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Archive for the ‘Horsemanship’ Category

No More Horse Blankets?

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

As the fall is approaching and we enjoy our first days of autumnal temperatures, our eyes turn to the predicted colder-than-usual temperatures this winter. As ranchers we have two main concerns: our cattle and our horses. The latter will be the focus today.

Tradition says to stall up your horses in order to provide a wind break. The different bodies heat up the interior of the barn making the stalls warmer than the outside temperatures. For years we have followed this tradition as well as feeding grain and hay. On really cold nights, we blanket the horses, especially the older ones. We have one horse in particular, who can be seen shivering in the cold.

Well, tradition is not always best or right. We looked beyond the “traditional” ranching practices of raising beef when we began raising grass fed beef. We looked further back to how they were created. I read an intriguing article that takes the same approach for the care of horses. The author considers, “How was the horse created to withstand natural climate change?”

Her findings appear scientific and logical, but go against mainstream American horse care. If you have horses, please take the time to read this article. It is a long excerpt from Holistic Horse and Hoof Care by Natalija Aleksandrova posted on “The Soul of a Horse” website.

The summation of the article is that horses need 24/7 access to free-choice hay. Horses in cold, rainy, or snowy weather need a windbreak in the form of trees, shelter, etc. that they can leave when they so desire. She believes that they do not need to be stalled based on the fact that it restricts their movement as well as separates them from sharing body heat with other horse companions. Horses also do not need to be blanketed. This actually hurts them the worst.

By and by the article is very interesting. I found her findings intriguing and compelling. Now to decide how we are going to care for our horses this year: the “traditional” way or the really traditional way?

Our Weaning Process

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Calves in the weaning process.  Notice the cows on the other side of the fence.

Calves in the weaning process.

In traditional ranching, calves are typically weaned young. The purpose is to get the calves on grain at a much younger age to bulk up. Cows are then allowed to recover quickly from nursing and be ready to be bred again at a faster rate. Traditional ranching is interested in getting beef faster and quicker.

On the other hand, grass fed beef ranching is truly a part of the slow food movement. We are interested most in quality. Therefore, we keep our calves at their mama’s sides for a much longer time. At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we typically aim for weaning at eight months. We feel that this gives the calf the best start.

Of course, we carefully monitor the condition of the mama’s. First calf heifers can sometimes not nurse a baby for eight months without losing condition in her own body. If we observe this, we wean the calf a little earlier.

We have just weaned calves again. We try to make this stressful time for both calf and cow as stress-less as possible. We separate the calves into a well-built pen, but do not cart them to the home ranch immediately. Instead we leave them in the pen with alfalfa cubes, hay, and fresh water for a few days so that the mama cows can be right on the other side of the fence.

The calves settle down in the presence of their mamas. The cows begin to dry up. They eventually will leave to go graze like any normal day. This is our signal that the weaning process is complete. We then will trailer the calves to the home ranch.

A few of our eight-month old calves.

A few of our eight-month old calves.

We want what is best for our calves and our cows. Doing what is best for our calves and cows also translates into what we believe is best for our grass fed beef customers. Cross Creek Cattle Company is dedicated to raising quality beef at affordable prices.

Livers, Kidneys, and Hearts, Oh My!

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

With half and whole orders, customers get to decide if they want to save or discard the organ meat. Our quarter order customers, get to divide the organs between who is interested in them. Our customers seem divided evenly. 50% gleefully pack the bag of carefully wrapped organ meat in their cooler. The other 50% tell me with a crinkled nose to please keep them for someone else or myself.

Over the years, people have discarded organ meats, but I bet that most of our grandparents or great-grandparents ate liver or tongue among other organs. I’m not sure exactly how eating organs has fallen from our diets, but I can tell you that I am particularly wary of eating organs from unknown sources. Most of the organs act as a filter of sorts like the liver and kidneys. You don’t want to partake of an organ full of antibiotics, hormones, or chemicals.

