Tag archives for “Highland Cattle”
FROM THE FARM
If you asked our agricultural team their thoughts on January and February, they’d say, “Is it March yet?!” The year started off with stormy weather and heavy rainfall, which is great news for our vines and farm but makes for cold and wet conditions around the ranch. While we are busy pruning the vineyard (removing last year’s growth from the dormant vines) it’s our livestock that’s buzzing with life around the Ranch.
This month we welcomed one hundred chicks to our ranch. What does the future look like for these chicks? They will spend the next few weeks in the brooder until they have enough feathers to move to a transitional coop with an outdoor run. When they reach 3-4 months old, they will join our main flock of laying hens in our state-of-the-art chicken coop at our Rutherford Estate. They’ll dine like queens on farm scraps from the organic fruits and vegetables we grow for our restaurant and farmer’s market. Their pasture access rotates weekly through the young fruit orchard planted adjacent to the coop. In the fall, they will clean up fallen fruit which aids in breaking fruit pest cycles. That fine cuisine is filled with nutrients and produces deep orange colored egg yolks. While we enjoy their eggs, their manure will be a vital part of our composting program, adding a nitrogen-rich component to the base of horse manure, shavings, and farm waste.
We are grateful to have three Haflinger draft horses on our ranch, as well as three Norwegian Fjord Horses and a handful of saddle horses. Our Fjord Horses thrive in our working farm environment and have recently, lead by our livestock manager Sophia Bates, been focused on integrating draft power into our vegetable production operations. They have been learning new tasks incrementally and brushing up on older skills, so they can be useful in the production fields of our Rutherford Estate. Their tasks this season include cultivating row crops, as well as tillage for cover crop seeding, and lots of work in the potato patch - furrowing, cultivating, hilling, and digging. Get the inside scoop below from Sophia.
We’re proud owners of one of the largest folds of Highland Cattle in California. These pasture-raised cows, heifers, and calves call our 600-acre Tomales Station ranch home. We are just a few short weeks away from the beginning of their calving season. Calves romp alongside their mothers as they learn to graze on the nutrient-packed forage of the Tomales coastline while growing strong on rich mothers’ milk. They are weaned in the fall after their mothers are rebred and need to retain the extra calories to grow a new set of calves. The majority of the calves stay in Tomales until their second season until they move to fresh pasture in Ferndale and Petrolia to finish on premium grass. The grass season on the coast in Humboldt County is longer than in Tomales, allowing us to lengthen our beef harvests into fall, ensuring that we offer consistent and fresh beef for our restaurant and farmer’s market.
In 2017 we selected a new bull calf from one of our top cows. In case you missed it, we asked our friends and family on Instagram to help us with a name and we have put your suggestions to a company vote. Meet, Chewie!
From the Ranch
Originating in Scotland, Highland Cattle have long, shaggy hair and horns to withstand harsh elements year-round and March marks the beginning of their calving season. Our cows, heifers and calves live in Tomales at our 650 acre Tomales Station ranch.
There are Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) easements on a large portion of Tomales Station. We partnered with Point Blue Conservation Science’s Students & Teachers Restoring A Watershed program (STRAW), Marin Resource Conservation District (MRCD), MALT and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to implement a Riparian Revegetation Plan at Tomales Station, the last ranch before Tomales Bay. The purpose of this plan is to minimize and control erosion to improve water quality (this water feeds directly into Tomales Bay), riparian vegetation and connect existing riparian corridors. In addition, this work helps to optimize pasture productivity and quality in order to contribute to the ecological and economic sustainability of the ranch (AKA give our cows, heifers and calves beautiful green grass to munch on, while maintaining plant and water quality).
If you didn’t know there was a difference between a cow and a heifer, there is! Cows have already had a calf; a heifer is a cow that hasn’t had a calf yet. Highland cattle have a long reproductive life, 10-12 years, compared to other breeds (approximately 8 years for Angus). Cows have been known to give birth to twins, however, it isn’t ideal because they cannot produce enough milk to feed multiple calves.
Calves are slowly weened from their mother’s milk (a gradual process in which grass is introduced into their diet over 8 to 10 months). They are completely separated from their mothers when they are healthy enough to survive without any milk. This also gives the cows time to recover before their next pregnancy. Once all of the calves are completely weened, they are all moved together, because animals do better in herds of similar size and age.