From the farm: It’s time to shear the highlanders

  • Elizabeth Anderson clips Red, a Scottish Highlander steer. Ten more Miles Smith Farm Highlanders need clipping. CAROLE SOULE / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 5/21/2022 5:11:03 PM

Red, a 10-year-old Scottish Highlander steer, had a thick coat of hair that had protected him from the cold all winter. But now, with temperatures soon reaching 90 degrees, it was time to shave it all off.

Some Highlanders, like Ferdinand the bull and Kavi, the cow, shed their winter coats without help, while June Bug and Nora need a vigorous brushing to remove theirs. Still, Topper and his yoke-mate, Finn, and about ten other Highlanders need more help than that.

I had to locate the electric clippers and blades that I had put “somewhere safe” last year. Cattle need industrial-size clippers that require expensive removable blades. Sometimes the blades get lost or, after many sharpenings, are discarded. On clipping day, I was in luck. I found two of my three clippers with sharp blades ready to use.

“Anything we can do to help with the cattle?” asked Airbnb guest Elizabeth Anderson.

“Want to clip a steer?” I replied.

Clipping is one of my favorite things, but after the last time I gave Red a haircut, I spent two days recovering from an allergic reaction to bovine hair. It’s sad to be a cattle farmer with a cow allergy, but I manage.

After brief instructions (I told them they could do nothing wrong), Elizabeth and her companion, Thom Howe, worked on Red. The gentle vibration soothed the steer, and if he were a cat, he would have purred as the blades cut off thick hair from his back and around his tail, spots he couldn’t scratch with his long horns.

I’d met Elizabeth at the Highland Games in Lincoln last year. I added to the ambiance of the games with two of my shaggy Highlanders, June and Bear. Elizabeth was there to play her fiddle and while at the games fell in love with June and Bear, so months later, she booked herself into our Airbnb to continue her association with Highland cattle. Before clipping Red, she serenaded the cattle, and Bear wandered over to listen to one of her Irish tunes. Because I was recording the moment with my phone, I had to resist the urge to dance.

After clipping, we checked in on the newborn calf Elizabeth had named Calum. Regular readers might want an update on Calum and his mother, Helen, who had tried to kick me during her pregnancy check and then seemed to have abandoned her newborn calf. But after a day of separation, I led Calum back into her pasture, where Helen ran to him, mooing softly. He nursed hungrily and happily. They are doing fine despite their rocky start.

Now, back to those shaggy Highlanders who need a haircut that my allergies won’t let me perform. If trimming the fleece of a woolly mammoth is on your bucket list, I can provide a similar experience. Want to? Please, adults only, and we request a $50 donation to the Learning Networks Foundation. You’ll have a great time, the cattle will be grateful, and your donation will help provide food for Topper and his Foundation friends. Call the farm at 603-783-5159 to setup a clipping appointment.

Carole Soule is the co-owner of Miles Smith Farm (milessmithfarm.com) in Loudon, N.H. She raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products. She can be reached at carolesoule60@gmail.com.

Carole’s Corner is a farming and agriculture column. It runs every week in the Sunday Your Life section. The author is co-owner of a local farm and not a member of the Monitor’s staff.




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