I would not hesitate to eat organs from a naturally raised animal like our grass fed beef. I could eat them with confidence. I find it interesting that wild carnivores will usually eat the organ meat first before eating the remaining meat of the carcass. This discovery led to changes in zoos for the diets of lions, which has allowed these captive animals to reproduce efficiently (Nourishing Traditions 300). Therefore one can conclude that organ meats have something to offer in terms of nutrition, vitamins, minerals, etc.

Our grass fed customers are offered heart, liver, kidneys, ox-tail, and tongue. At this point in time, I think that most people do not know how to prepare the organs for dinner. If that is the case, let me recommend a great read, Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.

This book has an entire chapter devoted to the preparation of organ meats as well as nutritional, historical, and scientific information about the organ meats. You can find instructions on organ preparation. There are recipes like heart kebobs, breaded liver, and kidney-rice casserole.

Hopefully this has not grossed all of you out. In fact I hope that you are intrigued in learning more. “A return to traditional foods is a way of taking power away from the multinationals and giving it back to the artisan…Technology propels us headlong into the future, but there will be no future unless that technology is tamed to the service of wise ancestral foodways” (Nourishing Traditions 316).

Cross Creek Cattle Company is a family-owned and operated ranch, which specializes in grass fed beef. Therefore, we are artisans in this context. We turned back the clock and raise our cattle the way God-intended and how our ancestors did. Consequently, grass fed beef has many health benefits. Some of the most nutrient rich cuts that we offer are overlooked or avoided by our customers-the organ meats, which our ancestors wisely ate. Check out Sally Fallon’s book if you want to educate yourself on the advantages of adding organ meat to your diet.

Healthy Vegetable Side Dishes

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Many of our customers are interested in healthy living and eating. Some for health reasons and some because of the Paleo diet, which is really popular right now. Regardless at to why you are eating grass fed beef, anyone can agree that adding more vegetables into your diet is a great thing, but sometimes you can get burned out on the same old side dish. Therefore, I am listing my family’s top three, which all pare well with grass fed beef.

For one of the most popular ways to cook grass fed beef is to grill hamburger patties. If you are trying to avoid the starch of potatoes, a good substitute for potato salad is pea salad. It is one of my favorites.

Pea Salad
2 lbs frozen peas
3 eggs, hard-boiled
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1/2-3/4 cup mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste

Thaw out the frozen peas in water while your are peeling and slicing your eggs. Drain the peas and place in a large bowl. Add the sliced eggs and cheese. Stir in the mayonnaise. You want the peas coated but not swimming in condiment. Season to your personal taste. Refrigerate and serve cold.

With our summer gardens producing prolifically, we are eating fresh vegetables daily. Everyone loves vegetables like okra fried, but as the head cook of our house, who wants to fry food? It makes a mess not to mention it is not the healthiest way to eat. So, I roast many of my vegetables, but one that you might not consider roasting is one of the best: okra. If you like fried okra, you will love roasted okra and so will the kitchen clean-up crew.

Roasted Okra
Fresh okra (I usually cook 3-4 lbs for my family.)
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and cut off the top of the okra. Then cut it up in 1/4″ slices. Pour about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and coat the bottom of a cookie sheet. Place the okra slices on the sheet. Pour about 2 more Tbsp of olive oil on top of the okra. Then season with salt and pepper to your taste. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring once.

I love to stir-fry using grass fed round steak, but we try to avoid grains. Who doesn’t like fried rice? So I substitute the rice for cauliflower. Don’t wrinkle your nose; it is delicious.

