Story Bank: Grass Feeding and a Local Diet with Mike Callicrate
Mike Callicrate, independent cattle producer, business entrepreneur and political activist, serves as an outspoken leader in addressing the rural, social and cultural impacts of current economic trends. Since the mid-’90s, Mike has been active in social and political efforts to improve the welfare of family farms and to restore effective publicly regulated markets. He was a founding member of several farm advocacy groups including the Organization for Competitive Markets. Some of the awards Mike’s received include “Westerner of the Year” award from Western Ranchers Beef Cooperative and the Legacy Award from the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association. He is revered as the “go-to expert” for understanding negative consequences of trends in the modern meat industry.
A diet of grass and local grains is just one of many options that farmers have to choose from today. Mike Callicrate describes the benefits of such a feeding system, and explains why local food is becoming increasingly important in this time of industrial agriculture and confusing labels.
DG – Interviewer Douglas Gayeton
MC – Interviewee Mike Callicrate
DG: What do your cattle get in terms of feed at Ranch Foods Direct?
MC: The calves are raised on the cows’ milk and the cows feed on grass. Then the calves are weaned and they’re put in a feedlot where they are fed until they weigh about 1200 pounds. They are fed a diet of roughage and some grain that requires no sub-therapeutic antibiotics. There are no hormones, steroids or any other performance enhancing drugs used in our project here.
We source our feed right here where we live. We are in an area where there’s irrigation. We got a 120 day growing seasons, there’s a lot of corn grown in our country which we can’t use because it’s GMO. We usually feed – we feed wheat and now we have farmers planting barely for us for this coming year. It’s too hard to find corn that is GMO free. All of our feedstuffs from hay to grain come from this immediate area and there times when we might even put up silage depending on the circumstances.
I never have more than 3,000 heads of cattle in a 12,000 head capacity feeding operation. This is a place where cattle are very well taken care of. They have a dry place to lie down and the water is clean and flowing. The feed is always the same and it is very high quality.
DG: Why do people use sub-therapeutic antibiotics?
MC: They use them as a crutch. Industrial agriculture keeps animals in a stressful environment. When corporations raise livestock, they want maximum return on their investment. The way they get that is increased throughput and increased production. If they pour concrete, they want as many animals on that concrete as they can possibly get on it. If there’s a building over the top of it, they want as many animals in there as will fit. It isn’t natural for an animal to be in those tightly confined quarters and as a result it is subject to disease due to stress and the environment that it is in. They feed sub-therapeutic antibiotics to the animals to try to keep them from getting sick. The antibiotics also increase performance and weight gain.