All management decisions are carefully made with the help of our local feed store (Lukach Seed Agency) and veterinarian (StillGrass Vets).
Our fold is raised on approximately two acres of pasture that have been split into four half-acre paddocks. We recently installed a Ritchie Omni 2 automatic waterer to ensure 24/7 access to fresh water. Our fold is checked at least twice daily. This helps us make sure appropriate care is provided as well as acclimate them to human interaction. This frequent interaction helps reduce animal stress which can lead to long-term negative impacts. One of our primary goals with our cattle is that they are exposed and acclimated to a variety of stimuli and stressors. This makes them easier to work with for not only us but our veterinarian and future owners. Detailed records of our fold are logged on our livestock program, Cattle Max. These records help us track the care of each animal and provide records for future customers.
After careful consideration, we have chosen a two-season breeding schedule with a primary focus on the fall. We have found that the fall has more predictable weather and warmer temperatures. Fall calves tend to have a higher weaning weight due to there being more good quality forage. Cows, generally, have a higher body condition at breeding time, which will allow earlier breeding at higher rates. Conception rates have also been known to increase in the fall compared to the summer as cows are not dealing with the summer heat. Fall calving is known for having higher winter feeding costs due to cows lactating in the winter and having a higher nutritional need. Another problem often seen is colder temperatures and snow being harder on calves' health. We are hopeful to see less of an impact in these areas compared to other commercial breeds as highlands often do much better during the winter than more traditional commercial breeds.
We will use artificial insemination for all of our breeding. This allows us to have more predictable outcomes related to conception rates, genetics, and due dates.
To help utilize our small pasture as much as possible, we have implemented rotational grazing which allows our pasture grass time to recover after being grazed. Grass hay is always available, as well. Although our fold's primary source of nutrition is grass, they are not considered grass-fed. There are times when they are given grain products as a treat. Kent Baby Beef is our primary source of supplemental feed. This is most often used when weaning calves to provide them with extra nutrition as they transfer from their mother's milk to primarily pasture and/or grass hay. Kent Framework 365 Mineral products provide our fold with a year-round mineral program that fills nutritional gaps as pasture conditions and seasons change.
Centuries of evolution have designed highland hooves for the rough Scottish hills and the need to roam to find forage. Since our cattle don't roam far and our Midwest pasture is nothing like the Scottish hills, our veterinarian provides annual hoof trims to ensure proper hoof health and growth. Annual vaccinations of Vira Shield® 6 + VL5 and Bovilis Vision 8 with Spur are given as recommended by our veterinarian to our breeding cows. Steers are given a CD/T vaccination. The entire herd is given an Ivermectin pour-on and Safe-Guard oral paste for deworming and parasite control. Fly spray and pour-on are given as needed during fly season
Calves are generally born out in the pasture unassisted. Shortly after being born, calves are moved into the barn with their mother for monitoring. This is to ensure the calf is healthy and is having no issues feeding. Healthy calves are often returned to the fold with their mothers within a few days. Before returning to the fold, calves are given a BO-SE injection, vitamin B complex injection, and Inforce 3 vaccination.
Calves are weaned at 6-7 months. We use a "soft" weaning method where the calf and mother are still able to see, hear, sniff, and be close to one another. Studies have shown that this helps reduce the level of stress of both mother and calf by keeping the calf in a familiar environment and slowly adapting to separation. At weaning, calves will be tattooed and given any other needed injections following the ones given at birth.