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American Guinea Hogs &Articles &Beef Cattle &Sustainable Agriculture saboranch on 19 Mar 2015

The Importance of good minerals for weight gain

Just thinking as spring progresses about how to obtain the best gain on newly weaned Guinea Hog piglets and Devon calves.
Calves need a good high-sugar hay base to feed the bacteria in their rumen for good absorption of feed, and the bypass protein that plateful gut bacteria can provide.  They also need a superior mineral program to provide the raw molecular materials for enzyme creation!
The pigs can be fed nearly anything, but they gain best when they have good, efficient, digestion!
SO, how to help them to gain weight efficiently, and provide us with healthy, less expensive meat?
1. Improve their digestion so what goes into their mouths translates into weight gain BETTER!  Raw, organic apple cider vinegar provides the minerals from the deep rooted apple trees, and good potassium (the K in NPK that all life needs), and good probiotics that set up proper enzymes for digestions.  Cattle will eat it free choice, if it’s provided in a tub.  Pigs do well if the vinegar is mixed into one of their feedstuffs, or sprinkled on their hay.
2. Minerals.  If you don’t have a good source of really well mineralized feed, you might also consider a pig mineral.  Minerals are the base building blocks for the enzymes that are required for all metabolism.   Good metabolism = good digestion = weight gain!
Our neighbor found a gain of 50+ lbs per calf at weaning after he was diligent about filling all the mineral tubs on one side of a huge 100,000 acre ranch.  The other ranch manager was not as diligent about the mineral tubs- but had all the same genetics and forage as the first man- and the calves on “his” side of the ranch came in at a lighter weight at weaning.
50 lbs x $1.50/lb sale price x 900 calves = $67,500 extra $$ !!  No that’s a bank account addition we’d envy.
If you don’t have a good source of already mineralized milk or whey or eggs for your piglets, invest in a good hog mineral.  Calves will ALWAYS grow better with a good mineral program, and their dams will breed back quickly on the same thing, and their sires will have good, strong, viable sperm with that same good mineral program.
We have used the Helfter free choice mineral program and found 100% breed back in our herd, an excellent percentage of females (great for home-grown herd increase!), and healthy calves year after year.
Having trouble breeding back, or getting weight gain?  Look to your mineral program, either in the mineral tub, or straight onto your fields for bio-available minerals IN you forages and hays!

Articles &Meet the Sabos &Soil and Forage &Sustainable Agriculture saboranch on 09 Apr 2014

The importance of CALCIUM & MANGANESE

Many of us dislike glyphosate, found in RoundUp and other herbicides. One of the things it does is to block the absorption of MANGANESE from the soil. It blocks other minerals’ absorption also, but here’s some farming information about manganese that might be interesting to both farmers and livestock producers.

Manganese is high in the seed heads of grasses- livestock and humans need manganese to produce eggs and sperm. If we breed our Montana livestock back in July & August, when seeds are being produced by native grasses, we take advantage of naturally occurring higher levels of manganese in forages- for better breed back and pregnancy percentages!

“…Carbon determines the depth of the magnetic field across an acre of land. The next item of importance to maintenance of a basic electrical field is manganese. If manganese is not present, seeds will not sprout….Manganese is one of the heaviest elements essential for crop production…. It take at least 12 atoms of nitrogen to capture one of manganese. (hence the importance of adequate nitrogen in our soils! emphasis mine) Nitrate nitrogen is one of the main negatively charged elements in the soil, the other chief ones being calcium, atomic weight 40, and potassium, atomic weight 39.102…. If each calcium atom gave up all …units of energy, only four atoms would be required to capture one atom of manganese. No element will give up that much of itself, therefore a great many more than four will be required to capture that single atom of manganese. It may take as many as 15 or 20. If we have one pound of manganese per acre, it might take 500 pounds of calcium to serve up the energy needed to capture that manganese. A low test weight on a crop means that the soil was not working correctly to capture the necessary manganese. Certain symptoms can assist the farmer in reading the situation. If the soil is sticky, it may be so hungry the calcium can give up very little of its energy to capture the manganese. Soil that isn’t trying to grab the boot off your feet will give up calcium more readily.” p. 47

“Mainline Farming for Century 21” Dan Skow DVM & Charles Walters

Do any of us know that grains such as wheat, barley, etc, should have SOLID stems- indicating adequate calcium?
I always thought that wheat should have a hollow stem. That cool hollow tube of a wheat stem is actually an indicator of ill health and inadequate mineralization and an incomplete food for wheat’s consumers.

