Our Visit to Royal M Farm

My wife and I wanted to see for ourselves what Scottish Highland were like and have a chance to talk with in person  a farmer who raises them to see if all they say about Highlands are true. This is part of our education process to becoming farmers. All the reading of farm books and magazines do not replicate to actually talking to a farmer who is doing what we want to do.

I looked on line and found the American Highlands Cattle Association and they had contact information for their members and we were surprised to find the Royal M Farm owned by Jay Mather was  only a 25 minitue drive from our house here in Illinois. I was excited at the prospect of seeing these animals first hand, so I emailed Jay and said we were interested in raising Highlands and if he would care if we came out to see his cattle and have a chance to talk with him. To my surprise Jay emailed me back the same day and was more then happy to show us his cattle and to talk to us. He told me he had a small 5 acre farm with 4 highland cows.

Royal M Farm

We drove out to his farm and met Jay and he told us his farm now was just a hobbie farm. He grew up farming and his family used to own 160 acre farm just a few miles from his current place. They raised Black Angus cattle and grew corn, soybeans and hay. His current farm had turkeys, chickens and Highland cattle. They turkeys and chickens were a 4-H projects his kids were doing. Jay told me he was part Scotch and him and his family liked going to Highland games and the organizers of the games wanted his highland cattle there for a exibit and was in the process working with the village to allow that to happen for the next games.

Jay said he does rotational grazing and had his pasture area sectioned off, but because of the severe drought we have been experiancing here in Illnois he was already feeding his cattle hay and some corn. He said he feeds the corn out of habit when they used to raise the black Angus cattle, but said you don’t need to, the cattle do just fine on grass and hay alone.

Jay uses permeniet electric fence to section his pasture.

He said he has had the Highlands for only two years and only keeps three animals, but just a week before we got there one of his heifers had a baby bull calf. We were excited to see the new calf.

Moma and baby highlands

I have been telling my wife we plan to eat baby beef and she said how can you eat something so cute.

Baby Bull Highland

I told her they won’t be this small and cute when we eat them, I can see she wasn’t to sure about it all.

This is a picture of Jays Bull

I was kinda surprised to see how big the highlands were, I have read they are built smaller then most of the grain fed breeds, but they looked pretty big to me. When we petted the the baby calf the mother didn’t seem to mind and the little calf was curious about us which I liked. Jay says they don’t get excited too much and they are a pretty docile breed. He did say you still have to respect those horns, the cows have accidently horned him because he wasn’t watching where he was going and they stick out so far.

This picture of Jays other heifer, she is about 18 months old, that weighs about 600 punds. I told my wife this is the size we plan to eat, she was fine with that.

We really enjoyed our visit to Royal M Farm and talking with Jay, and I am still convinced that Scotish Highland cattle will be right for us. The only thing that concerns me is in the summer time with the high tempretures they have been having in Iowa this year, they don’t do well with heat and humidity. I also wish they didn’t have horns.

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About Gordon Milligan

I am a conductor for a commuter railroad in Chicago IL, I have bought a 40 acre farm in South Central Iowa that I plan to retire to in 3 yrs. I want to raise and grow most of my own food using sustainible and organic methods. I have a blog that journals my journey to becoming a farmer.
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8 Responses to Our Visit to Royal M Farm

  1. Langela says:

    It is always humid here in Iowa, Gordon, and pretty hot. Not as hot as this year, but still hot and humid. I would think it was similar to IL, though. The hard part of having calves you plan to eat is that you get attached to them and no matter how big they get, it can still be tough to see them go. We just sold our 16 older hens this morning. We had them for about two years. We got them as hatchlings and they were like pets. It was hard for me to see them go and realize they would be butchered in the next couple of days.

    • We usually get the same weather here that Iowa got the day before, but this year has been different. Iowa has gotten lots more 100 and 90 degree days then we did.

      I bet it will be hard to butcher or sale something that you have raised since it was born, but I think if I just go into it with that mindset I will be ok. Now my wife… I am not so confident about her. I think she will try not to deal with the animals so she won’t get so attached. She is such a animal lover, I don’t know how she will react, It will be interesting to see how she handles it.

  2. bc says:

    Good looking cows. 18 months seems a little young to eat one, but you know more about the breed than I do and certainly you know your own taste.

    It is funny how folk handle the slaughter side of the business differently. I have a cousin who could have taken over my uncle’s dairy farm in NZ but he couldn’t face selling off cull cows. My wife, on the other hand, is as gleeful about providing good beef to customers as I am.

    • Hi brent, I am so new at this, with no experiance and I have not tasted any baby beef, so I may find out baby beef isn’t that great. I am just going off what I have read. You have heard me mention before on your site, Author Gene Logsdon raving about baby beef, he has said one reason it has not caught on is because it is not very profitable to sell beef at that weight when you can raise them up 12 to 15 hundred pounds. Especialy with registered Highlands, I know I could sell that baby bull for a lot more then what the meat is worth. But thats not what I am doing this for, money or profit if it ever happens for me will be icing on the cake. I just want to grow most of my own food, and have fun doing it.
      I know from your posts you butchered one of your young bulls at about 500 to 600 hundred pounds, how did the taste compare to one of your older steers that you have had processed? Did the baby bull have any adverse taste because he wasn’t castrated? Did the older steer develope more of the meat flavor from your pastures you were looking for. I would like to hear what you have to say about the two..

  3. Susan Lea says:

    I’ve heard of baby beef, too, but I must admit to being greedy enough to keep my steer till he’s bigger. I want MORE beef! 🙂 And being grass-fed, the only expense is hay in winter. Actually, Brent has made me reconsider what I thought I knew about butchering at 2 years, and we’re now planning to go closer to 30 months after I discovered quite a few Dexter owners do that. With this steer it will give us the advantage of fattening him up on spring grass since he’ll be 2 in Dec. and 30 months in June.

    By the way, Gordon, Dexters are nice and small, and some come without horns! 🙂 I know Brent likes a nice set of horns, but I’m with you there! Ours seem to handle whatever the weather throws at them. That’s one of the breed’s hallmarks. Just saying. 🙂 I will say this for your Highlands–they’re CUTE! Even the big ones! I think the purpose of the horns is so you know where to look for their eyes in all that hair! 😀

    • Thanks for replying Susan, I may decide like you to wait longer on butchering the beef, time will tell. I have thought long and hard on which breed to raise on our farm and it came down to Highlands and Dexters, I guess I have choosen Highlands over Dexters because of their unique looks and their horns are part of that uniquness. I guess I will just respect those horns and deal with it. They are such a docile breed, other owners don’t seem to mind.

  4. I too like what I’ve read about Highlands. They seem to be one of a handful of breeds that still haven’t had the “Fattens well on grass” bred out of them. After thinking about the work involved in breeding the horns off of them, I figured out that I liked the looks of Galloways a bit better.
    They seem to have a lot of similarities to the Highlands, but they’re homozygous (pure) polled.

  5. Hi Andrew, thanks for stopping by. Galloways would also be a great grass finished cow too. I look forward to reading on your blog, how you go about getting your new heard for the farm you guys just bought in Minnesota.

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