We wanted to learn more about how our local, grass-fed beef is raised, so we recently drove two hours east of Denver to visit with Tom Lasater, one of the founders of Colorful Ranch, a division of Lasater Grasslands Beef. Since 1949, this storied family has been raising 100% grass-fed and grass-finished cattle on the eastern plains near Matheson.
This expanse of short-grass prairie is home to 850 head of the Lasater’s specialized breed of cattle, Beefmaster, which is a cross of Hereford, Shorthorn and Brahman. Chosen for traits like heartiness, weight, and disposition, Beefmaster cattle feed on native grasses including cool-season varieties like ‘western wheatgrass’ and emerging warm-season varieties like ‘gamma grass.’ “A variety of nutrients is important to the cattle’s diet,” Tom’s father, Dale Lasater, told us. This natural approach is the bedrock of the Lasater philosophy. “Nature does all the thinking … and most of the work,” Tom remarks wryly. The rest of the day-to-day operations are managed by brother, Alex, and two other full-time cowboys, with Dale overseeing the big picture.
As industry leaders, the Lasater team adheres to strict protocols: no growth hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. Tom says 99% of cattle are either injected with pesticides or the chemicals are poured over the animals’ backs. That does not happen here, nor do they spray the grassland. “If you kill the bugs, you kill the birds and eventually create a monoculture,” says Tom. When everything is in balance, a normal insect population will coexist with healthy soil, hearty cattle, and other living creatures, he explains. In fact, a variety of native animals thrive here including white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, porcupines, and herds of pronghorn antelope.
Seemingly uncomplicated, ranching in the West has inherent challenges. On the East Coast, one cow may only need between one and three acres of grass to graze. But with just 14 inches of rain a year in this region of Colorado, one cow needs closer to 30 acres. Luckily, the Lasaters ranch on more than 25,000 acres, using rotational grazing to make sure the cattle have access to the freshest grasses and forbs, or flowering plants. Winter cold is another consideration. With average January temperatures of 15 degrees, the cattle find protection along the sunken banks of Big Sandy Creek. Although geography may stave off the elements, it will not deter predators like coyote that are allowed to roam. “The cow will protect her young,” says Tom. “Once the calf reaches a certain size, the coyote won’t bother it or the herd.” Again, nature reigns supreme on the Lasater Ranch, a special spot that produces some of the best grass-fed cattle in the country. We’re proud to work with these ranchers and encourage you to try some incredible Colorful Ranch grass-fed beef.