Cauliflower Fried Rice
1 head of cauliflower
2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp butter
2 eggs
Tamari sauce or soy sauce
1 cup frozen peas or carrots, thawed (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and cut up the cauliflower in chunks. Using a grater or the grating attachment on your food processor, grate the cauliflower. It now looks similar to long-grain rice. In a wok or large pan, melt the 2 Tbsp of butter. Once it is melted, place the cauliflower rice into the pan. Stir occasionally for 8-10 minutes on medium heat. It will be tender, but still firm like rice. Push the “rice” to the sides of the pan, and now melt the 1 Tbsp of butter left. As it melts, beat two eggs in a small bowl and then pour into the middle of your pan. Salt and pepper the eggs. As they are frying, flavor your rice on the sides with some tamari or soy sauce. I would guesstimate about 1 1/2 Tbsp-2 Tbsp. If you really love the sauce, use more. Turn the eggs to finish cooking. At this point, add the extra vegetables if desired. Once the eggs are cooked, chop them up and stir in with your rice. Cover, turn off the heat, and keep warm until ready to serve.

These three vegetable side dishes go well with different cuts of grass fed beef. It feels great to see your family eating and enjoying such healthy fare. Try them and let me know what you think.

Real Cowboy Work

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Jake on the right riding Jack in the middle of the competition.

Jake on the right riding Jack in the middle of the competition.

At the 2013 Grimes County Fair, Jake DeHaven competed with two friends in team penning and team sorting events. Unlike speed events like barrel racing, these events are a test of true working cowboy skills on horseback. In fact, the event was created to enable cowboys to showcase their horsemanship skills. Because one of the boys on the team is sixteen years old, they had to compete in the senior division.

In team penning, the contestants are given a number announced over the loudspeaker as the time begins. The number corresponds to three calves in a herd of thirty. They are to sort the three calves out and pen them in a small pen at the opposite end of the arena. The fastest time wins. Deductions are made if any other calves cross the sorting line. It is harder to do than to describe in writing.

In team sorting, the contestants are also given a number as the time begins. It is similar to team penning, as they have to cut the calf with the said number out. Then they have to go in numerical order and cut out the remaining cattle. For example, if the judge called #5. Then they would remove #5 and then 1,2,3, and 4 in order. The fastest time wins with deductions given for mistakes in the order.

This was Jake’s first time to compete in either event. It was a joy to see him out there giving it his best effort. There are so many factors in a successful run. The cowboy has to be focused and paying attention. He/she has to have a reliable horse with cow sense. Together they make up one team. Then add two more riders and their horses and the teamwork needed increases.

We are proud of Jake and the other members of his team. They brought home the 3rd place prize in the Senior Division for both events. Regardless of the prize, they gained valuable experience that can only translate into better horsemanship skills on the ranch. At home or in the arena, Jake can do real cowboy work.

Excitement on the Ranch

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

We have had some excitement on the ranch in the past week. First we have gotten some much needed rain. Storm systems came through dropping good rain for a few days in a row. We have not had flooding like Houston or the tornadoes which occurred in northern Texas yesterday, for which we are very thankful. We still pray that God will continue to bless our land with rain throughout the summer.

Last Sunday a week ago, my youngest son, Andrew, grew ill. We thought he had contracted a stomach virus, but something about it seemed odd. In order to make a long story short as well as spare you the details, early Monday morning it became apparent that he needed medical attention. My husband and I drove to the nearest good medical hospital, which for us is in College Station.

Andrew received excellent care and had to endure an emergency appendectomy. After a total of three days in the hospital, we were released to come home. He is still recovering from the surgery, but is doing much better.

The challenging part will be to keep him from getting hurt for six whole weeks. Boys will be boys and we discussed no wooden sword fights, no trampoline, no wrestling, etc. Instead, we have been entertaining Andrew with playdough, Uno, Legos, go fish, puzzles, etc.

After dinner on one of our first nights home, we went on a slow walk through the pasture after a light rain. We ate our weight in dewberries for dessert. It was such a blissful evening. We delighted in the normal scenery. There were the horses grazing in green pastures. There were the cows in belly high grass. There are fish jumping in the lake. We were home!

