We have over 60 cattle on our farm in Loudon and recently decided to sell some of our Scottish Highlander cows and calves. As in New Hampshire, there’s an effort on Martha’s Vineyard to promote agriculture and preserve open space on the island. Now our cows will serve that cause.
One of the Highlanders’ superpowers is eating brush. They would choose to eat oak leaves and maple saplings rather than hay. Put a herd of Highlanders in a field overgrown with brush, and they will eat leaves killing the brush. In no time a field of grass will emerge.
In September, I got a call from Wagner Pereira on Martha’s Vineyard who was looking for cattle to do just that; convert 5 acres of brush into pasture. Like Highlanders, goats also eat brush, but Wagner’s goats were overwhelmed; they needed help.
After looking at pictures of cows for sale on our website (www.milessmithfarm.com), Wagner picked three pregnant cows and their calves. One of the cows, Laverne, is the mother of Curious Bleu who is the star of a children’s book I wrote, “The Curious Little Calf Named Bleu.” I admit to being especially attached to her.
I knew these cattle would have a beautiful life on the Vineyard where the weather is milder than we endure here in New Hampshire. Before we could deliver them, they all needed a health exam and some special grooming so they’d look their best. Fortunately, the Highland Riders 4-H Club helped get them ready by cleaning them up and getting the calves used to being led.
We put 6 inches of wood shavings into our stock trailer for their comfort and sanitation and then loaded them up. We arrived in Woods Hole on the Cape in time to catch a ferry. The ferry attendants felt an open deck would provide better ventilation for the cattle, and I agreed. With their shaggy coats, Highlanders would enjoy a cool ocean breeze.
It was a small boat, and some fancy maneuvering was required to back our 40-foot rig (pickup and trailer) into the space provided – a job for husband Bruce.
The 45-minute cruise over smooth water was delightful for us and our cattle. When I checked in on them, two of the calves were lying in a bed of wood shavings, and their moms were standing over them chewing their cuds, a sign of contentment among ruminants.
We drove off the ferry at Oak Bluff and to Wagner’s pasture of brush. As soon as we unloaded them, the cows walked the fence line several times, then settled into their job – clearing brush.
I’m a little envious of their classy new address but proud to deploy them in the island’s battle against development.
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Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (www.milessmithfarm.com), where she raises and sells pastured pork, lamb, eggs and grass-fed beef. She can be reached at email@example.com.