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 purchasing livestock.
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 Dominique chickens.
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.
Kendy working Cole and Cannon at an historical reenactment.
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 her farm.
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.
A young pair of American Milking Devon oxen with Kendy.
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!