Sarver Heritage Farm FAQ
We have been asked a lot of questions over the years about our farm, our cattle, our practices, etc. With the following list of Frequently Asked Questions, we hope to share the answers to some of those more common questions. Seeing that we think there is no such thing as a ‘bad’ question, the list is long.
Why do you raise your beef from birth? There are several reasons, the biggest maybe: consistency and quality. We not only know the history of each calf, we know the history of his mother, grandmother, and, and in some cases, great grandmother. And by selecting new cows from own heifers we can choose the best of the best to represent the next generation. If we were purchasing a calf to finish, we could guarantee nothing about the genetic potential of that calf or that calf’s life prior to our taking possession of it.
What is the difference between Pastured, 100% Grass Fed, Grass Fed, and Grass Finishing? In other words, what do the labels mean? Unfortunately, there is no clear common definition provided by those in charge of label terminology (USDA). So we will do our best to explain them as we interpret them (our opinions are based on the common definition of words):
Summary: Labels have become complicated battlegrounds where the meanings of words are fought over in the courts. None of the above terms, when they appear alone on a label, give any indication of what medications were given to the animals. The perceptions of the consumer can be confused by the idyllic image that a word may imply. “Free Range” for example conjures up images of chickens happily chasing bugs in a grassy field, but this is not the reality. The reality is that “Free Range” only means that chickens have access to an outside area. Labels become more important the farther the consumer is removed from the producer. Too often, it is the only means on gathering information about a product.
Our best advice: If you can purchase products direct from the producer, take advantage of your rights as a consumer and ask questions. And know that farmers are human, and some are not above “shading” the truth. We have seen it many times at farmers markets. If a farmer says, “We are organic as we can be” They are NOT organic. If a beef producer says, “No order too large”, they are slaughtering anything they can purchase and load on a truck. Be informed and ask pointed questions like: “How many brood cows do you keep?” BTW, farmers who are open and honest about their practices and farms usually are quite happy to talk your ear off about them.
How do you keep your prices so low compared to most other grass fed beef? Another reason for raising our own calves is that we can offer a more competitive price. Basically, it costs fewer dollars to feed a cow and raise a calf. But what it saves in dollars it more than makes up for in time. Also, due to our management practices and personal lifestyle, we could possibly have lower operating and overhead costs? Or maybe we started as a cow/calf operation and know what little we received for our labors there (no wonder 80% of farmers have to be employed off farm)? Whatever the reasons, our goal from the very beginning was to produce the best grass fed beef possible at a competitive price that allows us to work solely on the farm, to pay our bills, and save a little for our future.
Why not just buy your neighbor’s calves? The only way we can be sure of our product is to only sell beef we raised. As nice as some of our neighbors’ calves may be, if we finished one to sell, we could not guarantee how the calf had been raised, what shots, if any, it was given. Our Promise and Guarantee would be meaningless.
Can we tour/visit the farm? While we are working our way toward organized farm tours, we are not there, yet. We do give private tours upon request. If someone is interested in a farm tour/visit, please contact us.
Where do you have your beef processed? We have our beef processed at Taylor’s Meats in Spanishburg, WV. They are a small family owned facility, USDA inspected.
What is Live Weight? Live Weight is the weight of the live animal at any given time. As a new born they average 50 lbs. The beef will weigh 1,000lbs, or more, at time of slaughter.
What is Hanging Weight? Hanging Weight is the weight of the carcass before it goes into the cooler for dry aging.
What is Package Weight? After all the beef has been processed into individual cuts and grinds, Package Weight is the final yield from a carcass.
Why do you dry age for 14 days? The process Dry Aging, hanging a beef in a chilled, humidity controlled cooler provides many benefits to the final product. Through enzyme action and drying the beef; flavors are intensified and tenderness improved. One of the less commonly known benefits of the dry aging process is bacterial control. The sides of beef are washed with a light acid solution prior to hanging in the cooler. E-coli and other bacteria cannot survive such an environment.
Animal Husbandry & Land Management:
How many cattle do you have? We currently have 47 brood cows and 2 bulls. At any one time, there is an average of 120 head of cattle on our pastures.
What supplemental feed do you give your cattle? The only nutritional/feed supplement our cattle receive is Redmond’s Trace Mineral Salt. Their diet consists of what they forage on pasture and in times of shortage, our award winning grass based hay.
Is your hay really “award winning”? Yes, for the two consecutive years we entered a local three county forage competition, hosted by the Conservation District. Our hay took first place honors in both the “First Cutting Dry Hay” and the “Other Dry Hay” categories; hay samples were submitted and judged based on nutrition analysis and over all general appearance.
