I’ve had the fortune to work with the Eberhart’s on a few different occasions, speaking to the Mid Atlantic Highland Association at the Penn State Meats Laboratory each Spring. They’re an energetic bunch, as reflected by this article that made the cover of last week’s Lancaster Farming.
Submitted by Editor on Fri, 05/21/2010 – 11:45am.
Southwestern Pa. Correspondent
BEDFORD, Pa. — Folks driving along Interstate 99 just south of Bedford often notice a strange- looking animal grazing in the nearby fields. Some call them “yaks,” some call them “oxen,” but they are really Scottish Highland beef cows.
Owned by Greg and Teri Eberhart, the 60-plus herd is their pride and joy. The couple are active in the Mid-Atlantic Highland Association, and Greg serves on the board of directors of the national organization. Pennsylvania has the largest population of Scottish Highland cattle in the country. They are the oldest registered breed of cattle with the first herd book established in 1884.
Teri grew up on a dairy farm a few miles south of the present Eberhart location.
“I always loved cows,” she said. “And, then I started dating a nonfarmer who had to go with me to feed the cows before we could go anywhere.”
“I began to like farming as much as she did,” Greg said. “After we got married we thought we would purchase a few beef cattle for our own use.”
Then, they read an article about the Scottish Highland cattle and decided they wanted some of their own. A friend of Teri’s knew someone who was about to sell his herd.
“We went to see them, bought them, and that was the beginning,” Greg said.
They liked almost everything about the cattle. They are easy to birth. It is rare to have to pull a calf and even more unusual to call a vet. The cattle are excellent grazers, and they provide their own fertilizer. Because the cattle were originally bred in the cold Scottish Highlands, they don’t mind winter weather and don’t require shelter.
“They seem to eat most anything in the pasture,” Greg said. “They will eat what other cattle would pass by and get fat on it.” The Eberharts provide the cattle with some additional minerals.
Their long horns given them a “beware” appearance, but they are actually more like puppy dogs. Teri can call them from the pasture, and in only seconds the tips of the horns will appear on the horizon. They come at a fast clip, because, as Teri explains, they know something is about to happen.
“Either they are going to get brushed (which they love), a special treat, or be put in a new pasture,” she said.
As she talks one of the heifers brushes against her as though asking for a neck rub. Their shaggy bangs protect against flies.
Greg said the meat is marbled and flavorful with little outside waste fat. This is due mainly to the Highland being insulated by a double coat of hair, a downy undercoat and long topcoat, rather than a thick layer of fat.
The Eberharts market their beef to local buyers by the quarter, half or whole carcass. Soon, they hope to have meat available by the piece.
The Eberharts use no artificial insemination, keeping their own homebred bulls. Because of the gentleness of the animals, they have no fear about stampeding or aggressive bulls. They keep about one out of every 12 bulls and about half of the heifers. The growing herd forced the Eberharts to seek more pastures, and they moved from their original site in Bedford Valley to a larger farm just south of Bedford complete with lush pastures and a flowing stream.
They say they have enjoyed visiting interesting places as well as gleaning information on their bovines by participating in local, state and national Highland Cattle Associations. Each June, they take several of their very tamest highlanders to the Celtic Festival in Garrett County, Md.
When not raising cattle, Greg is a sales manager for Hunter Douglas, the largest custom blind manufacturer in the United States, which is in Cumberland, Md. Teri is a registered nurse at the dialysis center in Bedford.
More about these cattle can be seen at website www.Foxtailfarmstead.com.