Radio interview source: Rich and Carol Radtke, Owners, Coyote Ranch
Listen to the radio show
When Rich and Carol Radtke of Kerkhoven, Minnesota, moved onto the farm that he grew up on, he knew he wanted to raise cattle and grow as much of their feed as possible. But he didn't want to do it just like everybody else, so he decided to start a grass-fed cattle operation.
Rich says when you raise grass-fed beef, you're not a beef farmer, you're a grass farmer. The animals are simply the grass harvesters. Rich calls the end product solar beef. "Grass is little green solar collectors and they store the energy from the sun and wait for beef, aka harvesters, to come and eat the stored energy and they give us food. So, I kind of coined the little phrase 'solar beef'."
Rich has divided 60-acres of pasture into three-acre paddocks. Cattle are moved in, allowed to graze for three days, and then moved to another paddock.
The Radkes grass harvesters include about 20 Scottish Highlander cattle. Rich wanted the toughest animal he could find, something that didn't need to hunker down in a building through a harsh Minnesota winter. "We had a snowstorm that lasted about three-days, and I hadn't seen them. I thought they must have gotten out. We got a clearing, and I went out to the far corner of the farm and there they were, grazing in one-foot of snow, and they had probably an inch of snow on their backs," Rich says. "They looked up me, thinking 'what the heck are you doing out here? We don't need you.' And then they went back to grazing. That was the moment I knew I had picked the right animal."
The Radtkes market their beef, as well as pastured pork, lamb, chicken, and holiday turkeys. He considers his farm an experiment, but says it's more about what they can do differently and yet more successfully than anything else.