ORGAN CAVE (WVDN) – Robert and Jewell Doering of Sarver Heritage Farm have continued to improve their facilities since moving on to the farm in early 2000s, and pride themselves on doing things a bit differently.
Robert Doering says, “My grandparents Robert ‘Lacy’; and Viola Sarver bought this place in 1952. He had a farm before that and had been a farmer for many, many years.”
When purchased, the property required some critical clearing and there was some logging done, just so that most of the 250 acres was useful for the cattle farm operation.
When Robert Doering was 6 years old, he started coming to visit his grandparent for the summers.
For a boy, flying cross country to be picked up at the airport by his grandparents leaves memories for him now of wonderment, that the world was different then. It was not outlandish to travel as a child on a commercial airliner and be met at landing by an adult. He continued this annual trek to Grandpa’s farm until he went to college.
Other things have also changed over the years.
Farming practices like round bales have caused an abandonment of the old-style barns across the countryside.
Once Robert and Jewell Doering became the farm managers at Sarver Farm, they took the old barn and refitted it to not only allow round bale storage, but also to provide a feed way to use the round bales inside the protective barn cover.
There is a modern, metal shed on the property too. But using what already existed has been the big challenge for the Doerings – not to throw the past away, but to cherish it and understand it and perhaps even revive it.
And this is where the process of raising beef cattle without using pharmaceuticals, hormones, vaccines, or chemical fertilizers comes in.
It was a bit scary at first, they said. They gradually eliminated one type of vaccine or medical treatment at a time to see if the cattle would show any illness. After a while they realized that keeping their herd isolated on the same healthy and clean farm ground, and not introducing purchased animals, the clean farm would protect them from most of the illnesses that commercial beef farms struggle against.
Harvesting the beef is done differently too. The larger commercial carcasses of 8-900 lb. animals are really too big for the average family to consume, even as a “side” or half-carcass.
So, they make their harvest from a smaller framed type of beef, the cross of Black Angus with Galloway.
Doering says, “They have shorter legs, but that doesn’t affect the quantity of consumable meat.”
The cattle considered mature at 10 months and weaned. The animals are pre-ordered sales, six months to a year in advance, so this animal is actually known to be destined for a certain customer long before it reaches harvest size of 600 pounds.
There is no castrating, no wrestling the herd through pens and shoots to do medicating, no chasing around to move from pasture to pasture.
“They live a naturally calm lifestyle,” Robert Doering says.
He says the animals, adult and young, are used to a gentle way of life and this stress-free rearing shows in the meat quality.
“No grains. Only grass. And we are working toward a full 12 months of grazing so there will be less hay consumed as well. The living grasses have higher nutrient value,” Doering says.
He is carrying only half of what is considered capacity on his acreage, so the fields are lush, and the Doerings never stress about feed quality.
Robert Doering says, “The serving of four ounces of our beef has one third the fat of grain fed animals, the protein count is 1 percent higher and the 6/Omega 3 ratio is only 1.57:1, where the grain feed varieties can range from 6 to 10:1.”
The calves are left with their mothers to nurse and gradually, naturally wean themselves to full pasture feeding. The are then separated at around 10 months old.
This does not stress the already impregnated cows, because they had done the weaning themselves by then. So, you don’t have that wailing and sadness going on when the young generation is moved to an alternate pasture.
Some of the young ones are sold off the farm to go on and be raised on another farm. Some are used for rose veal.
Doering explained the history of this type of meat.
He says, “In England they outlawed the farming practice of raising milk fed veal because of humanitarian issues. So, the farmers began to raise the calves longer, to a young adult age. At this point the meat was still quite tender and also had the grass-fed flavors and colors to the meat. They called it rose, not full red, but a dark pink.
The marketing of their product has been constantly evolving to the point now that their pre-order customer base has members coming from states away to pick up their order of beef sides.
Jewell Doering has added handcrafted soaps and lotions to the catalog, and they have their eggs as well. Additionally, they are a distributer for New Country Organics Feeds.
Being a New Country Organic feed distributor just makes the use of these feeds economical.
“We are driving there to get our own chicken feed so buying for neighbor farmers on that trip makes loads of sense,” says Jewell Doering.
For the customer of the feed product, they will pick up any type of New Country Organics available at the wholesale plant.
“I am really looking for a beef processing facility that can do what I have seen in other parts of the country: process baloney, beef sticks and summer sausage,” says Robert Doering. “I have not been able to locate a butcher to process this level of product for us. We need the USDA inspection for our out-of-state business, and we need quality processing that understands how stress can ruin a beef. We have tried many facilities and are still looking” for the ideal operator, he says.
Online orders are through their website, contact them and arrange to purchase from their Ronceverte farm www.SarverHeritageFarm.com .