Michael and Liz Para have sustainability in mind as they purchase local feed stuffs and crop by-products like wine pomace to feed their cattle. They recycle those nutrients back as compost to the same farmers growing local crops.
"We can make the most of other agricultural industries' by-products or waste because cattle have an amazing digestive system that can actually upcycle any crop into protein." - Michael Para
We have sustainability in mind by buying local feed stuffs from farmers within a very tight radius. Including the feed by-products from local feed processors. Cattle can eat all manner of crops and forages. For example, we have a local winery, within 30 miles. One of the by-products of the wine making process is grape pomace. It is the smashed grapes. We’ve used that to sweeten our start ration. Our cattle like it, go to it. It gives the winery an outlet for that product that they otherwise would have to dispose of.
We typically feed a ration that focuses on feed stuffs grown here in Washington and, specifically, right here in Adams County. We feed corn, wheat, alfalfa hay, potato processing by-product (mostly crushed potatoes and potato peels), French fries and other crops.
We feed some grape pomace mostly in our starter ration for cattle new to the feedyard because it is very sweet and the cattle come to the feed faster. It's because they like the sugar, kind of like the kids like sugar on their cereal.
But we don't just mix together whatever is available. We have an animal nutritionist out of Kansas who specializes in balancing the nutrient profile of each product we use with other products so we are formulating the rations to deliver optimal nutrition while making use of those local feed stuffs and agricultural crop by-products that are plentiful here in Adams County. We also feed a vitamin and mineral supplement that is controlled through a micro-ingredient machine, so we are sure we get the exact amount of needed vitamins and minerals in the ratio for every load of feed. It's a lot like us taking a multi-vitamin to supplement our daily diet..
We check the feed bunks every morning to monitor
each group's feed intake. Feed is tracked daily with computer programs in the
feed trucks and kept on record back at the office. The key is consistency, and
to make gradual moves, whether in amounts or the make up of the ration. We are
tracking those things daily with the computer programs so we're sure we're
making gradual moves when we do change rations and do gradually increase the
energy as the cattle get bigger.
We clean out the corrals that our cattle live in on
a regular basis. The weather, number of cattle and other factors effect how
much and how often cleaning is needed. It's our job to keep these cattle
comfortable and happy. Part of that is done by keeping their space clean. We
take the manure from here at the feedyard and we roll it, compost it, dry it
and screen it. We then work with the farmers that we buy our corn from here
locally and return the composted manure to the soil at their crop farms. So it
is kind of a complete circle when the corn comes to us and the manure goes back
to the farm.
I think owning a family business and raising and feeding cattle it is a great way to raise your kids. Whether they come back here to run the business when they're adults, or not. Just being raised around this environment, this good outdoor lifestyle. It's a lifestyle that requires you to put the care of animals above yourself. That teaches compassion and humility. It is a lot of work, and a lot of family meetings and decision-making, but its been a good life and I’ve been glad to expose our children to that life as they grew up. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
"We love animals and that is why we are in this business. We have horses, we have dogs and we have cattle. It is just a way of life for us all." - Liz Para