The first step in making CHANGE is to NOTICE. This corn dolly made from our grasses shows that indicative hollow stem- our cattle's demand from the minerals tubs have shown that our hay is still lacking in calcium. This year, again, we are mineralizing our fields- an effort to move the available minerals into a more bioavailable form than the ground-up rocks in the mineral tubs. Those have worked for 5 years and that method is slowly remineralizing our fields through the cattle. Now it's time to ratchet up the process and put the minerals onto the fields!


Articles &Beef Cattle &Dairy Cattle &Devon Cattle for Sale &Jersey Cattle for Sale saboranch on 19 Mar 2014

Do you want a HEIFER or a BULL?

Most of us would like to choose the sex of our calves, at least part of the time.  Dairy herds resort to expensive sexed semen, which still contains a good percentage of Y sperm, and still often results in bull calves.

10 year old grade Jersey ‘Cupckake’ with her 7th vigorous newborn HEIFER calf, uploading colostrum!

There is a better, and often more certain way to obtain the sex you WANT from your best cows.  That 14 year old mother cow who calves every year on a 365 day cycle without a whisper of trouble, and gives you one of the biggest calves in your herd?  Wouldn’t her bull make a great herd bull for your next generation?  How about that beautiful family Jersey with the world’s creamiest milk- don’t you want heifer after heifer out of her?

With careful planning and a minimum of effort and extra expense, there is an easy way to achieve the desired sex of your upcoming calf.

It has to do with the HEALTH OF YOUR COW!  A cow must be well mineralized and have a body pH that is moderately alkaline to conceive a HEIFER.  If her body pH is more acid, she has a high likelihood of conceiving a BULL.  Yes, the bull has a hand in it, but the cow is in control.  Have you ever noticed that the majority of calves in the front end of your calving season are usually heifers?  Those are the healthiest cows- they bred up, or bred back, the most quickly last year.

Although this fat Devon/Angus steer (just weaned at 9 months) is standing in front of a feeder, these three days post-weaning are the only days he’ll see a feeder. Otherwise, his deep heart girth and mineralized good health will allow him to admirably compete with his herd mates for his 15 lbs of daily hay during the winter months, to gain weight easily on a 100% grassfed regimen, and to stay healthy until butchering at 22 months.

How do you get there?

Here are several tips that have worked for us in conceiving the calf sexes that we’d like:

1.  Remineralize your pastures!  The most expensive method up front, but the one that gives the most returns to YOUR ranch over time, is to improve the health and productivity of your own soils.  Minerals are most available to the cattle from mineralized, healthy plants.

2.  Mineralize your cattle!  While cattle would rather get their minerals from healthy plants, the bacteria in their gut can digest and incorporate ground up rocks from the mineral box.  Purebred cattle, with their lack of hybrid vigor (yet how could we have hybrids without those purebred genetics??) DO probably need a better mineral program than commercial hybrids.

We have had the best luck with Jim Helfter’s ABC Plus free choice mineral program- 100% conception, 100% healthy calves across 5 years- a record that pays for the more expensive minerals.  We tried Mark Bader’s Free Choice minerals, but lost 6 out of 31 calves to anemia- never took their first breath, or died within 24 hours- pretty expensive!  We have also talked with numerous cattle producers, from around the country, whose cattle “will not conceive & carry a calf with artificial insemination”, or “who only conceive bulls, not replacement heifers!”  Our universal advice is to improve their mineral program.  Cattle KNOW what they need on a daily, seasonally adjusted basis.  Give them choices, and they’ll keep themselves healthy.

3.  Give your mineralized cows adequate rest after nursing that calf, before calving again.  While most cows CAN calve out healthy calves, and rebreed, with only a 45-60 day dry period, their body recovery and condition is more likely to conceive a bull.

We have found that if we give our average cows- Devons, crossbreds, or the higher producing Jerseys, all 100% grassfed- at least 80 “dry” days, and then rebreed them in the 70+days postpartum window, we’ll get heifers.

