Rare Breed Calls Swallow Hill Farms Home
There are many breeds of cows and each has their own physical characteristics to differentiate them from the others. I was recently introduced to a breed I had not seen or heard of and they were quite unique.
In 2012 Wayne Columbus and his wife Susan Collins purchased a ‘hobby farm’ located on Thompson Road just outside of Waterford. After some renovations they moved into their new home in the Spring of 2013 and Swallow Hill Farms was ‘born’. “We started raising sheep, about 30 of them, but they require more work with only a couple of babies born each year to show for all of the hard work” adds Columbus. They researched alternatives and soon decided on the Galloway breed of cattle.
Swallow Hill Farms is now home to one horse and 14 cattle – 8 adults and 6 young ones. Of these one is a Hereford and the rest are Galloway. Perhaps not as well known as most breeds, the Galloway is a traditional Scottish breed of beef cattle that was established in 1921 and derives from the Galloway region of South Western Scotland.
They adapted to living on the poor upland pastures and windswept moorlands of the Scottish region so they thrive in our local weather. Their long hair coat - sometimes black, sometimes red -and broad white ‘belt’ that completely encircles their body have also earned them the nickname “Oreo” cattle. Their coarse outer coat helps them shed the rain and the soft undercoat also provides waterproofing and insulation to help them overwinter outside. “Here they are free to roam and can go between the barn and the outdoors. They stay outside pretty much all of the winter and actually prefer the outdoors”. They are a hornless – or polled – breed and have just a bone knob at the top of their skull.
Their birth weight is about 75 pounds and will grow, at maturity, to between 1000 to 1500 pounds, with a bull weighing in at 1700 to 2300 pounds. Columbus has actually helped in the birthing of calves – breach none the less - right in the field.
”We even had one Mom reject her new baby so my wife and I took her inside and hand raised it until it was ready to join the others” states Columbus.
Once considered a rare breed their numbers are rising in popularity. “They are one of the healthiest breeds…the best of the beefs and hard to find. They are definitely much easier to raise than sheep. You give them a bale of hay and some water…there’s not much work, not much mess to them” adds Columbus. ”They help with vegetation management in the pasture too. In the Fall we feed them lots of fruit like pears and apples”.
Galloways are primarily raised for their quality marbled meat. It (the meat) is low in saturated fats and has been proven to be as healthy for the human heart and brain as both chicken and fish. Sometimes they are milked and sometimes they are kept simply as an ornament. For Columbus they are like his babies. All he needs to do is walk down to their pasture, call “Mamas” and they are quick to answer and come running. We stood and chatted literally in their pasture area with nothing between us and them and they paid us no mind and went about their business.
While Columbus and his wife are kept busy with their fulltime job of running their own business their real passion is their ‘babies’. They simply need to step out on their rear deck and peruse the ‘Mamas’ grazing in the pasture. It’s like a calming factor in their crazy busy hectic life.