No beefs about being put out to Pasture

John Turner
John Turner
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A NEW organisation which champions the virtues of raising and finishing stock solely on grass and conserved forages has announced it is up and running and welcoming new members.

The Pasture-Fed Livestock Association thinks soaring grain prices, and consumer demand for “natural” meat, mean the time is right to launch what they believe is the first trademark to guarantee grass-fed meat – Pastoral.

The association was started by farmers three years ago, and recruited butchers, academics and others who believe grass-fed ruminants produce the healthiest meat. Now it is employing a full-time chairman and promoter, John Meadley.

He said in a circular calling for support this week: “Many beef and sheep farmers feed some grain to finish animals. But when pasture is managed well and good conserved forage is available, this should be unnecessary.

“We want to help beef and lamb producers looking to cut costs, or keen to produce more meat from pasture. We have an active internet discussion forum and emerging regional groups that share their experiences and knowledge of pastoral farming.”

Lincolnshire beef farmer John Turner, near Grantham, is a founder PFLA member. He sells Limousin crosses to ABP and says he gets growth rates of 1.1kg/day during finishing – and premium carcase gradings.

Other PFLA members report growth of up to 1.67kg/day on well-managed pasture, he says.

He said this week: “Last year’s dry conditions mean animals are currently finishing at 28 months rather than the target 22 months. But cattle marketed at the end of October were still reaching a respectable 400kg deadweight, with most grading at around U4L.

“There is the added bonus that we know our feeding costs will remain constant as we are not exposed to volatile global grain markets.”

The PFLA has run trials in Gloucestershire which seemed to establish shoppers would pay for pasture-fed beef and 12 of the 50 existing members are already getting a premium for the Pastoral label through farm shops, box schemes and local butchers. Membership costs £50. See www.pasturefed.org/

Neil Heseltine of Hill Top Farm, Malham, near Skipton, is already a member and going through the process of becoming a PFLA-approved supplier, so he can use the Pastoral logo.

He and his partner, Leigh Weston, manage 1,100 acres of pasture and sell Belted Galloways through Booths.

They are hoping for an extra premium for grass-fed provenance and are looking at the trickier prospect of rearing some sheep without supplements.

Adam Palmer of Six Valley Lamb, at Thixendale, in the Wolds, is already producing grass-fed meat. He said: “I haven’t come across this initiative but I’m interested. There is certainly a marketing opportunity there, which is what we have been preparing for.”