When we purchased the farm a year and a half ago, it came with cows. Kinda. There were cows on the farm. Eating grass, mooing, leaving patties. All doing legit cow business. The problem was, they weren’t ours.
Our new friend Greg had kept cattle on the property for a while. No mowing, no land leases. A win, win situation for both cow and land owner. We had (and still have) so many projects on the horizon, we were happy to leave Greg’s cows munching away in the pasture. They were fun to look at, they do crazy stuff, and they made us new friends. But in the back of our minds we knew someday we would like to have our own herd.
What we lacked in knowledge (like everything – we have never owned cows) we had in mentors. Paul’s best friend just happens to run a grass fed cattle farm, Ninja Cow Farm. Plus we know Greg, experienced hobbyist and highly familiar with our land. Then there is Chatham Extension, Farm Service, and You Tube. Bring it on.
It was actually a long process starting late last year as Greg whittled down the herd on our property and relocated them other land. It was kind of sad the day they took the last ones off the property. I talked to those cows a lot – mostly when people weren’t around. Not everyone gets my level of weird. But we felt committed to the idea of having our own herd.
I’ve written before about our farm’s history as a poultry farm back when the Clouse family ran it, but the Clouses did other things too. Like raise cows. And not just any cows, they specialized in a heritage breed of cattle well suited to small pastures and equally useful for both meat and dairy production – Dexter cattle. There aren’t many Dexter breeders out there, compared to that of Angus or Hereford cattle. Dexters are the homestead cow. Good for pulling carts or plows, good for milking, good for meat, good foragers, and well tempered. But they are small and most cattlemen like big beef. So Dexters are often relegated to the fringes of homesteaders. We knew we’d be laughed at by the big boys, but we don’t have plans to run a commercial ranching operation. We are small.
So we were drawn to this breed. It suited our pasture size, our management goals, and our provenance. We set off Dexter shopping. Well not really, because Dexter breeders are spread across the country (and remember, we know nothing about cows). But through the CFSA Farm Tour, we met the fine folks at Woodcrest Farm. They not only raise Dexter cattle, and chickens, goats, rabbits, etc. but they do cool things like blacksmith and make soap. That made them kindred spirits.
We spent a year thinking about cows and as the time got right, we contacted the Green family at Woodcrest to talk Dexters. Chris Green helped us greatly as we discussed our goals and asked the requisite newbie questions. But the biggest selling feature came down to connections. Many of the cattle in the Green’s herd had lineage to cows from our farm (formerly known as Rocky Hill Farm). Not Greg’s cows, but the Clouse’s Dexters from years ago. So these animals were related to us. Sort of, right? We thought so and jumped in with all four hooves. (More to come in Part 2)