It should come as no surprise that a region known as “the Sunshine State” is known for raising quality grass-fed beef. However, Florida has another advantage beyond its climate: the nearly ubiquitous St. Augustine grasses covering much of Florida’s land area.
So what exactly is it about St. Augustine grass that makes it ideal for pasture grazing?
Greater Forage Mass
St. Augustine grasses grow low to the ground at a perfect height for cattle to graze. Plus, as much as 90 percent of its makeup is leafy tissue, regardless of the maturity of the individual cluster.
Suited to the Environment
St. Augustines thrive on the miry, mineral-rich soils that make up most of Florida’s pasture land. Combine that with Florida’s warm temperate climate, which rarely drops below the 28-degree mark, and these grasses typically grow almost year-round.
Flourishes as Graze
This type of grass is known for its network of strong, aggressive runners underground, connecting the various clusters to distribute water, minerals and nutrients. When cattle graze the surface material, growth is stimulated to replace the lost tissue. St. Augustine grasses will grow more quickly than other grasses, meaning ranchers can worry less about a field becoming overgrazed.
In addition to stimulated plant growth, the presence of cattle in fields of St. Augustine grass will mean the soil is aerated by the many hooves walking around and nourished by the natural fertilizer they leave behind. In exchange, the cattle get a nutrient-rich food source. St. Augustine grass, grown without pesticides, can contain crude protein levels of up to 16 percent. Yearling calves can easily average one pound of growth per day over the course of a year, potentially even double that under the right conditions.
Are there any drawbacks to St. Augustine grass? Somewhat – let’s look into those.
They are somewhat less drought tolerant than other varieties of grass. But considering Florida averages 54 inches of rainfall per year, mostly in the warmest months, this issue isn’t very problematic.
In addition, St. Augustines don’t cure like standard hay varieties. However, with a nearly year-round growing season, ranchers should have no shortage of fresh-cut grass, should they need it.
All these factors add up to make Florida grass-fed beef, grazing on Florida St. Augustine grass, a high-quality product grown right here in your own backyard.