Passion for British Whites turns into a family affair and all-natural farming
By SARAH LIDEEN
As a child, Christina Traeger of Avon, dreamt of running a dairy farm, but in 1996 when she purchased her first cow, she knew that beef farming was her true calling.
“I knew I wanted white cows,” said Traeger, who found her passion in breeding British White cows.
Traeger and two daughers, Ashley, 16, and Hailey,
12, are in the business together and work as a family with no hired help. Together, the three tend to 120 cows, eight bulls, 30 chickens, almost 30 pigs and a variety of produce.
“I love it. I’d rather live on a farm than in town,” said Traeger’s daughter, Ashley.
Christina said every animal at Rolling Hills Traeger Ranch, established in 2003, is treated with the utmost care to guarantee the best quality product for the public. Although not organically certified, all animals are fed all-natural products, meaning no corn or soy.
“The cows are given only the highest quality hay and feed so they each get the best feed efficiency and what they need for nutritional requirements,” said Traeger.
The cattle are only allotted enough hay and grass to last one day. This method requires 15-20 percent less hay than normal.
“If we all do that, it would make a huge difference in the market,” said Traeger.
To provide the best for the consumer, she said, the Traegers only raise tender, tame and high quality meat trait cattle, all U.S. Department of Agriculture approved. Cattle are vaccinated, but receive no hormones or antibiotics, and have a natural immunity to most diseases that the typical cow is exposed to.
This year, about half of the herd was DNA tested, with two heifers coming in at perfect 10s, and the rest not too far behind, with all of them testing at 100 percent for choice.
“We want to stay as high quality as possible,” said Traeger.
The Traegers make sure they continue to give back. The Great Heifer Give Away Program is designed to promote the British White breed. Every fall, the Traegers look over their qualifying applicants and choose the one that promotes their beliefs and all-natural farming.
“It’s getting more people involved with this breed and to keep them going,” said Traeger.
The Traegers’ newest adventure began earlier this year when they slaughtered their first veal, or young beef. Choosing to take the calf away from its mother as soon as the mother is no longer needed, the calf feels no stress and is slaughtered within two hours of being separated from its mother.
When calves are born after June, they are left to mature another year, where they go on to produce larger calves and live a longer life. The average beef cow lives about seven years, while the Traegers are managing to get up to 18 years per cow.
“We try to do everything as humanely as possible,” said Traeger.
This year was the first year that a garden was grown at Rolling Hills. Growing everything from garlic to raspberries, the Traegers are already planning for the 2012 Farmers Market season. They will start planting by March and have identified some key items to focus on.
“We learn everything by doing,” said Traeger. They are still experimenting with new things each year.
The Traegers have begun harvesting bees for honey and are hoping that with this coming year they will be able to sell the honey that is produced.
The Ranch offers tours and educational opportunities to adults, school aged children, and those interested in farming to see what it’s like and to interact with the animals. Through this process, the Traegers are able to educate others about the importance of all-natural animals.
“We deal with a lot, but we’re still here, and we’re still doing it. You have to do what you love doing,” said Traeger.
Traeger’s dream continues to grow,. She hopes that one day they will own 200-300 British White cattle, and is actively looking for more land to rent in preparation for her dream to come true.
Ashley, too, is hoping to expand the Ranch’s chicken population to more than 200 in order to produce up to 16 dozen eggs per day to sell at market.
“We’re creating a demand,” said Traeger.
The Traegers sell at their Ranch year-round, as well as at local farmers markets throughout the area.
For more information, visit www.lovebritish whites.com.