Award-winning herd sets Vermont farm apart - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Award-winning herd sets Vermont farm apart

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The top of a scenic hill in Plainfield is home to some bovine superstars. Meet Raisin Brandy and her calf, Apple Brandy. They recently returned from the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, where they were named Grand Champion Cow and Calf.

"We were very surprised," said Janet Steward of Shat Acres Highlands. "Every year, going to Denver is an unknown because you are competing against the best of the best and every animal that is there has probably won a grand championship somewhere in the United States."

Grand championships are nothing new for Steward, her husband, Ray Shatney, and their Highland cattle. Their farm, Shat Acres Highlands, has won in Denver for best cow and calf in four of the past six years. In fact, when Raisin Brandy was a calf, she and her mother, Cinnamon Raisin, won the same award.

"It was a big deal for Cinnamon Raisin, who is pretty much an icon in the Highland industry, for her daughter to win," Steward said. "So it was a wonderful honor."

This Highland herd was started by Ray Shatney's father and is the oldest closed herd in the United States, meaning they have not bought a female in over 40 years. So this herd has what's called very tight genetics.

"It's kind of an addiction," Ray Shatney said. "I guess everybody has got to do something in their life and raising them, taking them to shows, you meet people from all over the world."

And all the awards have not gone unnoticed; even Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said these Highland cattle have put Vermont on the map.

"This is significant," Tebbetts said. "I can't underestimate how important this is; these are some of the best animals in the world for a significant amount of time, and they come from the Green Mountains."

But a herd of Highlands does not pay for itself; it is a slow-growing niche cattle. So to finance their farms in Plainfield and Greensboro, Steward and Shatney crossbreed some Highlands with Shorthorns, another heritage breed. Those animals are processed into meat and sold under the label Greenfield Highland Beef to local stores. Janet and Ray won an award for that, too.

"We won the family-owned business of the year for the state of Vermont from the Small Business Association," Steward said. "It's hard to talk about which honor is more special because for a farm to win a business award is very special and what I have tried to do is create a model so that other farmers can be successful."

And they hope their herd will continue for generations.

"Janet and I are getting older," Shatney said. "But when I started doing this with my parents and finally started doing what we are doing now, I was 50 years old. So I guess there is still time for the kids to take over or the grandkids, maybe."

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Twin calves named by Vt. kids grow into award-winning cows

Greensboro Family's Champion Highlands

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