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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seeing Red

This past week we greeted our newest members at White Oak Farm, four pregnant registered Red Angus cows. Now I know that for those readers that hang on my every word will wonder what is going on here. In my last post I indicated that I would be spending all my time taking care of the vineyard and now it looks like I have already strayed from this pledge.

Well, I ask your forgiveness here, but it is really part of the big picture plan, so let me continue. These four cows (for you city folks this is a female that has had a calf previously) are all due to have calves again in late October. Call them Halloween babies I suppose. If you understand compounding, nothing beats doubling your asset base every year.  The Red Angus breed is a specialized breed within the Angus group, where most of you recognize Black Angus as the "steak of choice". Red Angus are better suited for our climate because their red hides do not absorb the heat of a hot summer's day like the black variety does. They have greater marbling too for those that eventually make it for dinner.

Our cows do not have names like Lucy and Ethel, or Cagney & Lacy. They are just known by U204, T29,X406, and X446.  They may be around for quite awhile since this will be our starter herd intended for breeding, and they may all have personalities (really, cows do have unique character traits), but they are not pets. It is our intent to eventually offer grass fed Prime Cut beef in the cafe / meat counter associated with our winery. We are catering to our specific type of customer who wants a rich tasting steak to go along with their new bottle of red wine. We'll see how this marketing decision goes......our first offering will probably be in mid-2015........

There is alot to animals. Sure, for the most part you leave them alone. The grass fields provide most of what they need. But they need fresh water so I had to hook up a fresh water trough. And they need mineral supplements so I made a mineral barrel to house their block of salt & molasses. There will be plenty of flies, so I made a fly catcher (thank you You - Tube!) to try to deal with a pre-determined threat. There are the vaccinations and vet visits.  But you don't have to bring them in at night. I do have that fear of a coyote deciding to cause trouble, but these cows ARE HUGE, weighing in at 1100 to 1500 pounds each. No coyote is going to mess with them (calves may be a different worry however).

They're fun to watch. I brought them buckets of sweet corn Friday and it was like they found their new best friend. They'll chase you down to put their nose into a bucket of corn. And when I left the field they followed me right to the fence hoping I'd be getting more, or be back soon. The herding instinct is confirmed.......where U204 goes, they all follow. When I went out with the corn, I had 4 buckets.....stupid me. I laid them all out, maybe each 10' apart figuring each cow would grab one. What happened was that U204 muscled in, and the other 3 stood in line waiting for their turn. Of course U204 finished the bucket....with the size of her tongue 2 pounds of corn doesn't take long to finish. She then went to bucket #2 while the others moved in to a nearly empty bucket..

There is a grazing ritual they go through as they move around the field over a 24 hour period. I have been told they will search for the best tasting grass. Sorry, I can't relate. Maybe it's like compaing iceburg lettuce to arugula to romaine (and with these if you put enough blue cheese dressing on them they all taste the same).

They say if you see them all lying down in the field it is a sign of a storm coming. Next week we're due for some heavy rains so we can test this theory out then.

I'm sure I'll have more to share about these cows in future blogs. Obviously they have more personality than do the vines. Cows are cool.

1 comment:

  1. Dave, Love reading, although later in the year, about your cows. I came across this site because my wife and I are students at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. I clicked on your link because our goal is to possibly open a small winery (place to be determined) and have a bistro-bakery. We've had cows in the past and understand completely what you are or have gone through with your cows. I'm sure by now you've learned to do a lot of your own veterinarian work like I did such as shots. Anyway, love the blog will be keeping up and hopefully getting down to Hampton to see your vineyard after we complete our certificate. Kevin