Why does producing “award winning” hay matter? During the winter months, when forage is scarce, and sometimes during periods of drought we supplement with hay. The goal is to produce the best beef possible. A beef must gain at least 2 – 3 pounds per day in order to consistently provide the highest quality meat. An important nutrient in hay is crude protein. Simply put, more protein, better hay. The state extension agency has stated that the average crude protein percentage for dry hay in the state of WV is roughly 8%. Grain rations from feed stores for bred heifers are 16% protein. Lush Spring grass on pasture at its very peak is roughly 20-22% crude protein, but can be as low as 4% during times of extreme drought. Our hay averages 14 – 16% protein. During those times that it is needed, supplementing with our hay gives our cattle an edge in quality and consistency.
Is it difficult to produce high quality hay? Yes, very. Timing is the key. Weather is the variable.
What vaccinations do you give your cattle? If one were to believe the marketing, one would think cattle could never survive without a 5-way this and a 7-way that. After removing one vaccine after another from our program, we now administer no vaccines to our cattle.
Do you use pesticides/wormers? We have used wormers in the past, as it is highly recommended by most every source. During that time we reduced use to a bare minimum, and wormers are not administered to calves destined to become market beef after six months of age. There many ways to control worms in cattle, including pasture rotation. We have come to the conclusion the worming is superfluous and unnecessary with our system.
Are you 3rd party certified (AWA, American Grassfed Association, Organic, etc)? We have looked into various 3rd party certification programs and discovered that the costs outweigh the benefits. We think that labels and certifications become more important the farther the consumer is removed from the producer. While we have been AGA certified for several years, we have decided to drop the certification, as we have found that our standards are stricter than theirs. Here is our final thought on labeling regarding OUR beef: anyone who has visited the farm or tasted our beef knows what having “Sarver Heritage Farm” on the label means. That is enough.
What fertilizers do you use? Our goal is to eventually wean the land of the need for chemical fertilizers through building of organic matter and soils. This process takes time. Every year we have significantly reduced the amount of fertilizer applied to our hay meadow (pastures do not get fertilized). We use urea as a nitrogen source and the mineral pot ash when fortifying the hay meadow. We take regular soil samples and only apply what is necessary. We make extensive use of cow manure.
Do you use herbicides? We do not make use of broadcast herbicides. This can easily be verified by the number of “weeds” found in our pastures and fence lines.
How many beef do you process for sale each year? We average around 15 per year. Our goal is 40 per year.
At what age do you slaughter? Average butcher age of our beef is 24 - 30 months.
When do you calve? Calving season will start the last week of April with most born in May and June. We think this both improves our product and is a more “natural” cycle, calving when the pastures are lush and green.
What is Spring Beef? See specific FAQ for more information.
What do you mean by “Natural Weaning”? Commercial beef cattle are typically weaned around 6 months of age. This can be stressful for the calves and cows, as neither are ready to be done nursing. The cow is still producing milk and it takes several days for the pain of having an engorged udder to dissipate. The calf still wants mother’s milk and its rumen has not fully developed to the point where it can fully digest forages. There is significant stress and bawling involved. Natural weaning means allowing the cow to determine when she weans the calf. This results in a very low stress experience for both cow and calf.
Where do your cattle come from? All our cattle are born here on the farm, except we might occasionally purchase a bull to bring in outside genetics. Our brood cows are heifers we raised; many are descendents of grass fed cattle dating back to the early 1980’s. All calves raised for market beef are born and raised on our farm.
Why cross Angus with Galloway? A couple years ago we were looking for a new Angus bull and could not find what we were looking for in our local area. Everything was too big and leggy in our opinion and not suited to finishing on grass. They did not fit with what we envisioned as the future of our herd. Thus, we started exploring other breeds. Galloway seemed the best fit. Thus, we acquired Galloway bulls to cross with mostly Angus herd in an effort to improve quality and efficiency of the herd. So far we are very pleased with the results.
Why not feed grain? Maybe the better question is: “Why feed grain?”
Purchasing & Delivery:
Guarantee: We guarantee that all Sarver Heritage Farm beef was born and raised from our cattle on our pastures. We guarantee that all Sarver Heritage Farm beef is 100% Grass Fed Beef that has never received treatment, either injected or fed, of artificially generated antibiotics.
Do you supply restaurants? No. We quit pursuing restaurant business several years ago.
How does one purchase your beef? Our beef may be purchased at our farm or our Online Store though our website.
How much freezer spacer will I need for a side of beef? You will need roughly 9 cubic feet of freezer space for a side of beef. Space requirements may vary depending on freezer configuration and how the beef is cut.
Do you deliver? No.