Belted Galloway cattle provide 70-75 pound calves and the breed does well on grass. Because of this Scottish breed’s thick double layer of hair, they rarely need shelter, even in Wisconsin’s winters. Photo By Gloria Hafemeister
Belted Galloway well-suited for cold winters
Editor’s Note: (Next week learn about specific marketing ideas shared by producers during the Great Lakes Belted Galloway Association field day and weekend meeting in Ozaukee County).
Until 1996 Al and Cathy Stern enjoyed a 13-acre hobby farm at Cedarburg where they raised sheep and direct marketed lamb.
Then the Sterns got more serious about their interest in farming and re-located to a 70-acre farm at Fredonia where they now raise 16 head of Belted Galloway cattle along with Belgian horses that they use for carriage and sleigh rides and riding horses for trail riding.
When the family hosted the Great Lakes Belted Galloway Association’s spring field day Cathy called their farm, “A little piece of heaven,” located in what she terms, “Indian country” near 13 noted mounds and a former trading post site.
She described the historic farm, pointing out where the original log cabin once stood in a cluster of pine trees and describing the farm house, completed in 1903, with Milwaukee brick that were transported by train to the nearest railway station and then by horses to the farm.
They provide rotational grazing and dry hay for their Belties, marketing the meat for the health benefits provided by both the breed and the fact that they are grass-fed.
In a pasture, this breed is known to eat plants that other breeds deem objectionable and they are known to have very good feed conversion traits.
Well-suited for cold winters
While there is a building available for the animals, Al says they rarely use it. “These animals are well-suited to Wisconsin’s cold winters and do well outside. They can go inside when they want but they don’t.”
Belted Galloway have a hair coat that is an inner downy layer called the undercoat and an outer layer called the overcoat.
The long hair of the overcoat gives the Belted Galloway its shaggy appearance. This double coat provides the animal a shield of insulation of over 4,000 hairs to the square inch.
Because of this heavy coat they do not require large amounts of back-fat for winter warmth, reducing winter feed expenses.
The Sterns do utilize the building for protection for new mothers and their calves or for special needs.
Near the building they poured a slab of cement and installed head gates so they can catch animals when necessary. They say this was a good investment and they lure them to the spot by offering a little special feed.
Cathy shares when they got into direct marketing the meat from their herd she used the list of customers she had previously established while marketing lamb and she has added to it in the years since as people discover the benefits of meat from this unique breed.
They market quarters and halves and customers call in their own cutting instructions and pick up the meat directly from the processor, Loehrs Market at Campbellsport.
Belted Galloway producers attending the event report that their customers like the meat because it is lower in fat than many breeds, due partly to the grass-fed diet but also to the fact that with the heavy coat of hair they do not accumulate a layer of back fat that needs to be trimmed away during processing.
Belted Galloway are also known for their longevity.
Mineral and feed needs
Along with several other educational presentations, nutritionists from Adell Cooperative talked about the mineral and feed needs for this special breed.
Belted Galloway producers need to develop a ration that fits their resources and their calf’s genetics. Belted Galloway calves cannot be fed a hot ration of grain like commercial cattle.
Also, because many people are feeding alternate feeds like distiller grains or cotton seed hulls, animals may not receive the required nutrients from feed that are required.
Duane Schultz of the Big Gain Company at Lodi said, “Too often people try to take short cuts with trace mineral blocks or free choice but these products don’t have enough minerals in them. They are 97 percent salt. We need to know what minerals are in there. If it has too much iron, we don’t want that. We need a balanced diet.”
He points out that feeds vary and a mineral supplement should provide what’s lacking in the feed.
Also, certain minerals are important for things like reproduction and growth. In the summer heat, magnesium is important. Calcium:phosphorus ratios need to be in balance. Some by-products like mids, corn syrup, and glutten are high in phosphorus.
Providing more phosphorus would not be beneficial.
Some of the producers attending the event are organic farmers and concerned about finding organic mineral sources. Schultz said Redman salt is organic and most other minerals are naturally organic but it is important to check before feeding minerals.
Also, he points to the need to watch the vitamin sources, noting that many vitamins in conventional vitamin-mineral mixes are not from an organic source.
He stressed the importance of good pasture management and said if a producer is doing basic agronomy management on the farm the calcium and minerals should be in balance so only basic minerals would be needed.