Cattle farmer Susan Rodger of Eumundi Beef showed me around her biodynamic farm in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland last week. Passionately speaking about how her cattle are treated differently to most, from the pastured fields to the slaughter-house. Firstly we spoke about biodynamics so I could understand what it is while we strolled on her property.
Raising quality cattle for Susan starts with soil nutrition of the pasture where they eat. By applying liquid fertiliser (a brew) the nutrition of the soil becomes healthier which then grows richer pastures, which will benefit the cattle. 500 is the key component of biodynamics Susan tells me, it is made from putting cow manure inside a horn facing north buried in the ground during the cooler months. During that time the manure breaks down and produces a nutrient dense compound which most people refer to as humus. The 500 can be diluted down and spread over the fields like a liquid compost, it can also be used in vegetable gardening. Making the brew and using it is quite an intriguing process. First you have to add the 500 to room temperature water and stir it in one direction for half an hour and then the other for another half an hour. The best time to apply liquid fertiliser is between 3pm and 3am. This is the time the earth breaths and allows the liquid to absorb better into the soil according to Rudolf Steiner the founder of biodynamics. Now that you understand that biodynamics starts with soil nutrition which the cows graze on providing them with better food making them healthy.
500 with a worm in it.
The livestock graze on 265 acres of land, on which Susan runs 106 head of cattle, give or take a few, with Auslines and Murray Greys as her chosen breeds. When they first go into a cell (which means fenced off paddock area, not behind bars or standing room only) they have grass to knee height were they can graze in the field. After eating for a few days (2-4 days) the cattle are moved on to the next cell. The grass is eaten down to ankle height but not below which allows the grass to grow back quicker. After the cattle are moved Susan uses her harrow, her most useful piece of equipment, which is attached to a tractor or car to spread the cow manure across the paddock. This is a biodynamic technique to improve soil quality and to compost the ground. The harrow drags out the manure while the teeth on the end break up the soil a little allowing the nutrients into the soil. Harrows are not used if the soil is too wet as it digs up the grass and makes a mess of the paddock. The cattle are fed organic hay during the dryer parts of the year along with molasses mixed with sea minerals -sea minerals is a concentrated sea water.
Harrow, the pins at the end of the last two rows.
Each month or so Susan sends one or two of her cattle to the slaughter yard to be processed and then taken to a local butcher to be broken down. The cattle are around three years of age before they are sent, allowing time to be naturally weaned off their mothers. Natural weaning takes around ten months to happen. Susan tells me most commercially raised calves are taken off their mothers at six months so the mothers can be knocked up again, which means a quick turnaround producing more money for some beef farmers. Last year the last local abattoir was closed here on the Sunshine Coast, which leaves only the larger scale abattoirs in business in the surrounding area. When Susan started taking them to the local Eumundi Abattoir the cattle did not have to travel far and they would be treated well and processed first thing in the morning. She is now sending them to the other side of Brisbane, they are still processed first thing in the morning, yet the travelling distances are not ideal. Susan is currently starting the five year process of becoming a certified biodynamic farmer. This will allow her to take her cattle to a closer abattoir and give them special treatment when processing. Any certified organic and biodynamic meat gets processed first in the major abattoirs; the pens on arrival are washed clean for hygiene. Susan made me aware that the local Sunshine Coast council is trying to approach state government to help get a mobile abattoir system which would allow home kills. It is a better system for the cows and owners. I can’t wait to hear more about this.
After processing the meat is hung for ten days at Barry’s family butchery in Beerwah. Ideally Susan would like her meat hung for 14 days, which is a huge comparison to most meat that is only hung for three days. At Barry’s butchery after the meat has dried it is cut to Susan’s specific order sheet. From there it gets transported back to Susan’s cold room for storage for pick-ups.
Being a beef farmer Susan has chosen a better way of life to create food that is full of nutrition. She still works in Brisbane three days a week to keep a cash flow while she builds her dream of working on the land and be self-sustaining. Susan always knew she wanted to farm. Her first idea was driven by her love for goat’s cheese and to possibly farm goats to produce it. During her late twenties Susan had cancer found quality food to eat was very rare and hard to find. During this time Susan explored the “Weston A. Price Diet” and also looked into organics. Working previously as a bio-chemist in pathology Susan understands the effect of chemicals on the blood and body. She is a strong advocate for “you are what you eat and I am conscious of where my food comes from” With years of research into food, chemistry and farming practices she chose to farm beef biodynamically.
Eumundi Beef0412 364 156 firstname.lastname@example.org www.eumundibeef.com.au
You can place your order for April now by contacting Susan. I have tried her beef mince and it is the best quality mince I have eaten in a long time, the fat content in it is perfect for me. I have put my order for April, have you?