NCAT Southeast staff members Linda Coffey and Margo Hale teamed up with Ozark Pasture Beef (OPB) business partners Ann Wells and Ron Morrow to host a Producing and Marketing Grass-finished Beef and Lamb workshop on Thursday, October 19, in Fayetteville, AR.
Ron was state grazing lands specialist with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Arkansas for many years, and spent 20 years at the University of Missouri as a professor in the Animal Sciences Department. Ann is a veterinarian who works with producers and educators across the country to develop sustainable animal health management plans. Ann and Ron, who are both former NCAT staff members as well, started Ozark Pasture Beef nearly 20 years ago. They market their grass-finished beef, lamb, chicken, and eggs direct to customers. They also sell their products to area restaurants. Lauren Manning is another partner in OPB—who is also a food and agriculture lawyer and University of Arkansas instructor—and she helped with the workshop as well.
In the Classroom
Thirty-eight people attended the workshop, which made things very cozy in the small, historic community building we used for a classroom. Participants came from as far away as Little Rock, AR, and Sullivan, MO, near St. Louis. We saw some familiar faces, but met quite a few new folks.
The workshop began at 9:00 am with Margo giving a brief introduction and talking about the resources each participant received, including a binder of materials from our ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program and two books. Ann and Ron then took turns giving talks on topics including:
• Keeping soils healthy
• Managing pasture
• Managing cows/calves and sheep
• Marketing meat
Greg Watkins, a Conservation Agronomist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), talked about their programs. During lunch, Lauren gave a talk about finding and working with farming mentors. We enjoyed our lunch of enchiladas—made with OPB beef, of course—provided by local farm-to-table favorite Farmer’s Table Café.
In the Field
After lunch, the group traveled just down the road to Ann’s farm, where they observed a group of cows while Ron talked about breeds. Then they came to Ron’s farm, where they learned about using a pasture stick, saw Lauren’s pretty meat goats, and checked out the handling facilities for the cows and sheep. Ann explained how to tell when a sheep is ready for processing by feeling their body condition. Everyone who wanted hands-on practice got to feel different sheep. Participants also got the chance to feel the body condition of a steer who was not quite ready for processing. Ann talked about their low-stress handling techniques and the natural health care strategies she uses for problems like flies.
We spent the last part of the day learning how to set up a tire tank for livestock watering. Tony Uekman, a Soil Conservation Technician with NRCS, explained the process and demonstrated some of the steps for set-up.
It was a really informative and fun workshop. Ann and Ron are excellent teachers with an incredible amount of knowledge and real-world experience. Grass-finished meat is in high demand and it was great to see quite a few younger farmers interested in these enterprises.
For more information on grass-finished livestock production, see these related ATTRA publications: Organic and Grass-finished Beef Cattle Production; Beef Farm Sustainability Checksheet; ATTRA Grazing Planning Manual and Workbook; and Direct Marketing Lamb: A Pathway. Many more publications, videos, and other resources are available for free on the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture website.