Grass-Fed Cattle

It's tough to raise grass-fed cattle in CT, but that hasn't stopped people from trying. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia / November 19, 2013)

The Stuart Family Farm in Bridgewater is one of this state's biggest grass-feed beef farms, with a herd numbering around 225.

Deb Stuart and her husband Bill lease about 600 acres of land from the Bridgewater Land Trust and the Nature Conservancy's Sunny Valley Preserve. They move their herds to different pastures about every two weeks, and need a lot of hay to keep their stock well fed over the winter months.

The Stuarts say they harvest about 25,000 square hay bales a year, and another 1,500 of the big round bales.

Like many of this state's organic beef producers, the Stuarts sell their meat at their farm store and to a few restaurants. The Stuarts' beef is featured on menus of upscale spots in Greenwich and New Milford.

Most organic beef producers in this state also raise organic pigs and chickens to help make their financial ends meet.

There are at least a dozen other organic cattle growers scattered around Connecticut, like Holden in East Windsor and Patty and Erick Taylor up in Woodstock.

The Taylors' Devon Point Farm has a few more than 30 grass-fed Devon beef animals grazing on 93 acres. Patty Taylor says she and her husband were "hobby farmers" for years before deciding to go into agriculture full time in 2007.

Devon Point Farm's beef is also being served in several restaurants in northeastern Connecticut, including the Vanilla Bean Café in Pomfret, 85 Main in Putnam, and the Dog Lane Café in Storrs.

Holden's 135-acre Broad Brook Beef operation is large enough to sustain a herd of more than 100 Hereford cows and steers. He's been running the farm since 1977, and selling organic beef to the public since 2009.

Holden says his cows don't need antibiotics or growth hormones, because they're kept "in clean pens, with fresh water, and they're not standing in their own manure."

Connecticut cattle farmers do have some advantages, according to Holden. "We have much more lush fields than they do in California or Colorado," he says.

In Colorado, according to Holden, farmers need 30-40 acres per cow to raise cattle in pastures. In Connecticut, you can raise a steer on five acres of pasture. "That's because we have 55 inches of rain a year and Colorado has like 12 inches," Holden says.

The demand for Connecticut-grown organic beef seems to be rising.

Holden is already selling his meat to high-end restaurants in and around Hartford.

"There are grocery stores that would love to have me service them," Holden adds, but he simply doesn't have enough steers on his farm to provide a regular supply.

Sherr is seeing a similar desire for local, organic beef on the other side of the state.

"Our grass-fed meat sales have doubled and tripled over the last couple of years," says Sherr. "More and more consumers are becoming conscious about the advantages of grass-fed animals."

 

ghladky@newhavenadvocate.com

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