A Proud Advocate of Sustainable Agriculture
At Y U Ranch we continuously review, modify and improve our techniques with a view to push the envelope on how sustainable we can become with our Agro-ecological model. We love the following definition and refer to it often to guide our decisions.
Sustainability – the basics
- sustain economic viability of farm operations
- enhance environmental quality and natural resource base
- make the most use of non-renewable resources and on farm resources and integrate natural biological cycles
- enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
In practice, this definition is reflected in how we operate and can be broadly broken down into a few categories as follows:
Energy – we attempt to drive the ranch utilizing the energy of the sun as much as possible. We harvest the sun’s energy with our grasses and ask our cattle to walk and retrieve their own feed (grass) and they are conveniently powered by the energy on the grass, obtained from the sun! In the winter months, we feed hay, which is simply dried grass, moisture removed courtesy of (you guessed it) the sun. Our cattle are consistently moved in the winter months in order for them to spread their own manure. Solar power is also used to provide a significant amount of the cattle’s drinking water supply and soon will provide the energy to cool our loads during transportation with our award winning hybrid refrigerated van.
The Cattle – our Texas Longhorns would do very poorly in a feedlot setting like domestic cattle, but they are 30% more efficient when consuming rough forages, the grass and hay we provide. Not only are they efficient, they are capable of walking and getting their own feed, can calve unassisted and easily handle the changing seasons, all of which can be summed in other terms up as highly efficient, self propelled, solar powered intelligent harvesting machines capable of turning natural and essential ecotypes (grass) into food for our consumption.
The Grasses and Rotational Grazing – we practice rotational (constantly moving cattle to fresh pastures) grazing at the Ranch but in a unique way. While the working land on the ranch is all covered in grass, it’s the type of grass that matters. There are established both cool season (European heritage grasses that like cool and wet conditions) and warm season (native Tallgrass Prairies preferring hot and dry conditions) in different pastures and hayfields. The cool season grasses provide fed during the cool, wet spring and fall, but during drought season, the cattle are released into the heat loving native grassland. Its also really convenient that this switch occurs in August after the native grasses have provided homes and feed for a whole suite of birds, bees and badgers (among others).
The Flowers – it may sound odd to you, but at the Y U Ranch we raise our cattle using flowers. From alfalfa and clover in our cool season pastures to Echinacea (purple coneflower), showy tick trefoil and brown eyed susan in the Prairie grass the flowers are hugely important for us. It means we farm with polycultures, blends of species that are stronger together than alone. For example, both alfalfa and showy tick trefoil are leguminous, meaning they fix nitrogen in the soil, the same nitrogen that feeds the grasses to be more productive without adding chemical fertilizers. The flowers are also conveniently edible for our cattle, but until they are ready, are providing nectar in the flowers, the same nectar consumed by native wild bees and honeybees. Its no wonder the Ranch is a great place for bees and other pollinators vital to our food supply.
The Beef – as you may expect, Texas Longhorns raised under these natural conditions will produce a different kind of beef. At the Ranch, the focus isn’t on producing fatty cattle, rather, our process results in a lean, nutrient and flavor dense source of protein that studies suggest is high in omega 3 and CLA. The health benefits of consuming beef not raised to be fatty are easy to figure out.
The Van – our award winning Dodge Caravan Freezer van was built to our specifications and in a very different way. The freezer section is powered exclusively by electricity stored in our on-board battery packs. Power can be derived from solar panel, excess electrical energy generated by the vehicle’s alternator or a simple way socket…cool!