CE-COVERby Sally Colby
Mountain View Farm in Mayfield, NY, isn’t one of the largest beef operations in the area, but the Brower family is big on quality.
Mark Brower grew up on a small dairy farm in New York, and Mountain View is part of that farm. They chose White Park cattle to add to their farm.
“When my daughter Amy was eight years old, we were at the Washington County Fair, and she wanted a Jersey calf for 4-H,” said Brower. “We realized that it would be hard to have one Jersey cow on the farm. When we saw this breed at the New York State Fair, my sister wanted to partner with my daughter to buy one, so they did that. They bought more cattle, then my sister got out of it and my son became involved.” Son Mitchell is now 19 and daughter Amy is 22; and although both are currently college students, they’re involved with the cattle whenever possible.
For quite a while, the Browers were the only ones in the county with White Park cattle. “When people first saw them at our fair, no one really knew what they were,” said Brower. “We had to answer a lot of questions. We started to raise a lot of interest because of the ‘look’ they have. But at our county fair, we were competing only against ourselves as our herd began to grow.” Brower says White Park breed shows were held at the New York State Fair and at Keystone International Livestock Expo (KILE), and they quickly learned where each animal would place in a class.
Brower says the unique appearance of the breed drew many questions from fair visitors, most of which were related to the heritage of the breed — were they a cross breed? He explained that they aren’t, that British White Park cattle are a heritage breed. “We had to learn about the history to answer questions,” said Brower. “We directed people to the British White Park website because the history and information there is complete.” Other popular questions were based on how the breed compares to Angus for beef quality, because people are familiar with Angus due to that breed’s extensive marketing efforts. Brower says that those questions have helped them understand and explain more about the British White Park.
The Browers focus is on marketing show stock. At last year’s New York State Fair, the family sold three out of the four animals that they had at the show due to the interest people have in the breed. “We aren’t really set up to have many more animals,” said Brower, “so the idea is to keep enough cattle to breed, take the young stock to shows, exhibit and sell while they’re still young.
The herd is bred via both A.I. and through natural service. Brower says that with beef cattle, it’s difficult to track heats and the risk is that cows are open for too long.
Cattle are bred in early summer for late winter/early spring calves so that calves are the right age to be competitive.
Another issue with A.I. in a breed with relatively low numbers is that there’s a limited number of bulls to choose from. “We’re using the same combinations over and over,” said Brower. “I’m starting to buy young bulls that are doing well at shows to improve our stock. At some point we’ll have to start turning over the brood cows, but we’ll keep some of the younger stock if they’re doing well.” Because Brower sells young stock to 4-Hers for breeding animals, one of his goals when considering both cows and bulls for breeding is good disposition.
Each year, the Browers exhibit at the New York State Fair, where there are more British White Park cattle. “This year the national show was held in conjunction with the state fair,” said Brower. “We move the national show to different parts of the country each year, and this year it was at the New York State Fair. It was the largest White Park show in North America, with 56 animals.” Brower says that achieving that turnout was a major accomplishment. “Fifteen years ago, the original New York state breeders brought two British White Park to the show for the first time. In 15 years it’s grown from two animals to 56.”
Brower says that it’s helpful to attend shows and look at other British White Park cattle. “At home, you might wonder if you have good animals,” he said, “then at the show you can hear the judge’s comments and find out what they think about them.” As for answering the inevitable questions they get when exhibiting cattle, Amy says that because people aren’t familiar with the breed, she’s often asked if the animals are dairy cattle.
Regarding color and markings, Brower says that along with preserving the ideal characteristics of the breed, it’s important to keep up with the interest of the public. “Appearance draws a lot of interest and helps sell our breed because they’re attractive,” he said. “There’s a demand for speckled animals, so we’ve tried to make it more acceptable to have the speckled animals rather than just solid white with black points.”
Brower credits his wife Mariann for handling of a lot of work behind the scenes, from caring for animals at both the farm and at shows to preparing animals for the show and setting up stalls and decorations at shows.