Friday, August 29, 2014
   
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Malines market hormone, antibiotic-free beef

Highland cattle graze Grace Canyon Farm and Ranch.

Something new and different is nestled in the rugged and rolling hills, just over the Custer County line.

While driving to the home of Kerry and Shane Maline, I had no preconceived notion of what I might find there.

Upon arriving in the farmyard, a burly animal resembling a yak stared at me through the corral bars.

“That’s Detroit,” Shane called out. “He’s a bull that came from Michigan.”

When Kerry Maline married Shane in Lincoln last year and the couple returned to the family farm, they brought with them a novel idea.

Highland cattle.

“Our passion and idea was to provide direct market beef that was hormone and antibiotic free,” Shane said. “Our passion was built by our friends in Lincoln, asking us to raise hormone-free beef.”

Research led the Malines to the Highland breed which Shane said is hardier. Highland cattle are also more efficient grass eaters than traditional breeds, she said.

For example, Kerry said three Highlands can graze the same amount of grass as two Angus cattle.

Interestingly, both Angus (which dominate the state and country) and Highland cattle trace their roots to Scotland.

The Malines bought their herd in January and will sell most of their meat to buyers in Lincoln and Omaha and some locally.

During the growth stage, the animals graze on grass in the summer and cornstalks in the winter. Around 10 months of age, the cattle are brought to the feedlot for grain once a day. At 20 months, they are put on full-grain rations.

Also during the winter months, the Highlands eat alfalfa and prairie hay, and are supplemented with field peas (said to be high in protein).

In addition to the meat being high in nutrition (see box), Shane said Highlands also have a higher success rate during calving because the breed is smaller.

Kerry said babies average 50 to 60 pounds at birth compared to Angus-cross calves which he said weigh at least 80 pounds when born.

Highlands calve an average of 15 to 18 years compared to Angus cattle which Shane said give birth, on average, until they are 10.

Although docile, Shane said mothers are quite protective of their babies.

“And the only challenge I can think of is when handling them,” she said. “You have to be careful of the horns.”

The animals are shaggy, Shane said, to retain warmth since they have little fat.

“They are one of the only breeds that shed to adjust to the climate,” she explained.

Because they’re building their herd, the Malines will sell only three steers this year and plan to keep one to two calves a year.

Once the animal is sold and processed, the meat is inspected by the USDA and delivered.

Highland cattle are fairly new to the United States and are said to have been imported in the 1920s, according to the American Highland Cattle Association.

Kerry became interested in direct-market beef while studying alternative agriculture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The Maline’s venture, Grace Canyon Farm and Ranch, also includes growing crops which they partner with Kerry’s two brothers.

In addition, Kerry and Shane are local Mycogen seed dealers and carry fencing supplies through Maline Seed and Fence.

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