Interview with a Serial Cow Dealer
Our 15 year old daughter recently pointed out that my good friend,
Kendy Sawyer, is like a drug dealer. Only Kendy deals in cows. She
will be forevermore known in our house as Mom’s “Cow Dealer.”
It’s hard for me to say “no” to another cow…
In my defense though, it’s not just me. Kendy is well known
throughout Virginia’s small farm community as “The Enabler.” No, that’s
not accurate, I’m certain that the reputation follows her from Vermont
to Mississippi. This is because she has a knack for talking people into
Kendy has an enviable network of farm contacts. If I need to buy or sell an animal, Kendy is the first person I call.
OK, IF I’m honest, I’m always on the buying end of these deals. And it’s always cows that I’m buying.
In spite of her serial cow dealing, I have the greatest respect for
Kendy. I admire her passion. I am very grateful for her mentoring and
more importantly, for her constant support.
Come meet Kendy for yourself when she gives an oxen demonstration at
our Open Farm Day on October 20, 2018. I’m super excited about this – I
love watching Kendy in action. She’s a true cow whisperer.
Kendy Sawyer owns Hine Site Farm, where she breeds and sells rare American Milking Devon and Kerry cattle.
Interview with a Serial Cow Dealer
How did you get involved in conservation of rare breeds?
Kendy: “Initially, I was really really cheap.”
It started with the desire for just one breed of chicken. One that
could produce both meat and eggs, plus retained the ability to reproduce
unassisted. That meant no incubator and no artificial insemination.
There were no modern breeds that satisfied all of these requirements and
Kendy began looking at heritage breeds. Eventually, she settled on
As for the cows, Kendy says that the heritage breeds “do the cow
thing pretty well on their own.” There is no need for artificial
insemination. Calves rarely need to be pulled (pulling calves often
happens because modern commercial breeds of cattle are bred to produce
large offspring, too large for a safe delivery). The rare breeds also
work more willingly and are easier and more forgiving of a new farmer’s
mistakes. Heritage breeds are a much better fit for the kind of farming
that she wanted to do.
For Kendy, stewardship of these rare breeds “grew into an
obsession.” Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible
planning and management of resources. And that is exactly what rare
breeds need to ensure their survival. You see, rare breeds carry
genetics that will be lost if the breeds become extinct. These genetics
need to be saved. This is Kendy’s passion. The reward of doing
something productive for the future is emotional for Kendy.
Why did you choose American Milking Devon (AMD) cattle?
“I liked the idea of a triple purpose breed.” A triple purpose breed
is one which produces both milk and beef and is suitable for use as
oxen. She chose American Milking Devons – one of the oldest breeds of
cattle in the county. She has since added endangered Kerry cattle to
Kendy now keeps a pair of Kerry steers for oxen. Steers are castrated
male cattle. Cole and Cannon are often exhibited at various museums and
county fairs to promote the Kerry breed. Historic reenactments are
another great way to showcase Kerry cattle and other heritage breeds.
Kerry cattle are a small, slow growing dairy breed there is little
market for the beef. That makes it extra important to get them into the
public view and find more people to steward this breed.
How do you get these rare breeds into the hands of more farmers and families?
Kendy: “It’s all about getting out in public with the cows. I get
people to meet a cow and scratch it under the chin or behind the ears.
With some people the cows just click. You have to fall in love with the
cattle, otherwise finding the motivation to get up in the morning and
go break ice in troughs isn’t there – it has to come from a place of
love or else it’s just work.”
Kendy finds that her oxen make great conversation starters. That
conversation quickly moves to rare breeds, the history of farming, and
why oxen were historically preferred over horses for farm labor.
The next thing you know, you’re hooked and Kendy is telling you about
a cow for sale, and you’re seriously considering buying it!
Meet Kendy and her oxen here at our Open Farm Day on October 20, 2018
I hope you’ll come out to meet Kendy and see Cole and Cannon in action at our first Open Farm Day on October 20, 2018.
I do have to warn you that Kendy has trouble holding a conversation
about anything but cows… And you may get talked into taking one home!