, but our team stays on track by entering data throughout the season. This helps us improve our systems from season to season as well, ensuring each year we produce a beef that is even healthier and tastier than the last.
Acabonac Farms sells our 100% grass fed beef directly to the consumer, right to your door. We believe in getting to know your farmer. For that reason we like to keep middlemen out of the equation and get to know our customers by selling our beef right to them. To buy our beef, our customers can go right onto our website from their comfort of their own homes and place an order. In our direct to consumer model, our website is perhaps our most valuable tool aside from the grass. Any information about our farming practices, community, history and company are right at their fingertips, which makes buying our beef easy and convenient. We pride ourselves on building our community, which sometimes happens digitally as we share stories from the field and our kitchen with friends from all over the country on our blog and social media. Never before have our customers had such easy access to our product.
Running a farming business requires constant communication. On a given day our ranchers are moving cattle at four different locations. We are constantly in conversation with everyone from hay growers, to CSA distribution coordinators, to prospective Ranch hands, to butchers, to FedEx for our convenient home delivery logistics, and more. You might not think it, but running a farm takes much more than growing skills. We use Google Suite to stay on top of grass spreadsheets, pasture tour dates on the calendar, educational documents on the drive, and hangout video calls with our consulting experts out in the field. In order for a farming enterprise to be successful, it must stay organized. Our ability to keep up with the growing demand for our 100% grass fed beef is dependent upon our labor model. Keeping this model logistically sound depends on constant communication and monitoring.
At Acabonac Farms we welcome and utilize modern technology to meet our mission. As the world changes we are excited by the many ways we can adapt to keep up, while still managing to achieve a slow and enjoyable pace of life for our cattle. Don’t be surprised if you stop by one of our ranches to find our herd posing for a selfie with one of our ranchers.