If you follow our social media pages, you might have seen this weekend that we brought home one of those adorable fuzzy cows - a Highland!
Highland cows have been on our wishlist since we got started. Getting ahold of one was harder than we expected - they are coveted cattle for sure.
Highlands are truly the perfect breed for our operation in terms of location. The breed is winter hardy with their wooly coat, excellent foragers for silvo-pasture (wooded pastures) that will help to reclaim the land for us, and they produce high quality beef. Their downside is that they are slow to grow - however, part of me is considering this an upside too, as he'll be here for some time before he's market weight.
We started our herd with two black angus steers - and we are very content with angus as a herd option as well. They are known for being ideal beef cows - many restaurant menus list "angus beef burgers" etc. on them - they're tried and true.
There are many beef breeds to pick from, and some are more readily available in our region than others. For us, it is important that we select cattle that are known for having good beef qualities, such as fat content, as well as picking a breed that is meant for the climate we have here. Our top selections include Highlands, Angus, and Hereford breeds.
We are reviewing many options for growing our herd and breeding opportunities as well. Items of discussion on the table right now, include cross breeding to optimize our quality and growth time, maintaining a bull on site, or Artificial Insemination (AI) for our mama cow(s).
It's a lot to consider - the investment in each of these options is significant, and a long-game. A cow's gestation is 9 months - just like us ladies. So, depending on the age of the heifer or cow when it comes here, you're looking at multiple years before profitable stock is being produced. IF the cow is at breeding age, and IF the AI or Bull is successful, then you're looking at the period of gestation, the hope that the calf is passed successfully, and then a minimum of 12-18 months of growing time before the offspring is market ready.
The idea that you're investing in something that will take years to come to fruition is intimidating - but it's also not turning us away. To up our chances of success, we're leaning towards keeping a bull on site - something we initially said no to. However, there is a higher likelihood of success with keeping it all natural - especially as we're not yet experienced with AI - and that is costly for each "dose". What initially turned us away from keeping a bull is the potential for incurred danger. Bulls can be aggressive - they can cause harm - they eventually will need to be kept in their own pasture space. It's an added layer of management (the Homestead Husband already has his hands full). However, for the right bull - if we can search one out with a good temperament - it could be worth the risk.
In the meantime, while we await for our own homegrown cattle to happen over the next couple of years, we'll continue our backgrounding operation, obtaining calves from cow-calf operations (see our Blog Post: Ranch Operation Round Up for more information on this), to raise and finish for beef. We'll also be on the lookout for a supplemental field nearby for hay purposes if anyone has a line.... Say Howdy at: firstname.lastname@example.org