JWBeef is a family farm in Southeastern Connecticut. We raise all natural 100% grass-fed Angus Beef and Registered Full Blood American Lowline Angus Cattle.
Lowline cattle & our farm
80 years ago a group of Australians were interested in developing an animal that would produce tasty, marbled meat on a diet of grass alone. Lowline cattle are the result of this effort. A group of the finest Aberdeen Angus cattle were taken from Scotland to Australia’s Trangie Research Station. Pure Angus cattle were selected for mild temperament, small calf size, early maturity, small cow and bull size, marbling on grass and ease of calving. Since being made available to the cattle industry in 1992, the breed line has done exceedingly well. Lowline cattle are smaller than other breeds, and they are highly efficient. These animals are docile and easy to handle. They mature on grass alone without the need to grain finish.
Our cows pregancies last 270 days, slightly shorter than the 283 days more common in larger breeds. Grass-fed steers are ready for market in an additional twenty months. It takes two and a half years just for us to be able to bring you limited quantities of high quality beef from a single steer, and four to eight years to buid an operation to a scale that is meaningful. We acquired our first five lowline angus in 2008. Our herd is constantly evolving as calves are born, steers are sent to market, and heifers are purchased. "The key to a good operation", as one lifetime farmer says frequently "is keeping everything fully f&%^#d". All of our cows have been bred by one of our registered fullblood bulls or with semen from an Australian sire. We raise angus lowlines exclusively; all of our fullblood (100%) lowlines are registered with the American Lowline Registry. We are always interested in talking with other lowline owners.
When we started this project, during the winter we fed our cows square bales of hay in bathtubs and left them out all year round. We used our old dairy barn for the occasional vet visit. After buying a Farmco haywagon and a Mahindra tractor in 2009, we were able to switch to round bales. During the summer of 2010, our friends from Twin Hollow Construction in Pennsylvania built a new barn for us, designed on the back of a napkin by our friend Ted Lewis. The excavation and foundation work was done by local contractors. The new barn is engineered for our smaller cows and is open on three sides. We used to leave the haywagon inside the barn during inclement weather, and easily scrape manure into an adjacent structure. There are calving stalls, head locks, and a chute for tagging, weighing, and veterinary work. The concrete floor of our barn has a diamond groove pattern, providing superior traction.
In the summer of 2011 we added a considerable amount of high-tensile electric fencing which should facilitate rotational grazing next year. In the fall of 2011, after looking at traditional hay racks, we built our own, adding another in the winter of 2012. Most hay racks involve lots of waste as hay piles up and ferments at the bottom. Our hay racks, made from cedar, douglas fir, and rough cut oak have the advantage of 'serving' the animals at head height. In additon, eighteen animals at a time can eat from these home-made racks. During the winter of 2012 we acquired a Bobcat S175 which is wonderful for handling round bales, scraping the barn, and moving small loads efficiently.
In the spring of 2012, Joel Lamphere brought water from the barn to a series of hydrants in the fields where our herd spend the summer. In the past we have used a combination of hoses, rubbermaid stocktanks, and floats to provide water for our animals. Tired of busted floats and leaky hoses, we acquired three Miraco waterers which we have adapted specifically to our needs, mounting them on moveable wooden platforms. In the fall of 2012 we built a bullpen for Batman and an additional hay rack to feed the growing herd.
In the past, in order to keep the genetics of our herd varied, we artificially inseminated cows with semen from prize winning bulls hailing from Muddy Creek Ranch, Neil Effertz, and Australia. We now follow a practice of procuring a new bull every two years from respected lowline breeders. We currently have 76 animals in our herd, including one breeding bull SGL SULLIE (FM22946), 31 cows, 21 steers, and calves.
Year and number of calves:
During 2013 our friends from Twin Hollow returned to build a smart shelter for the bulls wintering in the bullpen. In the fall Lamphere & sons returned with their excavators to clear approximately seven acres of land under the State of Connecticut's Farmland Restoration Program. This land was subsequently seeded and fenced and should be productive pasture by the middle of 2014, supporting an additional 10 animals from May through October. We created an additional animal trail with high-tensile fencing installed by E&A Fence of Fort Plain, NY, a holding pen for loading animals easily, and will have another 6 paddocks for animals to rotate through come the summer of 2014.
2013 was not without it's challenges: we almost lost a steer last winter, lost one cow in childbirth (she was bred too young - our fault), had plenty of pinkeye in the summer, and one bladder infection. That being said, we are grateful for all of the help we received during the year. Ted Lewis again artificially inseminated two cows this fall and is a perpetual source of sound advice. Noah Lewis can drive the Bobcat with his eyes closed and is equally comfortable handling our animals. Brianne Casadei of Terra Firma is a wonderful neighbor and collaborator who has expanded and built a wonderful grassfed creamery on Rte 2 in North Stonington. Kevin Lindell from Tufts Ambulatory embodies professionalism and responsiveness. In 2013 we had a calf whose leg was crushed. We splinted her leg with some pvc, pipe wrap, and duct tape and named her "Peg". We acquired a bull from B&B Lowlines to serve for 2014 and 2015.
In 2014 we acquired two small adjacent lots for farm housing and offices which were renovated by our friend Todd Brady and Allen Esh and the fellows from Twin Hollow Construction. We acquired a bull from Rodney Hess of Shady Grove Lowlines to service our cows in 2015 and 2016. During 2015 we started selling all our beef exclusively to BRIDGE in Westerly - the arrival of Paul Servideo, their food forager, makes doing business with them easy and fun. Paul has done internships at Stone Barns, studied butchery in Brooklyn, worked at Animal Welfare Approved, and put in his time at Westerly Packing - he is a fount of knowledge when it comes to sourcing, identifying, and preparing high quality large animal protein.
2016 has started with 25 calves, of whom 24 survived. "Peg" recovered from her rough start to life in 2013 and in May 2016 had her first calf - a beautiful fullblood heifer. If cows were people, our infant mortality rate would be ranked number 174 in the world out of 224. Our mortality percentage is inline with India's but a long way from Monaco's. Unlike people, though, in the cattle business a 96% survival rate is pretty darn good - we used to lose 1 in 10 calves ( similar to the infant mortality rate in Somalia and Mali). Improvement in this area is owed mainly to preventing any calving before early March - it's a pity that there's no easy fix for infant mortality. In May 2016 we sold a cow/calf pair and a steer to a beginning farmer in Newtown. Not entirely prepared for the arrival of these animals, a series of snafus led to the dispersal of both the calf and the steer. The persistent farmer recovered the steer, who was swimming in a nearby lake, and 51 days later captured the calf who was living on the lam and reunited him with his dam.