Brewery mash makes for contented cows, farmers say

va farm bureauIt’s a happy marriage of recycling and animal husbandry for two beef cattle operations in Nelson County. Massie and Joyce Saunders feed spent mash from Blue Mountain Barrel House Brewery as a supplement to their herd at Rose Isle Farm.

“When I was talking to Taylor Smack of the brewery, he was trying to figure out how he could get rid of the grain at the least amount of expense for himself,” Massie Saunders said.

“We got to talking, and I said, ‘Well, I think I can supply you containers … and I can find a way to get rid of it with my cattle.’ And it’s been a win-win for both of us.”
Casey Smith, who has a beef operation nearby and shares the brewer’s mash with Saunders, said it is “a cost-effective protein supplement that is readily available to us. … It has tremendous effects with the cattle beyond nutrition.

“The largest gain I’ve seen in feeding the brewer’s grain has been with reproductive efficiency, higher breeding rates and shorter time intervals, which translate into more dollars in the end.”

Saunders said the grain is definitely making a difference in flavor.

“We’re getting good marble on the beef, some good rib eyes, good steaks out of them, and the hamburger is just superb,” he said. “And when you cook it, it just falls apart. The people we sell to say they won’t buy beef in the store anymore.”

Saunders said he and Smith believe recycling the spent beer mash has helped make their cattle calm, healthy and easy to handle. But perhaps Joyce Saunders sums it up best: “We have happy cows,” she said.

And that makes for happy customers at both the steak and ale ends of the unique farming arrangement.

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