Our mission at Florida Raised is to provide a positive and educational spotlight on the beef industry in our state. Our ground-beef is sourced directly from local agricultural producers, who embrace the traditional methods of pasture raising beef. The same quality and methods that have been used in Florida for over three hundred years, without hormones and antibiotics.
Florida beef is sold internationally, and it has earned a reputation for excellence. But what is so special about cattle raised in Florida that produces such high quality and tender beef? We are blessed with some incredible quality grazing that other states simply do not have, thanks to the unique wetlands and biodiversity in Florida.
In this article, we’re going to share how valuable our grasslands are to the agricultural community, and why protecting this asset matters to help sustain and grow our valuable beef production industry.
South Florida and Lake Okeechobee Grasslands
Have you ever heard of St. Augustine grass? It was first evaluated by the Everglades Research and Education Center, and the findings were released in 1944. The study showed that the Roselawn variety of St. Augustine grass produces a greater forage mass than other varieties. It grows low to the ground, and then produces 90% leafy tissue per plant, no matter how mature each individual cluster is.
This grass is perfect for grazing cattle, and it is really unique to Florida because it relies on the rich mineral soils. It flourishes in the moist and mucky wet pasturelands and grows almost all year long in Florida. This means that it is an abundant, natural grazing resource for large cattle herds. And it rebounds quickly and grows rapidly, which means ranchers do not have to worry about a pasture that is ‘grazed out’ or over its capacity to replenish itself. That means less rotating of herds and it makes pasture management easier for Florida cattle ranchers.
In fact, one of the interesting things about the Roselawn variety of St. Augustine grass, is that it actually thrives on overgrazing. This type of grass has strong and aggressive runners beneath the soil that are connected to share water and mineral resources. The grazing actually stimulates more grass growth, and cattle are also a vital part in controlling the spread of the grass, particularly near canals and waterways.
The St. Augustine grass doesn’t produce seeds; so that’s a problem sometimes. But what ranchers do is hire help to transplant plugs or segments of the grass in pasture areas that are moist and wet. It is resilient to frost and can bear temperatures less than 28°F which may kill off the surface foilage but the clusters of grass recover quickly and regrow. About 80% of the St. Augustine grass growth happens from May through October every year.
If ranchers need to supplement their herds in a specific area, they can harvest the St. Augustine fresh grass, and place it in the pasture for their cattle. They do stockpile forage from time to time, but St. Augustine grass does not cure like standard hay varieties, and if it is supplemented to cattle, it is provided fresh cut.
What is really special about Roselawn St. Augustine grass however, and what makes Florida grass-fed beef so delicious and nutritious, is the content in each blade of grass that cattle consume. Did you know that St. Augustine grass that is grown on organic soil (no pesticides used) offers crude protein levels of up to 16% for cattle? Placing 2-3 yearling cattle per acre usually nets a minimum average gain of one pound per day, and sometimes up to 750 pounds over the course of the year per animal. That’s without any additional dry supplementation, to create true authentic grass-fed beef.
That’s a lot of information that we want to share about what makes grass-fed beef from Florida so unique. In fact, our local grass-fed beef is lower in fat and calories, higher in Omega 3 fatty acids and has more antioxidant value per ounce than factory-farmed or dry-fed beef.
How is Quality Cattle Foraged Managed in Florida?
Consumers know that grass-fed beef is healthier, and more nutritious. That’s why Florida ranchers have moved quickly to this type of beef production, to meet consumer demand. But as you can imagine, maintaining quality forage for cattle without the use of pesticides can be a difficult task. Weeds also grow (some of which can be harmful to cattle) that need to be effectively managed.
As with all things, the old ways are sometimes best, and that’s exactly how Florida ranchers and environmental agencies strike a natural balance between grazing forage and weed encroachment.
Saw palmettos are a bit of a problem in pastures, and they spread rapidly and can reduce the success rate of other important grazing grass varieties. They also tend to flourish with other ‘problem plants’ like bluestems and Indiangrass.
It’s a tricky balance, because often when you target one type of undesirable forage grass, another problem plant pops up and starts multiplying rapidly; that’s the case with wiregrass. Pasture management using organic or natural methods is a full-time job, and pasture lands are maintained using mowing equipment, roller choppers or brush cutters, and sometimes scheduled controlled burns to rehabilitate healthy grazing areas.
The rotation of pastures is a time-honored tradition and method in the Florida beef industry. Have you ever wondered why cattle ranchers will move whole herds from one location to another, even when there seems to be plenty of grass on the land? That’s because pastures are stimulated by cattle grazing. From aerating the land with hoof prints to increase soil oxygenation, to natural fertilizer, this sustainable relationship between cattle and pasture has always existed. The environment benefits from the grass control and benefits of cattle that are permitted to graze freely.
Before the pasture is pushed beyond its ability to recharge or flourish with new growth, the cattle are moved or rotated to a new pasture location. The process is continuous, and after the cattle have been moved, the pasture will regenerate with new grass and growth.
In Florida, our wetlands constantly decompose plant mater and filter water. That water moves to saturate grasslands and also provides a rich source of minerals and nutrients that are required for St. Augustine grass and other healthy types of natural foliage. Without cattle grazing, these areas would quickly become overgrown and strangle out other types of valuable plant diversity.
So, you see there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes to produce Florida Raised beef. What makes it different isn’t the price you see at the grocery store; it’s about the highest quality and flavor beef produced right here at home, and fresh for Florida Families. That’s Florida Raised.