Suzanne Nelson Karreman and her family, along with a dedicated and passionate farm team,…
Dawna Bicknell Tanner, along with husband and Assistant Herd Manager, Mike Tanner, and Land and Cattle Consultant, Ed Hopper, raise Red Devon cattle that are Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW), and Certified Grassfed by AGW at Blue Bear Farm & Cattle Co., LLC in Cairo, Georgia. “Farming was a way of life for my ancestors,” says Dawna. “My favorite place as a child and young adult was my grandparents’ farm in rural Oklahoma. While school and career led me in a different direction, the dream of being land and cattle-connected never subsided and waited patiently for me to find my way back. My husband has enthusiastically come along for the ride and has eagerly embraced our next chapter.”
The terraced farm is located in the Red Hills region of Southwest Georgia in Grady county. “When we purchased the property, the land was a pristine hayfield; sterile and chemically maintained to prevent weeds,” says Dawna. “We saw it as a blank canvas for our farmstead and began to prioritize restoration of soil life and forage diversity. Integral to our plan was the addition of livestock and after completing the necessary infrastructure, we purchased four bred mama cows with calves at their side.”
Dawna and her team now manage a herd of approximately 40 animals. “We selected Devons because of their docility, calving ease, and proven efficiency to thrive naturally on grass,” says Dawna. “Our steers are raised from birth to finish on our farm and are the foundation of our beef operation.” In addition to being Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, the cattle herd at Blue Bear Farm & Cattle Co. is Certified Grassfed by AGW, the first—and only—food label in the U.S. and Canada that guarantees food products come from animals fed a 100% grass and forage diet, and raised entirely outdoors on pasture or range. The herd consists of both registered pure Red Devons and Devon crosses.
For Dawna and Mike, there are two important aspects of their animal husbandry practices. The first is interaction with animals on a regular basis. “We are able to assess their welfare, and this is part of our routine,” says Dawna. They also focus their management practices on promoting the health of their cattle rather than treating disease. One way that they do this is through rotational management of cattle, where cattle graze one section of pasture before being moved to fresh fields. This type of management allows grass to recover before cows return to graze again; it also keeps the soil properly fertilized and minimizes the build-up of internal parasites, thereby avoiding reliance on chemical treatments.
They chose to pursue AGW certification because of shared values and the verification that certification provides. “We believe animals must be allowed to behave naturally and perform natural and instinctive behaviors essential to their health and well-being. We have worked diligently to earn the trust of our beef consumers and to demonstrate that we are committed to regenerative practices for our land and holistic care for our animals. Offering validation through the rigorous certification process from A Greener World was the next logical step.”
Dawna and Mike are also looking toward the future. “Our goals are to grow our herd in balance with available forages in a natural and stress-free environment,” says Dawna. “We also want to develop a more robust supply of nutritious and healthful beef for our customers, be a voice in the local food movement to help people appreciate that what they eat matters; and continue to learn best practices to regenerate our soil through biodiversity and animal impact.”
Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW, Certified Grassfed by AGW beef from Blue Bear Farm & Cattle Co. is available for order online with area pickup and at the Red Hills Market online. Check the AGW directory for details. For more information about Blue Bear Farm & Cattle Co., visit www.bluebeargrassfed.com, follow the farm on Facebook and Instagram and get in touch with Dawna Bicknell Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org and (850) 212-5816.