Author: Peter Wheeler

28 Sep 2018

Working Lands for Wildlife

As part of our on-going initiative to develop habitat for Northern Bobwhite quail at both of our properties, the research team and livestock production manager met with folks from Ohio Department of Wildlife (ODW) and Pheasants Forever, as well as an USDA State Biologist who runs the Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) program for Northern Bobwhites in the State of Ohio.  The purpose of the meeting was to walk the areas where native warm season grasses (NWSG) will be established to discuss complimentary quail habitat.  As mentioned in an earlier post, bobwhites are known as an edge species.  Shrubby thickets should comprise 20-30% of the bobwhite’s habitat and should be no more than “a good softball throw” apart.  These areas provide protection from predators and extreme weather, offer traveling lanes and resting areas, and provide food.  The team of wildlife biologists showed us existing areas that looked promising for quail and also discussed how to manipulate areas to provide even better habitat.  The idea is to have some edge habitat approximately every 100 feet around our NWSG stand.

How can we tell if an area is good for quail?  We need to get a bird’s eye view.  You want to look about 12 inches off of the ground in shrubby areas.  If it looks like a quail can maneuver easily through the thicket while still having overhead protection about 12 inches up then you likely have some good quail habitat.  The picture below shows a bramble patch with a dense canopy yet plenty of open spaces underneath for a quail to maneuver through (but not large enough areas for a fox or coyote!).  Alternatively the thick sod-forming fescue (grass) in between the field and the thickets as seen in the same picture would cause an issue for the birds.  The softball size birds need open spaces to quickly out-maneuver predators.  These spaces are available in the clump forming NWSGs and the shrubby thickets, however the 10 foot wide strip of fescue between the two habitats slows them down, leaving them exposed to predators, both on the ground and in the air.  It was recommended to get rid of the fescue through a tillage strip, which will also open up the seedbank for ragweed, a quail friendly plant and important food source during winter months due to its seeds which provide energy and are an excellent source of protein for quail.

30 Aug 2018

Coming up with a plan

We have been working with Dr. Keyser from University of Tennessee to come up with a work plan for our upcoming native warm season grass (NWSG) research collaboration.  This is our first attempt at a field study of this scale and having Dr. Keyser’s experience to walk us through the details has been instrumental.  The project will be a randomized controlled study with a 2×4 factorial arrangement and a split block design.  The design will be replicated 4 times for a total of 32 experimental units…like I said, details.  The study will take place at our Lewis Township property across a 10-acre area designated specifically for this project.

The timely purchase of the Lewis Township property has been a great benefit to this project for numerous reasons.  First, with our livestock production at our Indian Hill site, taking 10 acres out of production for research could have caused issues for our livestock team (although they were incredibly supportive and willing to give it a go).  Second, the poor state of the land at the Lewis Township property gives us an opportunity to collect some interesting secondary data within the 32 plots during the next three years.  Ultimately with the level of detail in our data collection we may be able to make inferences between changes in soil health and the management of each plot (grazed vs ungrazed; herbicide vs no herbicide; nurse crop vs no nurse crop, etc).  Prior to seeding next year we will collect baseline soil health data.  The parameters that we will measure will be biological (Solvita CO2 respiration, phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA)), chemical (standard ), and physical (compaction, water infiltration, bulk density).

25 Jul 2018

Grass-fed doesn’t always mean grass-finished

You like beef. You aspire to be healthy. For years, you were told that red meat wasn’t good for your health and you were left with a difficult decision. Choose red meat and throw caution to the wind or give up beef and live a life without this delicious and readily available protein. Then came grass-fed beef with promises of healthier fat ratios and vitamin content, essentially the best of both worlds. As a beef lover you could finally have your cake and eat it too, or could you?

