Grass Fed Beef & Lamb with Nature’s Mineral Cycles

Grass Fed Beef & Lamb with Nature’s Mineral Cycles

Grass fed beef & lamb are healthy and nourishing when nature’s mineral cycles provide the array of nutrients to the pasture plants and in turn, the animals.  Nature has cleverly worked out how to supply nutrients to the plants from the soil and we can watch on and learn from her.  On the farm here, we avoid artificial fertilisers because we want the widest possible array of nutrients in our pastures and hence, in our beef and lamb.  How is this possible without adding fertilisers?  The answer is equally as relevant to our farm as it is to any of your gardens where you grow vegetables or fruit and it also provides the healthiest produce.

Nutrients are accessed by plants through a natural process where microbes are the intermediate between plant and soil. A plant takes in carbon dioxide from the air and together with moisture from the soil, creates plant sugars.  These plant sugars are used to grow leaves, roots, stems and flowers, but there is also a portion of the plant sugars that are pushed down to the root system.  Here, they are excreted from the roots where they feed the rich microbiology of the soil – the bacteria, fungi and other microbes. These microbes feed on the plant sugars for energy, and in turn release enzymes that alter the minerals in the soil particles to a form available for the plant to take up via its roots.

The nutrients necessary for plant growth are all present in the soil, they just need to be in an available form for the plant to use and the microbiology is what makes this so.  So why doesn’t every wheat farmer save money and not put fertiliser on his crop and let the microbes do the work?  Because different plant species support different microbes and make different nutrients available – diversity is key.  Having just one species of plant in a paddock (ie. wheat) means the whole array of nutrients are not made available to the crop.  Without a wide array of nutrients the pasture and crop plants suffer by lacking immunity and defenses and can develop diseases and suffer pest attack.

A combination of plant types is needed for a happily functioning mineral cycle; at least 4 plant families growing together are recommended for optimal plant health. The difference is obvious if you dig up a variety of plants – the root systems look really very different!  I’ve just stopped writing and popped out to dig up some plants from the garden for you to see.  See image above.

From the left, are coriander, ryegrass, carrot, broad bean, shepherd’s purse (‘weed’) and leek.  The extremely fine root hairs on the ryegrass are in total contrast to the carrot root.  You can see the soil stuck to the roots of the ryegrass, which is soil ‘glued’ there by the root exudates.

In the absence of a particular plant type, nature tries to fill the void with what we would term weeds. So, if we have a particular weed proliferating in our paddocks (or vegetable garden), it makes us realise we are missing a productive pasture plant that provides whatever that weed is providing and nature is trying to rectify the balance by placing that weed there.

Relying on these natural mineral cycles with a diversity of plants means that a myriad of nutrients are made available to the plant – including micronutrients; not just the 3 or 4 that might be provided by an artificial fertiliser.  This diverse array of plants (and nutrients) means optimal health for the animals and helps us to be able to run our farm organically, without the need for drenches and other pesticide treatments.

So, a wide diversity of plants is what we aim for in our paddocks.  This doesn’t mean every paddock’s amazing, but we’re always trying to better it.  And for some silly reason I still pretty much have single species rows in my vegetable garden!  Not this spring – it’s going to be a chaos garden, all species in together! Watch this space – I’ll let you know how it goes.  Just this morning I mixed up my vegetable seeds ready for Spring planting and have all my seeds in together.

So whether it’s our vegetable garden or the paddocks for the sheep and cows, a diversity of plant species wins in driving nature’s mineral cycles and in turn, ensuring optimal health for the animals and our beef, lamb (and veges).  🙂  It’s this array of nutrients (as well as varied plant compounds), that give flavour and make our beef and lamb taste great!

You can see our hampers, with beef and lamb raised in this way, here.