We are so thankful for the rain and the health of Andrew. We caught the appendix in time before it ruptured. He is getting better each day. As I researched all there is to know about the appendix, I am also thankful that cows do not have them. That would really put a different spin on herd health management. It was hard enough to get a five-year old to articulate what he was feeling. I cannot even imagine having to monitor appendicitis in cattle.

Please pray for Andrew’s continued recovery and for rain to continue to replenish the soil in all the drought stricken areas of the United States. God does listen.

Whole Foods Grilling Tutorial

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Learning how to cook grass fed beef takes practice. It really involves understanding time and temperature differences from traditional cooking. Against the advice of many, you do not have to treat grass fed beef with kid gloves nor do you have to marinate everything for 24 hours. We give our customers “6 Cooking Tips for Grass Fed Beef,” which comes from an article on this blog with the same title.

Still, I get questions specifically pertaining to grilling steaks. I found this short video with very simple instructions and ingredients from Whole Foods. I liked it because it was so simple and the video does not spend the whole time extolling all the virtues of eating grass fed beef.

Instead it focuses on the how-to of grilling grass fed steaks, which is what our customers want. They already know why they have purchased the grass fed beef. Take just over one minute to watch a tutorial showing you a simple method of grilling.

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Recently I have been fielding many phone calls from customers and potential customers alike about genetically modified organisms(GMOs). These are crops, plants, and/or grasses that scientists have altered in the hopes of making the plant better, more disease resistant, etc. GMOs are relatively recent phenomena.

The first genetically modified crop was tobacco in 1982. In 1994, the United States allowed the sale of a genetically modified tomato. Since then more and more crops were genetically modified and now almost 16.56% of the United States agricultural lands are used producing GM crops.

The top ten most common GM crops today are salmon, animal feed, canola and cottonseed oil, golden rice, squash, tomato, corn, potato, sugar beets. As producers of grass fed beef, we took for granted that our cattle were raised without any GMOs, which fits into our all-natural as God intended philosophy.

To me that is what is worrisome about GMOs. God created everything and called it good. Now people are “improving” on His creation by altering the genetic makeup of plants and crops. There are countless websites on which you can read about the concerns of consuming GMOs. On the other hand, there are others that sing the praises. You have to do the research and decide for yourself. This article is not meant to be exhaustive on the topic.

Unfortunately scientists were not happy genetically altering only plants and crops. They are genetically modifying grasses. Alfalfa is one of top GM grasses as scientists seek to make this type of grass more pest resistant. This fact greatly concerns us and our customers because we do supplement with alfalfa. Alfalfa is so high in protein and nutritious, which is why we use it in our grass fed beef program. It will not grow in our climate; therefore, we buy it dehydrated in cube and pellet forms.

I have contacted the producers of our alfalfa in Colorado. Their alfalfa is non-GMO as are the block of producers in the area. Cross-contamination is a huge problem in keeping your crop pure. The company is diligently seeking ways to keep their alfalfa non-GMO as they know their product goes to natural or organic farms like our own. If their seed was ever compromised, she said they would announce it to their customers.

Then I began thinking about the rye and oats that we plant for winter grazing. I contacted that company as well and received the good news that the varieties we planted are non-GMO. We are relieved at the news.

It just goes to show that you have to stay informed and proactive. I would not have thought that grasses were not safe from genetic alteration or that alfalfa producers were struggling against companies like Monsanto. The introduction of GM alfalfa alone impacts natural or organic milk and/or beef producers as well as the natural or organic honey producers.

Some of you might not care about GMOs. Some of you might care so much about them that you get frustrated at the grocery store trying to make the right choices for your family. You have high ideals and don’t want to compromise them. Regardless of your opinion of GMO products, the fact is that the grass fed beef at Cross Creek Cattle Company is raised on non-GMO grasses.

Baby Time

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

If there is anything on earth that makes the hardest heart melt, it has to be the sight of baby animals. Regardless of the species, the sight of the very young makes people “oohh” and “ahhh.”

