Three-time world champion weight lifter finds new grass farming career to be great fun
By Allan Nation
LITCHFIELD, Neb: In the world of weightlifting, Kevin Fulton is known as “the farmer who lifted the stones.”
The stones being referred to are the 775 pound Dinnie Stones in Scotland that were used to hold the lines of river boats along the Potarch River. The stones are located in front of the Potarch Hotel in the Scottish countryside not far from Aberdeen. This feat was accomplished at the age of 41.
Nebraska grazier Fulton is one of only two Americans who has ever lifted them. (About a dozen people total have ever lifted them.)
Fulton is a three time International All-Around Weight Lifting Association champion and a highly vocal proponent, and now a producer, of grassfed beef.
He grew up in rural Nebraska where his father was a veterinarian.
His father had the wild idea of irrigating pasture in the 1950s but was dissuaded from this heresy by extension wise men.
However, Fulton never forgot it even though he left the Midwest for a job with the University of Massachusetts as a strength and conditioning coordinator in their athletic department.
In this capacity, he coached several athletes that have represented the USA in the Olympic Games. He has also coached athletes at the national championships in both powerlifting and Olympic style weightlifting.
In 1993, he returned to Nebraska and leased the 450 acres of irrigated ground from his father’s 2800 acre farm and became a farmer while continuing to compete in weightlifting competitions.
He won the international weight lifting championship in 2000, 2001 and 2003.
GETTING THE GRASS BUG
While primarily crop-oriented, in the mid-1990s Fulton started going to area grazing conferences as a curious bystander.
In 2002, he got the grass bug bad and started switching his irrigated acreage to pasture.
In 2003, he grass finished his first beeves for a Missouri grassfed company.
In 2005, Fulton completed the three-year conversion of the family farm’s irrigated ground to pasture and finished 300 beeves for four different grassfed companies.
As a result of converting to pasture, he was able to sell off 24 pieces of equipment that were no longer needed. Today, he owns the whole 2800 acres, of which, 2300 acres is in native pasture and the remainder in irrigated pasture.
Two thousand acres of the native pasture are leased out and Fulton has concentrated his energy on the irrigated ground and beef finishing.
The irrigated ground utilizes centerpivots and is subdivided into a circular “bulls-eye” design for the permanent fencing.
This circular fence design prevents the irrigator wheels from having to cross a permanent fence.
These circular paddocks are then cut into smaller paddocks with temporary fences.
“I really like the flexibility this gives me in matching cattle and grass.”
Fulton has found that by moving the cattle every day rather than every three days he has been able to increase grass utilization by 50%. Multiple moves per day pushed utilization even higher.
“The secret is to not buy more land but to better utilize the grass that you already grow.”
He has a small cow-calf herd on the 300 acres of native pasture he has retained but finishing cattle in his primary enterprise.
In 2006, he expects to grass finish between 800 and 1000 beeves on both a custom and owned basis.
“I never knew farming could be so much fun,” he said.
GRASSFED WEIGHT LIFTERS
However, he still keeps an interest in weightlifting.
He has converted an old horse barn on the farm into a training center for young people interested in strength training.
In that capacity, he has produced four teenage national power-lifting champions and three teenage recordholders.
Thanks to his own celebrity as a weightlifter he has been an effective proselytizer for the health benefits of grassfed beef.
Working on behalf of U.S. Wellness Meats in Missouri, Fulton’s presentation at the Los Angeles Fitness Expo in 2004 produced a lot of famous converts to grassfed beef in the weight-lifting community.
Bill Kazmaier, three-time winner of the “World’s Strongest Man Contest” and now a commentator with ESPN, is one of these.
Fulton and Kazmaier did a joint presentation at the 2005 Grazefest in Jackson, Miss.
Another vocal grassfed enthusiast is champion strongman Jesse Marunde.
Marunde on ESPN credited his victory to eating three pounds of grassfed beef a day.
He is also working with Colorado researcher, Loren Cordain, PhD, the author of The Paleo Diet. (Loren is a professor in the department of Sport Science at Colorado State University.)
Doctor Cordain is a major proponent of the health benefits of grassfed meats and has recently found that the bone marrow in grassfed animals contains the highest concentration of CLA. He has found that to be true in wild game animals and we suspect that it holds true with the grass fed beef. The fatty acid profiles are currently being analyzed at the University of Wyoming Animal Science Dept.)
Other projects in the works for Fulton are going Certified Organic and finding a partner or partners who could head up other grass-based enterprises.
“I’ve got a lot more grass than I am utilizing.
“I’d love to have pastured poultry, pastured hogs, sheep, goats and a grass dairy but I need someone else to take these projects and run with them.”
© by The Stockman Grass Farmer
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