Learning how to raise low line organic beef is top on the priority list for many farmers and ranchers. Increasingly, cattle ranchers are opting to raise smaller breeds of cattle such as the low line, the Dexter and the miniature Hereford. The reasons are many - smaller cattle use proportionately less pasture than larger breeds per pound of meat, they are easier for women to manage independently, many breeds have fewer health problems than standard-sized cattle, and some would even argue that smaller cattle produce a nicer cut of meat.
About Low Line Cattle
Low line cattle are a breed developed in Australia from regular black Angus stock in a project undertaken by the Australian government to produce a smaller breed of cattle that could produce high quality meat and milk on limited pasture. The original breeding stock was purchased from a Canadian breeder by the Trangie Research Centre in New South Wales in 1929. Over many years of careful research and evaluation, the first official lowline herd was released to the Australian market in 1992, and became available in North America in 1996 - 67 years after the project was initiated.
Low line cattle have a number of breed characteristics that make them stand out from the herd, so to speak. A few of these traits include:
- Naturally polled, meaning that they have no horns.
- Gentle, docile temperament
- Easy calving with very low calf mortality
- Reduced back fat and good marbling of meat
Organic Ranching Principles
Learning how to raise low line organic beef is not very different from learning other sorts of organic cattle farming. If you are raising beef simply for your own use, organic farming is simply farming the way it has been done for thousands of years. This involves raising your livestock on feed that is free of growth hormones or antibiotics and allowing them free range on suitable pasture. If you are looking to raise low line cattle for profit, however, things become a bit more complicated.
If you do not anticipate more than $5000.00 worth of sales, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not require that you submit to inspection and certification, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA). You will be able to legally market your beef as organic, but will not be allowed to use the USDA seal of organic certification or claim that your beef is certified. You can, however, opt to undergo certification to authorize your use of the seal.
Larger producers must submit to third party organic inspection to ensure they comply with the organic principles set out by the USDA. A few guidelines you will have to follow include:
- Cattle must not be medicated with growth hormones or antibiotics
- Cattle must have regular access to pasture and direct sunlight
- Holding and processing facilities must adhere to organic standards
- Livestock must have sufficient space to move around and engage in biologically natural behaviors
- Pasture crops and supplementary feed must be grown without the use of chemical pesticides or herbicides
Learning How to Raise Low Line Organic Beef
If you are new to farming, it may seem intimidating and overwhelming to take on such a task. Even if you are an experienced farmer, the certification process for begriming an organic cattle ranch can be a lot to take in. Fortunately, there are a number of educational resources available to help you through the process. To get started, look into some of the following resources:
- The Women, Food and Agriculture Network (WFAN): Offers information, education and support to women in agriculture.
- The USDA's Family and Small Farms Initiative: Provides information, access to funding, legal resources and annual conferences.
- American Lowline Registry: A directory of low line cattle breeders in the United States that also provides information to new ranchers.