As the Information Age continues to drive us to make healthier decisions, it is unsurprising that grass-fed beef is surging in popularity with its healthier nutritional qualities. Unfortunately, there is some misinformation about what actually qualifies as grass-fed. Not just a marketing ploy that your neighborhood gastropub uses to sell $15 hamburgers, it would be easy to assume that grass-fed cattle spend their entire lives on a pasture, happily grazing on grass. This is not always the case. It is entirely possible that beef labeled as “grass-fed” never will taste another nibble of fresh grass once weaned from their mother. Instead they could be fed harvested forages — such as hay, silage, and grain by-products — out of feed bunks on a dry lot, similar to grain fed.

..The beef producer now determines what it considers to be grass-fed.

You might be wondering how this is possible. In 2016 the USDA withdrew its “grass-fed” label, leaving each beef producer individually responsible for defining grass-fed. Let that sink in for a moment; the beef producer now determines what it considers to be grass-fed. This leaves room for interpretation and many questioning the nutritional properties of the grass-fed beef they purchase and consume.

With these inconsistencies in mind, Greenacres Foundation partnered with Michigan State University to sponsor and participate in the largest nutritional study of grass-fed beef ever completed. 750 samples of beef labeled as “grass-fed” were collected and analyzed to determine if there were any differences in nutritional quality. The results of the study found that when it comes to the nutritional quality of grass-fed beef, what the cattle eat and where they eat it, really does matter.

The largest nutritional study of grass-fed beef ever completed.

The research revealed that there is a tell-tale sign of beef that had grazed fresh forages on pasture; its nutritional profile. The study shows that nutritional hallmarks associated with grass-fed beef are highly correlated to the cattle’s consumption of fresh growing forages without any additional supplementation of grain or grain by-products. Fresh forages, when grazed on pasture, are high in fat soluble vitamins beta carotene (a precursor to vitamin A) and alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) and also leads to a more favorable ratio of omega-6 (n-6) to omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids in the finished product.

The n-6 to n-3 ratio appears to be a key indicator of beef production methods. The ratio in which these fatty acids are consumed are also important for human health considerations. The ideal n-6 to n-3 ratio in the human diet is 1:1. However, it is common for humans eating a typical Western diet to consume a ratio of 20:1 or greater. This is often due to the consumption of large amounts of oils that are high in n-6 (such as corn, soy, safflower, canola, and vegetable). In addition, Westerners often don’t eat enough food that is rich in n-3, such as salmon and other fatty fish. The skewed ratio of pro-inflammatory n-6s and anti-inflammatory n-3s have been hypothesized to be a contributor to the diseases of chronic inflammation often seen in Western societies. These diseases include certain types of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune diseases.

A look into the literature for grain-fed beef — which is often finished on rations of corn and soy — shows n6 to n3 ratios that typically fall in the vicinity of 8:1. The results from our research indicated that beef labeled as “grass-fed” that had been fed harvested forages and supplemented with grain by-products can have n-6 to n-3 ratios that are similar to those seen in grain-fed beef and in some cases much higher (15:1 to 27:1). Greenacres’ own herd is grass-fed and grass-finished and has been raised on pasture, grazing on fresh forages, when available, for the entirety of its life. Because of this, Greenacres beef averages an n-6 to n-3 ratio of 2:1. The ratio in which n-3s are combined with n-6s are an important measure if you are trying to find the most nutritious beef for you and your family. As a consumer, you may want to do more than read the label because not all “grass-fed” is the same.

20 Jun 2018

What’s in the woods?

What’s in the woods?

Greenacres has several types of forests on the property including Beech-Maple and Oak-Hickory.  We are through time. The frequency of invasive species such as Amur honeysuckle, Oriental bittersweet and Lesser Celandine will be documented.  

Today, transects were established in the Beech-Maple forest and tree data collected.  As expected, a large number of maple saplings were growing there. There are some very large beech trees growing, one approximately 146 years of age.  This is an estimate using the diameter of the tree multiplied by a growth factor (see this site to learn more). interested in knowing the types and sizes of trees as well as what is growing in the understory.   Our plan is to monitor the forests over the next decade (or more) and look at changes