We love cows – all kinds – ornery, placid, opinionated, and gentle. They are an important part of our small farm. Thanks to a couple of gifts from Gabe’s Aunt and Uncle at Fitch Family Farm cows are the first animals we raised together before we were married. But cows grow slow, eat a lot of hay that we buy from our neighbors, command more respect and fencing than the rest of our animals, and are the most nerve-racking to load in a trailer. Cattle genetics are a little more finicky when it comes to a pasture/grass based system, most commercial breeds have been ruined by feedlot agriculture, and the older breeds grow very slowly (2 ½ to 3 years until slaughter).
We love our Highlander/ America Milking Devon crosses but they are slow to get to size and unless they we are breeding registered animals (and preserving the breed) I am not sure they make sense. So we are trying a few different things. We have bought an Angus yearling bull that we hope will breed the Highlanders and we are trying some Jersey steers.
The Jerseys are a milk breed that is not widely respected for its ability to grow meat. This means the price is right (the steers are free) but they are not likely to outperform our Highlanders in growth rate, specially on grass. I have heard a number of people rave about Jersey meat. We are looking forward to comparing the taste of Jersey, Highlander and Highlander/Angus. Of course we are going to have to wait a few years to do this. The upside of our Jersey steers is that they are the sweetest, calmest, and most affectionate calves we have ever had. Eben gives them pats every day and they love people. Definitely not in the ornery category.