The hearty pineywoods cattle on our Community Farm have interesting personality quirks, according to farmer Gina Raicovich. The herd has been growing, with eight cow-calf pairs currently thriving. Gina has diversifed her Sparrow Hill Farm agricultural enterprise and is looking for grazing land for the herd after her time in our Farmer Incubator Program.
“It’s been really fun to watch how they function as a herd,” says Gina. “They are very good natured and have basic instincts that seem more like a free-range herd. I watched one mother give birth, and then every other cow came over and licked the baby, helping out while the mother recovered. I haven’t seen other cattle do that. At other times, I’ve seen them take turns as one mom ‘babysits’ all the calves while the other cows graze. They can be very inquisitive and charismatic, too.”
Pineywoods are a heritage breed brought over from Spain during the early colonial period. They once ranged freely in southern Mississippi and the Gulf Coast area. According to Gina, they calve easily and are easy to maintain.
“They are more self-reliant since they were range animals for so long. They were bred for good-natured temperment as well as meat and milk. They can even be used like oxen; for example, they have been used in logging teams in the Gulf area. We bought our stock from two families that have been breeding them the longest, so our herd has really good genetics.”
Sparrow Hill Farm is the first livestock producer in our Farmer Incubator Program, and we have grown together. A total of 14 calves have been born, and using rotational grazing the resilient cattle have helped maintain pasture on our farm property by eating back woody growth. They have even been seen munching on invasive multiflora rose.
“Thanks to having the land at the Community Farm we’ve been able to increase our herd,” says Gina. “We are currently looking for a new lease so we can transition off. ” Their ideal next step would be a long-term lease of 25 acres with fencing, but also could work with smaller 5-10 acre parcels with rotational grazing.
In addition to the cattle, Sparrow Hill Farm raises heritage breed Gulf coast native sheep and laying hens, and their eggs are available at the French Broad Food Co-op.
For information about purchasing grass-fed meat or breeding stock, visit SparrowHillFarm.org.