This is a day on the farm I will never forget and I hope my 3 year old doesn’t either.
First, let me share with you some history.
As I was growing up on the farm, our cattle operation consisted of a wide variety of cows my grandfather would find at the sale barn. We had tall ones, old ones, black, white, grey, red and sometimes down right mean ones. And some were a little of everything. Grandpa had a great mind for business and he focused on how to make a quick dollar here and there to sustain the crop production side of farming. It was admirable and it was so much fun to sit and watch him work the sale barn while bidding.
My father on the other hand was and still is equally wise for business but had a different, much longer term perspective. Dad saw the big picture and instead of a quick dollar he envisioned an operation that would fit the evolving market and sustain the beef production side of farming. This meant investing in good genetics and creating a herd that was pure, black Angus. It has been incredible to see this dream become a reality for both Dad and my brother.
Our hodge-podge pasture groups have transformed into healthy, black beauties who both calve well and have a much more efficient weight of gain. Dad and Ryan have built great relationships with breeders and have a good eye for the market demands. It has changed the entire dynamic of our beef cattle operation. We now do rotational grazing and are expanding into direct-sales with our freezer beef. The genetics and feed have come together to fashion tender, flavorful beef that has given us returning customers year after year. Not every year is a stellar market but with the crop production side of our farm we are able to ride it out and stay in the game.
Now, how does that lead to my big announcement today? Well, one more fun little story. As I shared, my dad prefers black cattle. They tend to bring a higher price in the beef industry and he simply likes the velvety look of them. I, on the other hand, prefer red cattle. Specifically Herefords (red with white faces) but any red cow will do. When I was younger and dad began customizing our herds, he reminded me that he will never purchase a red cow. He didn’t want me to get my hopes up. I appreciated his honesty even though I would tease him about it year after year as the time drew near for me to begin my SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) for FFA. I specifically had requested Hereford calves. He again reminded me that we do not raise red cattle on our farm.
When I thought all hope was lost for my red herd, I saw my beloved Grandpa drive in pulling a goose neck trailer. He had come straight from the sale barn. I peeked in the holes of the trailer and couldn’t believe my eyes. He had purchased, just for me, not one but five Hereford heifers. I was beyond excited. They were the most beautiful creatures I had ever seen. Their white heads curled just right and they were so sweet and friendly. I named them after my favorite childhood book series that Dad used to read to me at bedtime, “Little House on the Prairie”. Laura, Mary, Cary, Grace and Nellie (she truly was a little ornery) were here to stay on our farm.
Every time I think back to that day and those heifers I wish I could try one more time to convey to my late grandfather how much it meant to me. The funny thing is, I hand fed those babies into large cows and we bred them to one of our black Angus bulls. My dad again didn’t want me to get my hopes up so cautioned me that their calves would be black and white. The black is almost always the dominant gene. Guess what I did? I prayed. Yep, I prayed about cows. I asked God to please bless me with at least one red and white calf from my sweet heifers. He answered this farm girl’s prayer in a big way. Four out of the five heifers calved and more than one was red and white! I love how God cares about the small stuff and gave us all something to chuckle about for years to come.
Now, 15+ years later, my dad and brother informed me that we were purchasing a group of red Angus cows and one of them even looked like a Hereford! Once again, I couldn’t believe it. They were almost sheepish in telling me. It was great. They do have very logical reasons in making this purchase. It wasn’t really about my hair preference. You see, red cattle do not get as hot as black cattle so they will not be spending every warm day huddled under the trees. What’s the big deal in that you may ask? A few main issues arise when they spend a majority of their day under trees. It makes it harder to check them and their calves, fly control is nearly impossible and it doesn’t spread out the manure over the pasture to naturally fertilize the grass. We rely heavily on healthy, well maintained pastures since a majority of our cattles’ lives are spent on grass. So the red really does have an efficiency value, not just a photogenic aspect.
I’ve waited weeks for these girls to be delivered with their new calves. As I was rushing around feeding breakfast to my daughters and getting us ready for a trip to town my husband walked in the door, knowing I would be very excited, and informed me that my red herd was finally on the way!!! I quickly dressed the girls, grabbed my camera, thanked God and ran out the door just in time to see the trucks drive in pulling goose-necks full of the most beautiful red headed creatures you have ever seen. Okay, so maybe the most beautiful red headed cows and calves you have ever seen.
They have been well fed, worked with and loved by the Swallow family. We will do our best to carry on that same affection. I keep looking out the window grinning and wishing my grandpa could see them. Enjoy these first pics of their new home at Britt Farms.
Beautiful!!! I’ll keep you posted on how they are doing and I’m sure you will see many more pics in the days to come on our Facebook page! Today was one for the books!