The highest producing cattle, usually the ones that are thinnest going into the dry period and have raised the biggest calves, might need a longer dry period, and an 80-90 day rest post partum while they are only nursing, to give you a heifer.  Three of our smallest commercial red cows (who were also raising the fattest calves with the highest meat-to-bone ratio) received 150 days rest after their 5th consecutive bull calf, the last of which we sold as grassfed veal last year.  Each one of them conceived a heifer the following year.

If our goal is bulls, we can stress our cattle a bit more.  Good minerals are still a must, as deep bodied bulls only come from healthy mothers.  However, if one allows last year’s calf to nurse a bit longer- a 60 day dry period for the cow- or rebreeds that cow quickly postpartum, at 45-60 days, the next year’s calf is likely to be a bull.

4.  Select and cull your BREEDING herd, keeping only the healthiest cows.  Keep the cows with the 365 day breeding seasons (the next healthy calf arrives 365 days after the previous one).  Those cows have proven their genetic herd worth.  Fertility, mothering, ease of calving, longevity, are all embodied in those older cows.  No sense selling the “average” ones if they still work for you.  Just don’t keep their offspring in the breeding herd- that’s where your sale barn or retail beef program comes in handy!

These “best cows” will still give adequate bull calves to maintain the development of sale bulls, but you’ll be able to build your replacement heifers easily, and have plenty to sell over time as replacements and breeding stock for others.  We only make real money on a cow AFTER her 4th calf.  The best breeders have a good stock of old ladies, still producing healthy calves!  That’s where we should be seeking our next round of semen, should we go “off ranch” for new genetics.

I always ask WHY do cows conceive like this?  My theory:

The male offspring of a “cow interested in genetic longevity”, a bull, normally gets a LOT of chances to create that cow’s grandchildren.  If she’s a bit stressed at conception, her genetics will pass down more easily with a bull calf.

The female offspring of that same foresighted cow will only bear a few calves during HER lifespan.  Far better to conceive that heifer calf with the possibility of deep heart girth, great mineralization, adequate body fat to carry that heifer calf to a healthy, strong birth, and healthy “grand calves”!

Have fun, fall in love with the old ladies who still have healthy heifer calves at their sides, and enjoy the challenge of building sturdy, low maintenance, sustainable genetics for the 21st century of grassfed producers!


Articles &Intern Diaries &Meet the Sabos &Sustainable Agriculture saboranch on 25 Nov 2013

Health and Responsibility

There is a lot of debate these days about HEALTH CARE, when we are actually debating ILLNESS CARE, and usually CHRONIC illness care.

Mark and I discuss with visitors and friends the issue of cheap food equalling cheap nutrition all the time.  Its just part of our lives now.  I attend Weston Price meetings to learn, and also with my marketing hat on- so people who understand what we’re doing know that we exist.

Kiril Sabo raising organically fed, pastured turkeys this autumn.

I write a lot, and we host visitors a lot, to keep educating, to keep sending on information about how to find good health and good food.  We all want simple lives, but good food/good health in America comes by searching out the complicated issues and understanding them. Our customers are a tiny percentage of the whole– educated, thinking, questing, never satisfied with the easy answer.
We can raise livestock because they, like us, enjoy the easy answer– feed me your choice, my stomach will be full, and I’ll stay here until you butcher me……..  It’s a rather grim view of the world, but…!
That’s why this American health care issue works– the public is asking the “health care system ” to help them past their own terrible health choices, agreeing to follow you (the Feds & the conventional drug based medical system) and pay you (the health care system) the bulk of their lifetime earnings by the end.

The first litter of Sabo Ranch American Guinea Hogs- the perfect grazing hog- gentle, excellent mothers, easy keeping.

With 80% of health care costs taking place in the last month or two of life, many Americans are leaving this world far poorer than they or their families would wish.  Many Americans are also living a life of pain, with sore digestive tracts, sore joints, sore hearts, sore backs, and fuzzy minds– all due to their dietary choices.

All Sabo Ranch cattle are GRASSFED/GRASS FINISHED, for heath of cattle AND human consumers!

The life that we are leading requires personal responsibility, responsibility every day of our lives as we choose what to eat, how to live, how to raise our children in that responsibility.  It’s hard work.  Many rewards, but harder.
If we choose pastured meats, nutrient dense vegetables and fruits, and eat fermented grains in moderation, we can ameliorate a lot of our chronic illnesses such as arthritis, attention deficit disorders, allergies, heart inflammation, and even autism can often be ameliorated with responsible nutrient dense food choices.
I admire what all of you who are producing quality, nutrient dense foods are doing, and if you can stay the course, you will find that people start to depend on what you produce, because they are also making the hard choices and can’t raise all their own food, but want good food!

