This is a farm profile I just submitted for the summer edition of the Fold, suggestions and editing are welcome!
I really wanted a milk cow. Don't ask me why, I just did. However, being fairly lazy, I didn't know if I actually wanted to milk a cow twice a day, and besides, what did I know about cows? Horses, sure, I'd grown up with those, but my experience with cows was limited to filling syringes and running Herefords through a chute at the ranch of a family friend one summer. I decided that I'd better start with beef animals and learn about cows before I committed to milking one.
I saw my first Highland cow on the internet, quite by accident, which of course led to researching the breed and looking at more cute cow pictures. The year after I graduated college, I'd saved up the money to go cow shopping. I visited several Highland breeders in my quest for cattle. The animals I saw were docile and healthy, just as I imagined. What I hadn't expected was the willingness of the breeders to share their knowledge and expertise. Everyone I met with was friendly and helpful. I purchased two yearling heifers from Paul and Sharon Dillard of Covington Highlands and my cow education began.
Highland breeders are a very encouraging bunch. The next thing I knew I was showing my heifers at the Puyallup Fair. With lots of help from Dillards and some grooming tips from Jake Larson, the show experience went smoothly. This will be my sixth year at the fair, and while I'm pleased that my cows have placed very well, the best part of the fair is the camaraderie and all the things I've learned from other breeders. I've learned quite a bit from the regular fair visitors too. "This is the steer aisle. There's the mommy steer and the daddy steer and the baby steer."
Highlanders have proved to be very adaptable. My cows are currently pastured on a rent-beg-and-borrow scheme while I save money for a land purchase. This means they ride in the trailer a lot. Any vet visits (I'm too cheap for a farm call), pasture changes, AI breeding or hoof trimming--into the trailer they go, and do it well. I've been very happy with their temperament and the way they handle feed and water changes without trouble, as well as their ability to deal with the ever-present rain and muck.
Every year has brought a new challenge or adventure in the cattle department. This year's new experience for me was AI. After using a local bull for several years (Thanks, Bob and Gina!) I decided to bring in some new genetics to my tiny fold, so I bought semen from 3 different bulls owned by LEA-White Farms in Michigan. It will be exciting to see what I get this year and next, as I work towards breeding the best animals that I can.
As far as that milk cow... Every evening I go out to the neighbor's woodlot where my cows currently reside. I carry a large plastic tote, with a cup of molasses-drenched grain, a jar, a washrag , a brush, a halter, and a handful of timothy hay. It's getting lighter in the evenings, which makes it easier to find my cows without the aid of my headlamp. I set my tote down and pull out the halter. My other cows watch with envy while Tara investigates the plastic tote. I tie her to the nearest tree and get down to business. Sometimes her calf has taken most of it, but there's always plenty to steal, and Tara shares without much fuss. I have the best of both worlds, fresh milk the lazy way, without the high volume of expensive feed.
I look forward to owning Highland cattle for many years to come, and meeting many more of you at future shows and Annual Meetings.
Wishing you all healthy calves, tasty beef, and a prosperous show season!