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Starting Our Own Beef Herd
As a family we have a goal of raising most of our own food. We have several reasons for doing so. We want to provide our family with the healthiest and cleanest food available. Purchasing food of this nature can be quite expensive, so raising our own is a much more economical way.
We can also sell some of what we produce to help off set the costs and hopefully make a living at it eventually. We also want our children to have a connection with where their food comes from and what it takes to put it on the table. Being able to provide for ourselves is also very important to us. These are just a few reasons. I really could go on and on about it, but I won’t.
Looking back over the last few years and seeing this goal starting to become a reality is so exciting. We started out with a garden and some laying hens. We eventually added meat chickens and pigs. We also acquired our beloved milk cow, Gertie. This year we decided to raise some turkeys as well. One of our bigger goals was to raise our own grass fed and grass finished beef. That seemed like a far off dream more than a goal. Turns out that it was much closer than we ever thought.
It started out when our friend decided to buy a couple of Jersey steers to raise for beef. One thing led to another and we ended up with a steer of our own. Our milk cow, Gertie, has taken him as her own calf. It took her a while to warm up to him but now she’s his momma. We are enjoying raising him and look forward to having some yummy beef in the freezer.
Now we have a bigger goal in mind. We would like to raise grass fed and grass finished beef for our family as well as for a business. It is not always easy to find good beef and I would love to be able to provide that for ourselves and for other families. We would also love to make a living farming one day and this would help achieve that goal.
Farmer Derek has a friend/co-worker that raises American Tarentaise Cattle. They were talking one day and he began telling farmer Derek about the breed and it really intrigued us. We began researching and reading up on them and decided we liked the breed and wanted to pursue them. They were originally from France and were primarily a milk cow.
They are excellent foragers and are the only cows that could successfully graze in some of the steep mountain terrain. They are also a very solid cow so they are great for beef. A perfect homestead cow, dual purpose for beef and milk.
The other exciting thing is that their milk rates right up there with a Jersey for butterfat content. They are a beautiful bovine breed for sure. They typically are red but can also be black. There aren’t a lot of breeders and herds of the Tarentaise in the US. The ones around are primarily used for beef purposes not dairy.
Farmer Derek set it up with his friend for us to visit his farm and look at a few heifers he had available for sale. When we saw his herd we were sold and agreed on purchasing three young registered heifers from him. We were beyond excited! The heifers were delivered to us in August. We bought two red and one black. The farm kids named them Annabelle, Elsa, and Anna (yes, like from Frozen).
They have mostly settled in to our farm. Anna and Elsa are very friendly and tamed down….Annabelle on the other hand is a little bit of a rogue. Well, maybe a lot of a rogue. She is currently in our neighbor’s field with his cows as she decided to go on an adventure recently. We plan to catch her and bring her home soon. Farmer Derek has built a nice pen for her to keep her in until she decides to be a friendly cow. We want to keep her at home, where she is safe.
We plan to breed them early in 2016. We would like to breed for full blooded Tarentaise but there aren’t any non-related bulls nearby and to AI them would be quite expensive. I’m sure it will al work itself out, it always does. I can’t wait to see the calves they produce. We will train one of the heifers to be a milk cow as well. We will choose whichever one turns out to be the calmest and friendliest of the three. So far it looks like Anna (the black heifer) is going to be it. I look forward to seeing how this adventure unfolds for our family.
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