Where do cattle like to graze? At the Audubon pasture

  • Scottish Highlanders from Miles Smith Farm enjoy a buffet of tall grass at the Audubon pasture owned by St. Paul School. Carole Soule / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 10/9/2021 10:10:37 PM

It’s fall. Trees are about to burst into dazzling colors, frost is on the pumpkins, and Miles Smith Farm cattle are grazing beside the Audubon Center in Concord. Most of my cattle had been at the farm all summer, eating abundant grass fueled by prolific rain. This summer, we had so much rain that farmers rushed to cut, dry, and bale hay between storms. It was an abnormally hot summer, which helped, too.

In previous years we’d get four or five hot, hot days. This summer seemed like week after week of sizzling temperatures. While I hid from the heat in my house, my cattle relied on shade trees and the run-in shed to stay cool. Cows don’t normally pant, but I saw it this summer: Acorn, a pregnant Scottish Highlander, stood in the shade, mouth open, panting like a dog. Highlander cattle can survive New Hampshire winters because their long, double coats of hair protect them. But those same coats are uncomfortable in summer. Even when we clip off their hair, Highland cattle prefer cold over heat.

In the past, when the grass at the farm runs out, we move them to a pasture we lease from St. Paul’s School in Concord. Our cattle have grazed this field next to the Audubon Center for years. The former hayfield has no shade, which is why we didn’t move cattle there until now. So the grass has had all summer to grow. Our “Cow Taxi” transported 11 cattle to the pasture to munch on the lush grass this week. And the cool weather means we don’t need to worry about cattle getting heatstroke.

Besides food, the cattle also need water, so we hire a pool company to fill three tanks that hold a total of 6,000 gallons of water. The water from the tanks runs down a hose to a trough. Once the trough is full, a float, like the one in a toilet tank, shuts a valve, stopping the water flow – most of the time. Sometimes a steer will push the trough over, and the water keeps flowing from the tank until it’s empty. Bad steer!

This is the last year the cattle will have the whole field. Next year they will share it with Fresh Start Farms New Hampshire, an organization that helps refugees and immigrants. Fresh Start Farms will convert the front of the field into gardens, and our cattle will graze the back acreage. Fresh Start will also dig a well to provide water for the gardens and the cattle. We might still have destructo-steers, but we won’t need water tanks anymore. Hooray!

The Highlanders will be at the Audubon pasture until the grass runs out or their water freezes. If you hike around the field, be sure to tip your hat or wave to our cattle. If you walk with a canine, remember to keep your dog out of the field. Some cattle will run from dogs, but many, like ours, may attack. Enjoy your walk as you watch our bovines at work.

Author Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products.

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