By Celeste Baumgartner
HAMILTON, Ohio – American Galloway cattle are docile, easy to handle and a little smaller than standard breeds, Jana Harmon said. She and her husband, Donald “Skyp” Harmon, own Caraway Farm. They raise grass-fed Galloways; they’re out with the herd almost every day. The animals know and trust them, so they’re easy to move.
They started in 2015 with four bred cows. The herd is now up to 25 with nine on the way. The Harmons market the meat at Oxford Farmers Market and by word of mouth. Like most producers, they’re having problems getting meat processed.
“We decided to get cattle because we were doing market hay, small bales,” Skyp said. “We couldn’t get enough help and we’re getting too old to do it by ourselves. We decided to convert to cattle and bale round bales to feed them in the winter. We raise our own hay and we can do it by ourselves.”
Galloways are foraging animals and do well on grass. The Harmons have kept their herd intact, bringing in newly registered bulls every second season. The calves are born on the farm and stay there until they are harvested. The cattle are on rotational grazing and are moved frequently.
“The only thing we have to do is set our fence,” Jana said. “We use an electric wire fence that we can move on a wheel. When we open the gate to let them into the field, I holler for them and they come.”
Moving the cattle daily keeps the fly population down, Jana said. The flies stay where the manure is so there are no worries about fly control. It also helps to bring the fertilizer back to the soil more rapidly.
“Frequent moving also breaks the stems down, kind of like the buffalo coming across to graze, they would come as a mob,” Jana said. “Then they would leave and go to the next area, so the broken grass that is not eaten becomes mat which helps develop the soil microbes, and the soil comes back. It’s pretty cool.”
In the flush of spring when they move pastures, if there are still standing seed heads, they will mow them but only down to 10 to 12 inches, Skyp said. The seed heads will re-seed the pasture.
“Once we get to about July we usually don’t mow because that’s stockpiling time,” he said. “We’re letting the grass grow. In the fall and winter the cows will eat the growth. We want all of the stockpile we can get so we can get in as much winter as possible before we start feeding hay.”
When they feed hay during the winter they will take a good quality bale and spread it on the ground in an area where the pasture is not doing well, Jana said. As the cattle eat it, the seed heads fall into the ground to re-seed plus the remaining hay forms a mat that, come spring, will help the pasture regenerate.
Harmons use a cafeteria mineral program from Advanced Biological Concepts. They have box feeders with different minerals. They offer 12 choices and the minerals differ according to the time of year. They also use a 25 percent grass-fed beef lick tub which has molasses and minerals.
“If they get into poor quality feed it will bring the nutritional quality up so their digestive tract is in balance,” Jana said.
To get water into all of the pastures they ran 7,000 feet of black tubing, Skyp said. There’s a tap every 100 feet so the water can be wherever the cattle are.
The couple installed electric fencing using Timeless Fenceposts, he explained. They’re plastic posts, made from recycled materials. They look like a traditional t-post but have holes every three inches so you can string the wire through them.
“Our animals are seen by Dr. Krom, DVM, once a year to check the cows and newly bred heifers and castrate the bull calves,” Jana said. “We don’t give any vaccinations to the animals in the beef production program. The steers are processed anywhere from 16-24 months.”
They are inspected for on-farm storage by the Ohio Department of Agriculture and have a mobile food license from the Butler County Board of Health to sell their beef at local farmers markets direct to consumers. They use the USDA National Monthly Grass Fed Beef Report to help determine pricing.
USDA offers a certification for grass-fed beef. The Harmons filled out the applications more than a year ago but, probably because of COVID-19, have yet to hear anything.
“We’re trying to become grass-fed certified,” Skyp said. “We’ve done all of the paperwork. But right now … you have to just take our word for it.”
They’re also struggling to get their beef processed and packaged. They have to make appointments a year ahead of time.
“We need to go back to regenerative agriculture locally,” Jana said. “To where farm products are produced within a 50-to 100-mile radius and people can count on that food being there and not having to be shipped in.”