The Romani family breeds registered Belted Galloway cattle at Harmony Meadows Farm in Glocester, RI. Instead of selling their animals for beef, they focus breeding efforts on quality genetics and prize-winning conformation. They sell superior beef steers and champion show stock.
Kirsten Romani had little farm experience before the family bought their 40-acre farm more than 15 years ago. She and her husband Dan wanted to raise their children, Sophia, Daniel and Ashlyn, in a farm setting. Harmony Meadows Farm has a total of 10 acres of pasture dedicated to 15 purebred Belted Galloways, 30 chickens and three miniature donkeys. The Romanis bring their Belted Galloways to four shows each year: The Fryeburg Youth Show (ME), Washington County Fair (RI), Caledonia County Fair (VT) and The Big E (MA). The family also manages a farm stand with vegetables, fruits from their orchard and fresh eggs.
Livestock Show Prep
Because they plan to show their animals, the Romani family talks to their new calves while they nurse, and touch them every day. This helps calves get used to being around people and to associate people with a good experience. Sophia recommended halter-breaking calves before they are weaned, which is typically at 6-7 months. She exposes future show animals to loud noises, fast moving objects, flash cameras and unexpected obstacles. Animals practice walking on concrete, blacktop and packed dirt, as well as moving in and out of livestock trailers.
Sophia recommends youth practice washing, blow-drying and clipping animals to improve their conformation. Most beef judges like a straight back, as well as straight line from tailhead to hooves. Grooming shoots are required equipment, according to Sophia, as are “cattle blowers” made for drying cattle. She recommends practicing grooming animals you will not be showing to learn to be fast, as animals do not stay still for long. Cattle hair should be combed forward and up. When judges pat animals, showmen should promptly brush hair back in place.
Showmanship competitions judge the showman’s ring etiquette and skill. Showman should keep one eye on the judge and one on their animal, smile and have good control of their animal. Regular practice will train animals to keep their heads up and set their feet in proper position with minimal nudging by a show stick. Showmen should memorize their animal’s birthdays, dam and sire. Many judges expect showmen to answer questions like “What do you like best about your animal?” or “What would you change about the conformation of your animal?”
The Belted Galloway breed was developed in the 16th century in southwest Scotland. The region is known for its severe weather and rugged terrain. This heritage breed adapted to living on poor, upland pastures and windswept moors. Belted Galloways grow quickly and thrive on mixed forage, often grazing grasses and weeds that other breeds ignore.
Unconfirmed reports say the breed’s distinctive white belt came from a blend of Black Galloway cattle and Dutch Lakenvelder belted cattle. Unlike most other cattle breeds, Galloways are polled. This trait came from a long line of British polled cattle.
Belted Galloway dams’ rich milk means fast calf growth. Calves typically wean at half their finished weight. Animals can be ready for slaughter at 18 months, having reached over 1,000 pounds. If crossed with other breeds, hybrid vigor may shorten time to market weight. Breeders find dams produce healthy calves well into their late-teens. Strong dominant genetics are passed on to purebred and crossbred progeny. The Romani’s never breed crossbred animals. Crosses are often polled and belted.
Belted Galloways are popular today for their gentle dispositions, hardiness and the fact that they are well suited to grass-fed beef operations. Their double coat of hair keeps them warm in winter even without cattle’s typical layer of back fat. Their lean bodies have about 25 percent fat cover, which means less trimmed fat or wasted weight. Producers reap between 55 percent and 65 percent of live weights. Steers convert to a high percentage of excellent consumer beef at grade 2. Galloways produce fine-grained, well-marbled, tender and flavorful meats low in harmful fat, high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Belted Galloways were imported to the United States and Canada from the 1920s through 1989. Embryos and semen continue to be brought in from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada and Australia.
The largest sale of Belted Galloways takes place at the National Belted Galloway Sale in Fryeburg, Maine each year in late April. Animals listed for sale must have at least a five-generation purebred pedigree.
Every year since 1998, the New England Galloway Group donates a Belted Galloway heifer to a youth demonstrating their ability to care for the animal for hands-on education on cattle rearing and showmanship and to develop a love of the breed. Annual awards are announced at the Fryeburg Fair. Participants are expected to donate their first heifer calf to continue the program.