The Crosse Ranch – Animal Husbandry at its Finest

Ben & Suzie Crosse raise beef cattle in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand for the exceptional Grass-fed Angus Beef from Silver Fern Farms. While every Silver Fern Farms farmer-owner I have met operates at the gold standard of animal welfare, the Crosses must be the platinum standard. Ask Ben what the best part of farming is and he’ll tell you that he enjoys “spending time with the animals. The money is a sideshow.” It’s obvious that he means it from his heart. What’s the worst part, Suzie? “Having a thousand animals is like having a thousand children … there’s so much to worry about.”
The weather is the biggest worry. If it is too dry, the Crosses spend a lot of time figuring out how to rotate their cattle across slow-growing pastures in order to maintain the balance of keeping their herd fed on live grass and their pastures healthy. Too much rain makes for uncomfortable animals and that pulls on their heart strings. Farm animals are used to being outside, but I can imagine how being outside in the rain can get uncomfortable sometimes, even though there is abundant shelter on their land in the form of trees planted by Ben’s grandfather. It couldn’t have been more apparent that this family cares for their animals. Ben can read his herd’s body language just like you can read your dog. Their daughter bottle feeds the calves that don’t take to their mom.

Ben’s knowledge and care for his herd is most clearly on display when it’s time to move the cattle to a new pasture. Cattle are curious creatures and they always come over, get within about 10 feet of us, and just stand there and stare. The cattle see us coming toward the gate and start coming over. They wait as we talk about Ben’s husbandry practices. After a few minutes Ben swings the gate open and the cattle rush through the gate and fan out in the new pasture. What’s the rush, I ask, because cattle are normally pretty docile and slow-moving. Ben says, “Because they are well-fed, they are a little picky. My cattle prefer clover and rye grass over the rest of the grasses in the pasture. They eat their favorite grasses first.” I looked at both pastures, trying to see the difference. Both have shin-high grass and I can’t see the difference. Well-fed cattle certainly see it.
In the Crosses, I see a family of ranchers that exemplify the triple bottom line concept. And you know what, they may not have even heard the term. Why would they? They don’t need fancy business school concepts. They live it.
There is a deep vein of environmetalism, humanity and pragmatism at the core of Silver Fern Farms’ Angus ranchers. Healthy, happy animals grow quickly and convert feed to muscle better. Asked why they are so focused on animal welfare, Ben has so many reasons: because it gives him satisfaction, because he genuinely cares about the animals, and because there’s no point in giving them good feed if they are going to metabolize it with nervous energy. That feed needs to be converted to muscle. If the cattle are relaxed they will focus on eating and they will metabolize more efficiently. Why doesn’t he use dogs with the cattle? Because cows get protective of their calves and if the cows get angry at the dogs, the calves will learn anger. He doesn’t want his cattle to learn anger. Wow! That blew me away. So cool.
Environmental stewardship is a deeply held belief among these ranchers and I could tell that they were being real about it, not saying it as a part of marketing BS. The Crosses plant trees to create shelter for the animals but also habitat for wildlife. Nearby, the Absoloms dedicated a huge tract of their land to be a nature reserve, simply because they are thinking about the next generations. They know that their children will inherit this land.
We hop in Ben’s pickup and ride to the top of the hill. There’s nothing but grassy pastures and clusters of trees for miles and miles. Most of what we see on the horizon is land that’s grazed by his beef and lamb herds. Suzie points out the browner grass in the distance compared to the greener grass close-by. She says that as summer wears on, the brown grass creeps closer and closer, and with it creeps the worry about making sure that their cattle have abundant pasture. Good thing this herd is in good hands!
I left the Crosse ranch with deep admiration for their business and their way of life, as well as a greater appreciation for the hard work and thoughtfulness that goes into our New Zealand Grass-fed Angus Beef.

Post Written by Justin Marx

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