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Local farmer learns the ropes of rotational grazing
July 9, 2012

Compton Farms to be on Sustainable Farming Association tour set for Saturday

By Kristen Miller
News Editor

DASSEL, MN – As a retired criminal investigator living in Lamson on his family farm, Dennis Compton decided to make use of the farm’s 96 acres of land by starting a herd of grazing cattle.

Not only would they be a healthy alternative, sans the chemicals found in conventional row crops, but they would also give Compton something to do in his retirement.

He started the operation in 2007, when he seeded his first pasture. In the spring of 2008, he fenced the pasture and purchased two Highland/Pinzgauer heifers, mainly to raise for meat for the family.

Compton is now up to 14 head of cattle, including one calf born within 24 hours of the interview. He is expecting six or seven more calves yet to be born. He would like to see his herd grow to 30 to 40 head of cattle.

Among his herd are Pinzgauer, Texas Longhorn, and Scottish Highland, a highly sought-after meat, which is the preferred beef of the British royal family, Compton noted. Scottish Highland are distinguishable by their chestnut color and long hair, which can grow 6 to 8 inches long, he explained.

Compton’s herd is grass-fed, which as herbivores, is how their systems are set up, he explained

One of the problems with conventional grain-fed cattle is that they gain weight too quickly, creating acid in the stomach, and eventually causing health problems in the animal, Compton explained, who has a degree in biology, with a minor in chemistry and earth science. He also read a lot of books before he started the operation.

Though grass grazing takes a bit longer for the cattle to become market weight – 18 to 24 months as opposed to 12 to 14 months – Compton said it’s healthier for the land, the animal, and ultimately, the consumer.

During the spring, summer, and fall, Compton rotates the cattle each day on the 15 acres of grazing grass. In the winter, he feeds them hay, which can cost as much as $10 to $12 a day. This is also one of the reasons grass-fed meat costs slightly more than conventional meat, since it takes more time to become market weight.

Compton plats the land out in sections to what he estimates the cattle will eat in a day. Then, in the morning, he open a poly wire fence and the herd starts moving into a new section of tall grass.

Each of the pastures are separated by 10,000-volt wire fences, just enough for the animals to respect the wire, he commented.

Along with the grass-grazing cattle, Compton Farms also raises free-range chickens.

Compton believes that it’s important to raise the animals humanely and as naturally as possible by keeping them in their natural environment, feeding off the land. This allows them to receive the best nutrients to grow.

Health benefits of grass-fed meat

The idea behind grass-fed animals is that they receive the nutrients provided by the land and in turn, pass those nutrients on to the consumers.

Some of the health benefits of grass-fed meat Compton highlighted are:

• significantly better fat and antioxidant profile than grain-fed beef;

• higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that is linked to reduced cancer rates, arterial disease, and diabetes,

• omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio is closer to the dietary ideal and,

• more vitamin A and E precursors.

For more on this, visit www.eatwild.com.

Festival of Farms tour

At 65, Compton isn’t looking to make a lot of money off of his operation. It’s more about preserving the land and providing a healthy, quality product; a common goal among other sustainable farmers.

Compton is a member of Sustainable Farming Association of Minnesota – Crow River Chapter, a farmer-run organization that provides a network for farmers, and a connection to eaters/consumers.

The Crow River Chapter is hosting a Festival of Farms Saturday, July 14 including several farms from the Twin Cities west, with tours starting at 10 a.m.

Compton Farms is one of the farms on the Festival of Farms tour.

The object of the tour is to expose people to sustainable farming practices and the products that are available, Compton explained.

It’s also a way to show others that there are alternatives that use less equipment and burn less fossil fuels, he added.

Compton Farms is located at 73669 County Road 15, Dassel.

Tours will be given at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., with an open house between.

Other area farms on the tour include:

• York Farm – Andy Cotter and Irene Genelin, at 21161 York Road, Hutchinson. This is a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm with fruits, vegetables, cut flowers, and herbs. The only tour will start at 10 a.m.

• Living Song Farm and Sleepy Root CSA Farm – Jerry Ford, Mariénne Kreitlow, and Brandon Wiarda, at 7616 25th St. SW, Howard Lake. Here, visitors will see a fourth-generation farm that is currently in transition to certified organic. The farm uses rotational grazing with cattle and laying hens, makes hay; and grows garlic, onions, and raspberries for market. Wiarda also runs Sleepy Root CSA, serving 40 members and growing vegetables for Twin Cities restaurants.

For more information and other tours, visit www.sfa-mn.org/crow-river.

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