Spring 2020

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BLAKE BEEF

 

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Blake Ranch Grass Finished Beef

We sell ranch-raised, grassfed and grass-finished beef from cows that spend their entire lives under our management. We employ low-stress livestock handling and mindful land stewardship practices. Our cattle are raised naturally, meaning they never receive antibiotics or hormone implants.  If you want to purchase some of our beef you can find it in the freezer in the nursery retail shop, we can hook you up with a mail order, or we can generally deliver to local customers within a 50 mile radius. We generally offer a selection of ground beef, steaks and roasts whose quality and flavor will attest to the care we take in raising our cattle and stewarding our land. 

If you would like to purchase beef, please skip to the bottom of the page for more information on purchase options, or you can call Alex Blake at 406-930-2032.  If you want to learn more about our beef and our philosophy please explore below.  

 

Natural, Nutritious and Delicious

Our beef is 100% all natural, and we never use hormones or implants. The steers we butcher and sell do not receive antibiotics and never spend time on a feedlot  - this means they live their lives foraging on natural pastureland until their last day.  Our cattle have a choice of a diversity of native plants and forbes which allows them to select the nutrition they need. Our animals are agile, lean, small bodied red angus that get around to graze the nooks and crannies, coulees and slopes of our pastures with ease.  The meat is healthy, tasty and is butchered locally so cattle do not have a long stressful journey on their last day. Because our cows don't spend time on a feedlot, and are never fed grains, the meat is lean, flavorful and healthy. No matter the cut, we are told our beef has excellent quality and flavor and we agree. 

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Livestock Handling

We employ low stress livestock handling techniques. This means we do as much on foot and horseback (and at times skis) as possible. Cow moves and gathers are generally taken at the pace that the cow chooses. We read cow body language and adjust our positioning so that the cows end up naturally wanting to go where we want them to go. When done correctly (we are always a learning from each other and improving), this method is more efficient, increases cattle performance and creates a pleasant way of doing business for both cattle and their human caretakers. 

Alex goose

 

Care of the land 

We strive to leave this landscape better off than we found it.  This means grazing responsibly, managing weeds, water and wildlife with a vision for the future. The Blake family has already accomplished much in rehabbing the land from the state we found it in. There are many ongoing projects and needs that align with this vision of improving the land.

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We have increased the number of cattle that can graze the land by careful and targeted management. This means that through positioning of electric fencing in small paddocks we ask cattle to lightly utilize every square inch of the range they may not otherwise use. Grazing generates plant growth, if it is limited, and coupled with a prolonged rest period.Once our cows graze an area, we move them on to the next paddock before they have a chance to overgraze. We use this method of high intensity/ short duration grazing (also called cell grazing or management intensive grazing) as a tool to build up soils and stimulate plant growth year to year.  

When the Blakes moved here in 1974, many of the riparian areas were denuded with damage from overgrazing. The. creeks and streams had many areas with prominant erosion.  One of the first infrastructure developments the Blakes made was fencing off riparian corridors to allow bank stabilization to occur with vegetation growth.  We now have lush vegetation and tall willows growing along otter creek. 

As for other ongoing challenges and projects, we continue to try to create conditions for weed supression in historically abused, overgrazed or portions of the ranch with compacted soil.  We have a few places that had been converted to agricultural use before we arrived with extremely sandy soil. In these places, we have been experimenting with cover crop mixes. We hope, over time, these mixes (Sandfoin, a mix of turnips, beans, peas, and a few other select plants) will build up soil organic matter, fungi and microbial communities to provide more grazing opportunities once the soil recovers.

 

Harnessing natural cycles

We are a cow/calf operation.  This means that every year we start our annual cycle by mom cows giving birth in late May and staying with their calf until weaning the following winter. After we do a gentle fenceline wean (moms and calves can still socialize and nurse across the fence until naturally no longer interested) we sell most of our calves, but keep a few steers to raise until they are two years old before butchering them and selling them to you.

Alex moves a newly born calf and its mom back to the main bunch

We have found that by adjusting our calving date to be in sync with the natural cycle of spring it is easier on the mother, the calf and our boottom line than calving in the dead of winter, as many traditions (and tradtitional markets) dictate. There is nothing like seeing a brand new calf raise herself to her tiny hooves and teeter over to her mother to take the first drink of natural collostrum, within a few moments of being born. This is the most critical time of year for us as ranchers. The calves are most vulnerable and mama cow's nutritional needs are high as she starts to lactate. Instead of having this critical process occur in winter when we are often battling -30 degree temperatures and everything is freezing to everything else, we have found that we don't need to buy or put up as much hay if these mother cows' high nutiritional demands coincide with spring greenup. Also, if there are newly born calves running around at the same time as newly born deer fawns, calves are hitting the ground in a predator system that is already flooded with native wild younguns.

*New: Carbon Credit Program

The Blake Ranch is one of a handful of Montana ranches taking part in a pilot carbon credit program. This program is a partnership between Western Sustainability Exchange , Native Energy (a company that sells verified carbon offset credits), Xanterra (the concessionaire for Yellowstone National Park, in this case the local carbon offset buyer) and a handful of small family ranches. The Blake Ranch, by implementing new grazing practices, acts as a producer of carbon offset credits purchased by Xanterra. The funding for these credits is applied to building infrastructure aimed at increasing the capacity of our landscape to act as a carbon sink. The more organic matter our soils compile, the more potential exists for a healthy biocommunity of microbes, fungi and plants. This nutritionally rich soil serves as a foundation for expanded terrestrial biodiversity including insects, small mammals, birds, native wild ungulates and of course will provide healthy and diverse feed for our cows. Soil carbon sequestration is a complex biogeochemical process and it is difficult to measure.  We value science here and look forward to what we will learn from the third party verification that will quantify the increase in soil carbon over the next several years.  Continued application of funding from carbon credits towards these projects is dependent on this verification.

Ferg and Nelly make their way home after moving cows out of the newly constructed carbon project hotwire fence in Nash GulchHow does this work? Blake ranch invests its carbon credit payments directly into materials and labor to construct permanent electric fence and water developments that will open up new opportunities to intensively graze (high intensity/ short duration/ extended rest period) with less labor in a few of our pastures. This type of grazing is intended to mimic the patterns of historic herds of bison and elk. The grass and soil have been conditioned to this over eons; and the system quickly begins to recover with less bare ground, increased biomass, greater species diversity, and enhanced soil health (higher carbon levels).  Managing the land responsibly comes at a cost to us, typically in labor and materials, which are always in high demand. To learn more about this project, you can look here or here. We are continuing fence construction projects, like the electric fence in the photo above, into 2020.

Buying Beef:

1. Email, text or call Alex Blake to check on inventory: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 406-930-2032 . 

2. Once you have decided what you would like, email your order to Alex at the address above.

2. If delivery is available to your location it can typically take a few days to a week.

3. If you would like us to ship beef to you it will typically take 1 - 2 weeks from time of an order input. 

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