by Laura Johnson
Highland cattle, a Scottish breed known for their long horns and shaggy coats, are incredible mothers.
"They have babysitters,” said Tim Miller of Bear Pen Farms in Lansing. “I’m serious! You’ll see a group of four of them laying around with one mother cow standing there, and all the other mothers have gone to graze or go get something to drink.”
They also co-mother, said Carolyn Miller, citing examples of a mother cow who helped to raise another calf after losing her own baby, and a group of four mothers who all feed and take care of a little orphan named Norman.
These are just some of the things Carolyn and Tim have learned since they recently decided to reside permanently in Lansing, living on a century-old farm that they’ve renamed Bear Pen Farms and starting the Highland Meadows Cattle Company.
“These are the kind of things I never knew until I started watching them,” Tim said. “It’s amazing to watch them,” Carolyn agreed. “You fall in love with them.”
Originally from Florida, Carolyn and Tim have long-time connections to the area. After raising a couple of Highland cows on land in Lansing for a number of years, they finally purchased the farmhouse adjoining the property and began raising about 70 cows as their main livelihood – and source of joy.
“We knew nothing, oh my goodness,” Carolyn said. “And now we have all these cows and the gardens and bees and chickens, and we love it. … We’re both born and raised in Orlando, Florida, and a farm never entered our mind.” Her friends at home are amazed at the lifestyle change, she said. “They call me Lisa Douglas from Green Acres,” she laughed. “Because I was so not the farm type.”
“But she’ll be out there with me working with the cattle,” Tim said. “And I’ll look at her like, who are you?” he smiled.
"Most of all I want to make sure the animals are taken good care of."
While there’s been a definite learning curve, Tim said that this type of cattle is a good “novice-type cow.” “They’re easygoing, great mothers, good foragers,” he explained. “We’ve got one area that was grown over big time, and they’re trimming it down to be a nice pasture. They’re just good to be around.”
The community has also provided them with a crucial support system as they learn and grow, they told me. “We were told not to tell anybody we’re from Florida because they won’t like us,” Carolyn said. “And that’s not true, the local people here have been lovely to us…We’re so appreciative of that, and of their knowledge.”
Highland Meadows Cattle Co. began producing meat last fall and selling their product at the Ashe County Farmers’ Market. “And we can’t keep it,” Carolyn beamed. “If we’re not at the farmers’ market people will call and they come out here. We have had the most amazing response to the beef, it’s just wonderful.”
Stress levels, genetics and feed account for the incredible flavor, Tim said. “We keep them on good clover during the summer and keep them nice and calm. And I believe we have good genetics.”
Their aim is to provide the community with high-quality, healthy and humanely raised beef, Carolyn explained. “The meat that you buy in the grocery store can be so unhealthy,” she said. “And the animals are treated so poorly. Even if it says grass-fed beef, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything.”
“Most of all I want to make sure the animals are taken good care of,” Tim agreed. “I almost consider that I have 70 pets…my cows see me daily.” They get excited when they hear his voice, Carolyn added.
“We love them,” she smiled. “And they live in a beautiful place.” She’s right – their 140 acres of lush, rolling pasture and breathtaking mountain views, grazed by these gorgeous, sweet animals, is truly something to see.
To read more about Highland Meadows Cattle Co., visit http://highlandmeadowscattle.com/