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We saw our first
Scottish Highland cattle on our annual visit to the Minnesota State Fair in
1992. We continued to stop by the Highland booth at the fair for the next 12
years and were always amazed at their docile nature and majestic beauty. In the
fall of 2006, as a reward for spending 4 grueling days on the roof of the
garage shingling, we decided to attend the Gopher State Classic Highland show
in Farmington, MN. We wandered through the barns and met the owners of Circle
ME Ranch in Loretto, MN. We talked to them about their cattle, watched them
show, and they answered a million questions for us. We found out they had 2
heifer calves for sale, and arranged to go and see them the following month.
After the visit, Jamie was scared! We had walked in 2 different pastures full of cows with a bull, and Jamie wasn't used to cattle, much less ones with horns, and a bull to boot! Once it was determined her fear was cattle in general and not because of the breed, we contacted Circle ME Ranch and told them we would purchase the pair of heifer calves. We got to choose their names, and being they were Scottish cattle, we dutifully went on-line and found some good Scottish names for them, Aila and Netta. That was our start in the cattle world. To meet our fold of cattle flick on "Our Fold" under the Scottish Highland Cattle tab above.
We now have 30 head in our fold. We have our breeding cows and bull, replacement heifers, and also our feeder and market steers. 1/2 of our farm income is from selling breeding stock, and half from selling grass fed and finished beef. Not every calf should be kept for breeding and the beef from Highlands is a favorite of consumers looking for lean, tender beef that is full of flavor. They can be assured that the practices used to raise the animals were in line with regenerative farming practices, helping to preserve the productive land they are being raised on. And they are supporting the conservation of an ancient breed.
Why Scottish Highland??
We had decided long ago that we wanted to choose
a heritage breed when we got cattle. There are lots to choose from, with horns
and without, large and small. We decided on the Scottish Highlands because they
are hardy, disease resistant, do well on grass based systems, and are known to
be intelligent and docile. They also produce lean meat that is naturally marbled.
They have a thick double coat, so they don't need layers of fat to keep them
warm in the winter months and are, therefore, very lean. Hardiness is a factor
to not be taken lightly! In the winter we get very severe winds which blow
across what was once thousands of acres of prairie. The cattle will take
shelter by the shed, but they look equally at home outside covered in ice and
snow. We were also interested in the Highlands because they are listed as a
"recovering" breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, and
we like to do our part to keep rare breeds alive.Highlands have since been removed from that list because breeders have been so diligent in their breeding programs, and interest in the breed has been strong in recent years.
We really have fallen in love with these animals. They are intelligent, and fun to watch! When they were young we used the lack of grass in their dry lot to allow us to handle them every day. We led them out to pasture at night and brought them back in during the day so they had shade. We combed and combed them to let them know we could be trusted. Of course, once in a while they would get a little wild - they couldn't help it, they were young! Aila got in the habit of running from Mark when he went to get them, which turned out to be a great game for her. It was fun to watch if you weren't the one chasing them around. Jamie could generally walk right up to them.
Jamie has always wanted to show cattle, and so
our show careers began! We show to have fun, learn more about the animals we
have and how to improve the next generation. We also enjoy talking with other
breeders and spectators about our animals. We never pretend to know much - just
share what we know and what we have experienced. The Highland shows are mostly in the fall
- the cooler weather is better for the animals. We also take ours to the Mower
County Fair and MN State Fair each year.
Through events such as the National Western Stock show, the American Highland Cattle Association National Convention, and the North Central Highland Cattle Association annual meeting we have learned more about the breed and have developed relationships with other Highland owners. Because the association is small, we have wonderful relationships and people refer interested buyers to other owners who may be in their geographic area of the country. It is a great group to be a part of.
Like most cattle, our Highlands are curious, playful, and sometimes can be naughty, just like any kid. As promised by other breeders we talked to, the breed is very rugged and smart and has been easy for us to manage. Their temperament has been one of the things we love most about them. They are easy to be around and will walk up to you looking for some scratches. We often have visitors out in the pasture with us and the biggest thing to watch for is that they don't scare the visitors with their desire for attention!