When we closed on the farm, it had been quite a while since cows wandered the property and the fields had been touched. Before it got too cold, we had to figure out a plan for all that grass.
The biggest pieces of yard equipment we owned at the time were a normal push mower and a standard weed whacker. Paying someone to cut 9 acres would have cost at least $800 per go. With that in mind, we started researching two options to keep those fields in check: a tractor and cattle.
Personally, the cattle research was more fun. Ever since my husband had visited Scotland and climbed Ben Nevis in a kilt (true story), he dreamed of one day owning Highland Cattle or “hairy coos” as they are called. He would show me and other family members pictures of these adorable cattle and talk about making them mascots on a future ranch some day.
Lucky for us, the farm was already set up to handle livestock with water tanks that fill automatically in two barns, functional gates, cross fencing, and a ready food source. Through an online search we found Highland Cattle for sale and set up a time to meet the herd. We read Highlands are a docile breed, despite their long, somewhat intimidating, horns.
We invited some family members to go with us, and the field trip turned out to be educational for a few of us. My brother in law learned the hard way not to touch the fences without checking to see if they’re electrified first. My mother and law and I were so in awe of the cattle that we completely forgot to be aware of our surroundings and let a couple get behind us. Standing between a cow and her grape leaves (a treat we learned they love) is not advisable, and we were much more cautious after that experience.
The cows also loved to be brushed! If you spend too much time on one, the others have a way of reminding you when it’s their turn.
The first breeder put us in touch with another Highland breeder in the state, so we could look into buying two female yearlings (1 years old) from different lines. Cows have to have at least one companion we were told, or else they start going through fences in search of a friend. I guess that means they’re extroverts.
Before we committed to buying cows, we had to see to a couple of other items on the list.
Our first big purchases were a riding lawn mower to take care of the manicured grass around the property and an old horse trailer, both from Craigslist. The trailer initially helped get the lawn mower home, but it’s main purpose is for moving livestock around.
We visited multiple tractor dealers to look for a good deal, since used tractors aren’t much cheaper than buying brand new. Tractors really keep their value, because they’re so useful (demand is always high) and they can hold up for thousands of hours with proper maintenance.
Tractor shopping wasn’t exactly thrilling for me, up until they let me hop on for a test drive. I put the tractor in turtle gear (you have to work your way up to rabbit) and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. There’s a pedal to reverse the tractor, one to go forward, and the learning curve is pretty fast.
I think the most important thing we learned while trying to navigate those first big purchases for the farm was how helpful everyone was. Farmers and those who interact with the farming community are happy to answer questions and share their knowledge as subject matter experts. We were so grateful to find that consistent level of patience everywhere we turned.