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Egyptian royalty takes up residence on farm

June 10, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

You can hardly have a farm without cows, can you? Of course not, although it would certainly be less stressful.

At least it's stressful if you get some of those cows that, in my view, are high maintenance, always having to be milked. Or sheltered, or fed, or watered. My job is demanding enough, I don't want my livestock to be the same way.

So I set out to discover the least labor-intensive breed of cattle in existence, and my research led me to the "Belted Galloway," one of a number of interesting heritage breeds that are outside of the Angus/Holstein mainstream. They are commonly black with a white band around the midsection and, our friends say, rather resemble a four-legged Oreo cookie.

It so happened that Doug May, a farmer who lives just up the road from us, had a herd and was looking to sell a few. We wanted a couple of young animals, so Doug was kind enough to round up all eligible critters and hold them in the barn for our inspection.

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Beth and I each picked out a heifer, and our selection says a lot about the difference between men and women. I picked the biggest and baddest of the bunch, while Beth chose the smallest and saddest.

We named the bigger one Cleopatra and the smaller one Nefertiti (and for the record, I wish to assure Michelle Milken that these names are not indicative of some Middle Eastern terrorist plot on our part).

I have put out a feeler that perhaps we could change Nefertiti's name to Heifertiti, but at this point in time the idea is lacking traction.

The Galloways are low maintenance because they have been bred through the years to survive in the harsh, scrubby highlands of Scotland. In other words, they can eat just about anything that grows, regardless of nutritional value.

We kept them in a holding pen the first evening, where they drew quite a bit of attention from the other animals. The bouvier des Flandres named Opie is used to us bringing home new wildlife, but was completely unprepared for the sheer size of the new additions. He came bounding out of the house to play with the little goats, oblivious for the moment of the monsters that lurked a few feet to the east.

In mid-stride they caught his eye, and there was a discernible "WHOA!" moment as he tried to grasp the significance of these creatures that were five to 10 times his size. "Bouvier" means cattle dog, so buried somewhere in Opie's instincts, one would think, is an index card dictating proper interaction. You could almost see him mentally flipping through the files: "Cattle, cattle; see 'herd.'"

His default response is to give chase, but these cows weren't going anywhere; they just stared back at the dog, enormously unimpressed.

The only beasts that do bother the cows on occasion are the donkeys, who might be playing or might be plotting a kill, it's hard to tell. It's almost exactly like "F-Troop." I'll see Cleopatra and Nefertiti ambling through the field, while high up on the ridge, stalking the cowvalry, I can see what look like four Indian feathers. These feathers, I know, are actually ears, and are attached to two Very Bad Donkeys just out of sight over the brow of the hill.

Nothing much ever happens, largely, I suspect, because the cows easily outweigh anything else on the place. On a farm, size matters.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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