Articles &Beef Cattle &Devon Cattle for Sale &Sustainable Agriculture saboranch on 09 Aug 2012

Choose gentle Devons for better gain on Grass

Article after article, rancher after rancher these days, is looking for better gain in their cattle on fewer and fewer inputs.

As fuel costs rise, and hay, and gasoline to run a vehicle to check on cattle in the fields, we all need to find the solution for minimum input and maximum gain.

Devons can be the answer!  “…recent studies at Oregon State University evaluated the impacts of temperament on gain performance, reproduction and health parameters…”    and found that cattle with poor temperament negatively affected all the above parameters.

Not taken with a telephoto, Devons are among the most gentle of breeds. Fertile, extremely easy keeping, intelligent, and able to adapt to any environment. The perfect breed for producer safety and beef gain!

Articles saboranch on 07 Dec 2009

9/23/09- Bozeman Daily Chronicle article

Red Angus cow and Devon bull calf

Red Angus cow and Devon bull calf


Daily Chronicle- September 23, 2009       by Jenny Sabo





Clay Enos, a professional photographer from New York City, recently visited our ranch, referred here by the Community Coop as he traveled back roads across the country on a Vespa motorcycle.  Why here?  He was touring East to West using the online “Eat Well Guide to the U.S.”, traveling slowly and trying to eat locally grown food as he went, and stopped here for a meal and a chat between Bozeman and Helena.  Clay told me that in all his miles of traveling, he continually found that only the most expensive restaurants, countrywide, served locally grown food. Without a kitchen of his own, he said, it was almost impossible to find affordable, locally grown food.  No diners, few mid-range restaurants, had anything local.


Jeremy Roberts, a filmmaker from the Bitterroot, also shared a meal here yesterday, on his own journey towards a film about land use issues and open space in Montana.  Jeremy said that one of the few “benefits” of the current economic slowdown is that the ongoing disagreements between developers and environmental groups about the use and preservation of Montana open space have slowed.  No current building, no new subdivisions, means that no new land is being developed and covered with roads, homes, and businesses.  Yet this slowdown is temporary, human populations are rising, more people will move to Montana in the future, and all will need food and homes.


How can we fill this gap of services, this gap between good food and “affordable food“?  How can we maintain the open, beautiful Montana we all love?  For an answer, I go to an idea from Francis Saufmai, a farmer from a tiny island called Woleai, 500 miles south of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.  Francis recognized that he would be buried on his land, that his children and even great-great-grandchildren would live on and eat food from the land over his grave.  “Live as if we will be here forever.” 


Certainly, it is more difficult to live and work “at home” exclusively.  We must let differences fall away, forgive resentments, work with neighbors.  Do we knowingly deplete our soils if our children and grandchildren will be eating from those soils?  Do we look only for the highest profit, lowest cost materials if we buy and sell our products within our home communities?  


If we buy grain or hay from a neighbor for our livestock, and we don’t like how he uses irrigation water from our shared ditch, we need to work it out.  If the butcher down the road supplies our weekly meats and his children tease ours on the way home from school, we can’t just go somewhere else if we have committed to buying his local meats.  If our neighbor’s dog barks incessantly and we have committed to stay in our home for the rest of our lives, we have to be willing to discuss matters and come to a mutually agreeable solution.  When Mark and I moved here to Harrison, we were surprised by the lack of anonymity that exists in a small community– the benefit for us was that we are learning to take full responsibility for the way our personal decisions impact our neighbors’ lives.


Living and working “at home”, sustainably, forever, requires what I would call “true maturity”.   Ours is a young country, we have built our culture on the ability to move on to fresh ground, to find the best buy, the newest trend, the highest profit.  What if we settled into the maturity of a lifetime marriage to our home in which we live, to this community and landscape?  How would we treat our home if we planned to live here truly forever?


How would our landscape look if we committed to locally raised, affordable food in every kitchen in our valleys?  How would our towns and cities look if we tried to save the beauty and accessibility of our open lands for everyone, regardless of how much land each person actually owns?   What if we planned our development so that our great grandchildren still had clean water, clean air, good food, and affordable homes, and open space right here where we live now?