Grass-Fed Cattle Thrive Beside Tussey Mountain

5/31/2014 7:00 AM
By Linda Williams Southwestern Pa. Correspondent

EVERETT, Pa. — The setting for Sylvan Glen Farm is as picturesque as it sounds. Owned by Bill and Nancy Lingenfelter, it is also home to 139 grass-fed beef cattle.

With a deed dating to William Penn, the 401 acre farm — two farms combined — has been in the Lingenfelter family since 1935, when it was bought by Bill Lingenfelter’s grandfather.

Several streams known as Cove Creek provide plenty of water, and pastures butting up against Tussey Mountain contribute to the ideal setting for grass-fed beef.

“There are a lot of beef farmers in Bedford County,” Bill Lingenfelter said. “But only a few are grass-fed.”

Nancy Lingenfelter said she is not certain how they got involved in raising beef cattle. “It just happened.”

After purchasing the farm in 1980, they tried other areas of farm life.

“We did dairy cows for a short time,” she said. Then, they got into horses, and roping and riding.

Bill Lingenfelter laughed as he recalled that they had Saturday night roping at the farm and folks came from as far as Ohio.

“I bought some longhorns for that,” he said. “Then, we started penning competition. We took that idea to the Farm Show and it stuck. The Farm Show still has penning competition.”

One thing led to another, and they went from Longhorns to Anguses and Devons. There are still a few Longhorns in the herd, which is as varied in color as the pastures.

Bill Lingenfelter said they do what is called “mob grazing.”

“We keep them in one pasture for 12 hours and then move to another,” he said. “We only ever let the grass get down so far. If you allow the cattle to graze to the ground, the pasture will not withstand a drought.”

As it is, even in a drought, the Lingenfelters still have plenty of pastured grazing. It is their goal to have pastured grazing year-round. This year, they fed hay for about four months.

Each pasture gets a rest period of 45 days. The Lingenfelters — like many grazing farmers — believe this type of farming produces better meat and healthier cattle.

“I don’t know the last time we had a sick cow,” Nancy Lingenfelter said. “We might have a problem with a calf now and then, but the cows don’t get sick and we do not give them antibiotics.”

She admits she worries about them when the weather, especially this past winter, gets very cold and snowy. Then, her husband has to remind her that grass-fed beef is popular in states like Montana that get much colder than it ever does here.

“They could come into the barn for shelter,” Bill Lingenfelter said. “But, they prefer not to. They just hunker down in the trees or behind a hill and seem quite happy.”

the Lingenfelters are “green” farmers who are members of Ducks Unlimited and obey all the regulations involving the Chesapeake Bay.

The sparkling clean stream that seemingly springs from the ground near one of the pastures testifies to their efforts. They do not allow the cattle to linger in the water but provide plenty for drinking.

They have installed 2,600 lineal feet of gravity flow pipe with an additional 5,000 being installed.

There are arguments as to which type of farming is most efficient, grain-fed or grass-fed.

The Lingenfelters agree that it takes more land and is more labor-intensive to raise grass-fed beef. However, they need no machinery to plant grains and do not use any fuel, only shoe leather in moving the cattle from one pasture to the next.

They do need a lot of fencing, but once installed, it is pretty much there forever. Bill Lingenfelter pointed out that new high-tech fencing is easier to install and not as shocking.

Becoming accustomed to the routine, the cattle wait patiently at the fence near the rotation time. The 12-hour rotation does limit the time the Lingenfelters can spend away from the farm, but Nancy Lingenfelter said they really don’t want to go anywhere.

He works for PennDOT and she is the director of nursing at Donhoe Manor, a nursing home. Their shifts easily allow them to move the cattle twice a day.

“We’ve been to all the beaches we want to sit on and have really seen everything we wanted to see. We are very content to stay here and enjoy what we have,” she said as she gestured at the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

If they do have an occasion to leave for a weekend or a couple of days, the Lingenfelters’ adult sons live nearby and are more than willing to help.

“We call on them from time to time to help with various things,” Bill Lingenfelter said. “We really don’t need to hire extra help.”

Marketing the beef has not been a problem. One of their markets is a health food store in nearby Bedford known as “Wholesome Living.”

Bill Lingenfelter said they get a lot of orders from this market and he is surprised how big the demand is from a small store.

They also sell direct to those who want to purchase a whole, half or quarter beef, and they use a local processor for cutting and wrapping.

Proponents say the health benefits of grass-fed beef are numerous, and the Grassfed Primer argues that raising beef in this manner is better for the health of both humans and cattle, and for the environment.

Does milk have a lot of untapped potential in today’s competitive beverage market?

  • Yes
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  • Unsure

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