Going all-natural, local family decides to raise grass-fed cattle
In the fall of 2012, the Bowen family, Denise and Richard, decided to start something new after watching an episode about cattle on TV.
“We saw a documentary and … they were doing stuff on different animals,” Denise Bowen said. “Any heifer that is at a feedlot they said gets a hormone injection so it grows quicker. That hormone is known to cause cancer in humans.”
She said the Food and Drug Administration said it is below the guidelines to hurt people but a doctor on the show contradicted that information.
“There was another doctor on there that said well maybe that is true but if you get the same person eating that cow or other cows over and over with the same hormone and it will actually build up in your body,” Bowen said. “You go look at how many people have cancer nowadays. I mean it is just ramped.”
This made them think about raising their own cattle for consumption.
“We want to know what we are eating,” Bowen said. “We know there are no hormones in our cows. They are natural … you just don’t know what you are eating when you go get your beef from the grocery store.”
When they decided to get the cattle they also decided to have them on an all-natural diet per say. They are grass and hay fed cattle only.
“They say it is better for you,” Bowen said. “There is a different kind of fat in it that is actually supposed to be better for you.”
The meat also has less fat then what consumers might be used to seeing.
“It is like you go to the store and you buy the real lean meat,” Bowen said. “It’s even leaner than anything I have bought at the store.”
Being all natural
Some might think feeding only grass and hay could be more challenging, but the Bowens say it’s not an issue.
“They are one good pasture and in the winter we feed good hay,” Bowen said.
Last year they fed around 100 round bales last winter with 20 head of cattle.
The family bales their own hay for the cattle every summer to make sure the cattle are ready for winter.
When they bought their first set of cows, they only had three. Now they have 31 head of cattle.
“We have bought a few along the way,” Bowen said. “When we have bull calves, we have traded some of them for heifers to try and get the herd built up.”
When they started the cattle, they bought a bull so they could breed and grow the operation.
“We bred from the start,” Bowen said. “We bought a nice registered Hereford bull.”
That is the main breed they have but there are some crosses. Adding the cattle and breeding was an easy transition Bowen said.
“We have had goats and horses for the last 30 years or so,” Bowen said. “It is just something pretty much the same.”
They also don’t have any artificial insemination for their heifers.
“We just let the bull run with the cows,” Bowen said.
The Bowens have had 13 calves born so far this year.
“We had one stillborn (this year,” Bowen said. They also had another calve that was breached. “We had two first time heifers that had trouble.”
She said they have been lucky over the years.
“We have been breeding since 2014 and we have only lost three,” Bowen said. “Two of those had to be pulled, they were breached. They say if you don’t get to a breached one pretty quick, it doesn’t make it.”
Enjoying the product
They Bowen now enjoy being able to eat their own homegrown meat. They butcher about one every two years for themselves. The goal now is to start preparing to sell the cattle for meat to the public.
“We haven’t yet because we have been trying to build the herd up,” Bowen said. “Any of our nicer looking bull calves people have wanted to purchase for their breeding stock. This is the first year we have actually kept a few steers.”
They are keeping one for themselves, but the others will be for sale.
“We will probably have a couple late fall to sell to somebody for freezer beef,” Bowen.
To sell the cattle for meat, you sell it by the weight.
“Basically you just advertise it and you sell it on the hoof by the pound,” Bowen said. “We could probably get a little more than market price because ours are grass fed.”
Many people will either pick the cow up themselves or have the Bowens bring the cow to the meat locker of their choice.
“Some people might buy them and put a little grain in them if they want a little bit more marbling,” Bowen said.
Even though it has taken years to get to this point of selling, the two enjoy the cattle.
“It is really just a hobby, something to do,” Bowen said. “We enjoy all the babies.”