Ask the Butcher: Are Your Cows 100% Grass-Fed?

This month’s Ask the Butcher questions wants to know, “If your cows are 100% grass-fed, what do they eat in the winter when there’s no fresh grass available?”

Great question! This is another question we receive quite frequently. We love our Wisconsin summers, and so do our cows. During the spring, summer and fall months, our cows graze on the luscious rolling hills that make our state so beautiful. But winters can be rough. That’s why our producers work hard during harvest season to ensure cows are meeting their nutritional requirements in colder months without supplementing grains. This is done by producing hay and haylage. Let’s take a deeper look at some of these feeds and how they’re produced.

Hay

Hay is a great way to preserve fresh grasses and keep cows healthy in winter months. In Wisconsin, farmers typically seed with a mix of clover, ryegrass, alfalfa and fescue. When forages are at their peak nutritional value, they’re mowed and dried in the field for 3-5 days. Ever heard the adage, “If the sun is shining, make hay?” The sun is an important part of drying the freshly cut forages for storage. Hay typically has a moisture content of 15-20 percent. This ensures that it is dry enough to keep from producing harmful bacteria, but wet enough to avoid combustion. The dried grass is raked in the field and formed into bales for winter storage.

Haylage

Haylage is made much in the same way hay is, but dried for a shorter period. It typically has twice the moisture content of hay, about 40-60 percent. After the grasses are cut and baled, they are wrapped to eliminate exposure to air. The high moisture levels and airtight environment results in a fermentation process. The fermented forages produce natural acids that preserve the feed throughout the winter. The entire preservation process results in a high-quality feed that provides more nutritional supplementation for cattle.

Thanks for this month’s question regarding winter feeds! Keep those questions coming, Kettle Club Members!

Farmer Spotlight: The Schlimgen Family

We like to think of our Kettle Club members as family. Which is why we would like to introduce you to some of our extended family, the Midwestern producers who work tirelessly to ensure you have access to the healthiest, most sustainably raised meats. Meet the Schlimgen family!

Walk through the lush pastures of Dreamy 280 and you can see why Lisa and Dennis Schlimgen chose the name. The picturesque rolling hills speckled with content cattle roaming and ruminating on the nutrient rich forages are what makes Wisconsin farms so special.

“We feel that it is our responsibility to be good stewards of the land and implement sustainable beef raising practices,” Lisa explains. “The beef we produce is humanely raised without animal by-products and is hormone and antibiotic free.”

Raised on farms only miles away from where they currently reside, Lisa and Dennis shared a passion for agriculture and continued to make farming a family affair. They purchased Dreamy 280 near Blue Mounds in 1989, and began raising a few head of cattle along with a family.

Their three children, Julie, Patrick and Hope took an interest in showing off their superior cattle and have been stacking the family’s trophy room with ribbons and plaques for years. Though now grown, they are still actively involved in the family business. Patrick takes a special interest in genetics, sourcing the best cows for their herd which is comprised of angus and a few shorthorn.

The Schlimgens are the epitome of responsible husbandry and environmental stewardship. We thank them for not only what they do for Kettle Range and our customers, but for the sustainable agriculture community.

Kettle Club Sausage of the Month: Italian Beef

Joe the butcher has created a unique twist on a Chicago delicacy for our Kettle Club members this month. June’s Italian beef sausage has been prepared with mozzarella, fresh basil, oregano, and hot giardiniera. It makes a great sandwich right off the grill, or incorporate the flavor kick to your favorite pasta or pizza recipe.

What is Giardiniera?

Before you begin enjoying June’s distinctively delicious sausage, let’s talk a little about giardiniera. First off, let’s all say it together, “JAR-DIN-AIR-AH.” There, that’s better. Originating in Italy, the word giardiniera translates loosely to “female gardener” or “one who pickles vegetables.” And why not with all its fresh ingredients? Recipes differ, but most variations of the condiment include hot or mild peppers, celery, carrots, cauliflower and olives. Italians used the method of pickling to preserve vegetables for the winter. It is thought that giardiniera was introduced to the United States in Chicago during the late 19th century following a wave of Italian immigration. The fiery condiment quickly became synonymous with Chicago’s famous Italian beef sandwiches and made its way into the hearts and refrigerators of area residents. For years, Chicago chefs and foodies have been perfecting their recipes and pickling techniques to bring giardiniera lovers a more heated version of the Italian original.

So, let’s tip our hats to our neighbors to the south and enjoy some great sausages this month!