Baby calves are no exception. Our Beefmasters usually have long legs and big ears. They almost all look alike this year. Although, some have very distinct markings. On this Valentine’s Day, I am posting pictures taken of some of our calf crop. They are all about the same age, which is about two months old.

Please enjoy the photographs. And, Happy Valentine’s Day!

Camera shy calves.  These separated themselves out of curiousity and then grew camera shy when I went to take a picture.

Camera shy calves. These separated themselves out of curiousity and then grew camera shy when I went to take a picture.

Calves, like children, like to spend time together.  Usually one mama cow will baby-sit the calves while the other mamas take a break.  Here I found several calves hanging out together on a beautiful afternoon.

Calves, like children, like to spend time together. Usually one mama cow will baby-sit the calves while the other mamas take a break. Here I found several calves hanging out together on a beautiful afternoon.

They all look the same!  If it wasn't for good records, we would not know which belonged to which cow.  The green tags in the ear reveal their birthdate and dam.

They all look the same! If it wasn't for good records, we would not know which belonged to which cow.

Nursing on the run.  I always get tickled when I see a mama cow busy grazing and a calf nursing from behind, which is the only way to nurse on the run.  The mama cow is multi-tasking for sure.

Nursing on the run. I always get tickled when I see a mama cow busy grazing and a calf nursing from behind, which is the only way to nurse on the run. The mama cow is multi-tasking for sure.

Industry, Diligence, and Initiative

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Most people would agree that a child’s natural bent is toward laziness. Who does not want to linger in bed for as long as possible? Who would rather sit in the shade than bend their bodies in half weeding a garden? The answer for most of us is obvious. Laziness is something we have to fight.

Developing a desire to fight that which is a natural tendency is really a battle of self. Therefore, the first place to begin is with yourself. As parents of five children, my husband and I share a strong desire to develop within our children, male and female alike, industry and diligence. We also want them to take initiative and not wait to be told what to do. So we try to model industry, diligence, and initiative in our own lives.

I ask my children to be “productive” each day. That does not mean that one must work from sun up to sun down without taking a break, but that one be involved in some work throughout the day. It could be painting a piece of art, baking cookies, cleaning a horse stall, writing a short story, mowing the yard, etc. At the end of the day, you can feel a sense of accomplishment in something you have done.

Living on a ranch lends itself useful in instilling these character traits in children. There is always something to do. A tree has fallen on a fence, a gate latch breaks, the cows need to be fed hay, the float on the water trough malfunctioned, etc. From mechanic work and welding, to plumbing and construction, there are a variety of skills to be honed by just living on a working ranch.

Most of our grass fed customers who travel to Cross Creek Cattle Company in order to pick up their orders remark at least once “how lucky my kids are to be raised on this ranch.” It is true; however, my husband and I are just as fortunate to live in an environment that cultivates the need for hard work and productivity. This in no way means that city kids cannot find ways to be productive; they absolutely can in a variety of ways. The ranch simply furnishes us a ready environment.

Our ancestors’, the pioneers who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and/or crossed the unsettled plains on their way westward, lives required work for their survival. Even though our lives are not pinned between life and death in such clear cut terms, we want our family to thrive and not just survive. Today, you can survive without working hard. In some ways we are not only fighting our inner selves, but also what have become cultural norms. Success, in many ways, is measured by getting paid the most for doing the least amount possible.

However if you know that working was God’s design from the beginning for mankind, then it changes your perspective (Genesis 2:15). Work requires discipline and denial of self. It makes your body move and sweat. It engages your mind and builds knowledge. It places food on your table and a roof over your head. Work is good, and it is good for your body and soul (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

At Cross Creek Cattle Company, we are hard at work to develop high quality, nutritious grass fed beef. We come from a long line of ranchers in Texas, six generations in fact, but we are also busy training up the next generation by instilling the same characteristics that our ancestors exemplified: industry, diligence, and initiative.

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