Cattle wait beside a pasture gate. When Ben Crosse swings it open, they rush through and fan out across the new pasture, each picking a spot. Yet, the pasture they’ve just left isn’t depleted. To the untrained eye the two look identical. Why the rush?
Ben explains, “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.”
The Platinum Standard of Animal Welfare
Silver Fern ranchers tend to operate at the gold standard of animal welfare. Their cattle graze green grass in wide open pastures in New Zealand, one of the most pristine places on the planet. Healthy animals grow faster and convert feed to muscle better, so the ranchers have every incentive to treat their animals right.
But if these farmers are the gold standard, the Crosses are moving them to the platinum standard. They care for their animals on a heartfelt level that makes an impression when you meet them.
Of course all ranchers care about their cattle, but watching the Crosses interact with theirs, you sense a deep connection and relationship that goes beyond what a lot of ranchers have.
When their animals are happy, they’re happy. When it rains heavily and their cattle are uncomfortable, the Crosses are uncomfortable too. When it gets too dry, they spend a lot of time figuring out how best to rotate them across their pastures to keep them well fed and un-stressed without depleting the land.
As Suzie Crosse says “Having a thousand animals is like having a thousand children…there’s so much to worry about.”
Their Herd Knows No Anger
This connection to the animals informs their business at the deepest level – they plant trees on their property to provide shelter for the cattle (and other local wildlife) and they don’t allow dogs on their land.
Ben doesn’t want dogs agitating the cows when they’re feeling protective of their calves – he doesn’t want the calves learning anger from their mothers. When visiting the Crosse ranch, you really do get the distinct impression that his cattle live without anger or fear. The herd is curious, and will crowd together within ten feet of strangers to get a closer look.
When Ben tells you the best part of farming is “spending time with the animals. The money is a sideshow” – you know it comes from the heart.