City Slicker

By Linda J. Haley

(Canastota, NY) I stopped in one evening at Thistle Dew Farm on Bruce Road in Canastota. Thistle Dew is owned by David and Suzi Taylor of Canastota. It was after 6 p.m. on a weeknight, and they were crazy-busy trying to get hay in before an unexpected rain.

They were apologetic, but not to worry; anyone who knows farming understands the urgency of beating the weather.  While I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with this friendly couple, it worked out because I’ve visited Thistle Dew on a previous Open Farm Day, and learned quite a bit.

The Taylors are passionate about what they do, and that’s 100-percent grass-fed Hereford and Angus beef.  Because they raise their own beef, there’s no question that everything in their freezers is all natural, no additives, hormones or unknown ingredients.

They have approximately 46 head of cattle grazing on 90 acres. When you arrive at the farm, you see the usual landscape: farmhouse, barns, fencing, cattle herd, family horses and plenty of pastures and hayfields; you’ll also meet their working crew of Australian shepherds barking and herding everything in sight.

But what you don’t see right off is the cornerstone practice of this farm: rotational grazing.

David and Suzi are enthusiastic supporters of rotational grazing. Rotational grazing requires dedicated attention to the health of the soil and plant species in your pastures. Most folks think rotational grazing is simply moving the animals from pasture to pasture once they mow it down to the nubs. But its way more than that!

It’s about paying attention to your soil, plant root structures, grass variety and quantity of plants that make up the pasture. Then the challenge is maintaining the best possible condition of all of those things. Remember this is the herd’s only food source: healthy pastures equal healthy beef.

So doing it right actually means rotating the animals frequently enough to NOT see bare patches and nubs! The animals get varied diets of healthy grasses, the soil doesn’t get depleted, plant species get a chance to become established and good bugs can do their job for the soil.  Letting plants grow between grazing allows them to have deep healthy root structures.

Do you know if you practice optimum rotational grazing practices, you can even provide winter grazing opportunities right into January? Even in Central New York? Imagine the cost savings in feed alone.

David and Suzi and their crew of shepherds were open on Open Farm Day again this year offering farm tours and educational materials regarding rotational grazing practices and the increased health benefits of eating grass fed beef.

If you’ve got questions about grass-fed beef, ask the Taylors, who know firsthand the differences rotation grazing makes in the health and quality of the beef you eat.

Linda J. Haley is a freelance writer specializing in rural and agricultural topics. She can be reached at

By martha

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