Foster, RI-- When you arrive at the McCullough’s property, it appears to be more like a forest than a farm. It is cool and shady because of the many towering trees that offer some relief on this 90° day. As you drive up a bit further, there is a big red barn to the left, a replica of the original from 300 years ago, and large spanning pastures on both sides of the driveway. I know I am here to see Alota-Mouth Cattle Co. (AMCC) but the only four-legged animals I can see is a horse and an old German Shorthaired Pointer named Bucky. I am meeting with Ashley McCullough whose parents own the farm. I asked her where all of the cattle are. It turns out they are just casually grazing somewhere out of sight in the field; oh, I think I’m going to like this place.
The McCullough's have been breeding and raising show quality animals for over 40 years. Ashley's father Ron McCullough was involved with 4-H and FFA as a young adult. After a few years off from raising cattle the McCullough's decided it was time to get back in the game when Brent McCullough thought it would be fun to raise a steer. After this experience the family began raising animals again. While Brent is no longer involved, Ron, Helena, Ashley, and Julie McCullough keep the farm going.
The McCullough’s currently raise 12 cows. The cattle have huge pastures to graze on freely that are lined by a historic 17th century stonewall. When Ashley and I found the herd, they were all sitting under the trees keeping cool. They have plenty of room to roam around. In the summer, they spend all of their time outside eating grass and hay. In the winter months, the cattle are kept in paddocks with an unlimited supply of haylage and dry hay. The steers are kept year round in paddocks around the barn and are feed a grain and hay diet. Tending to the cattle is very low maintenance and the cows have always lived in good-health so they never need antibiotics. Ashley explains that as long as they have food and water, they are virtually effortless to take care of.
The McCullough’s cows are more like pets than livestock. Since all of their cows were born and raised on the farm, and shown by Ashley throughout New England, they are very comfortable around people. Some of them even let me pet them! When Ashley walks up to one, they share more of a dog-human relationship than a cattle-human relationship. Each cow has a name and is addressed by it. The cows are treated with respect, not just as a means to a product.
Ashley’s main role at AMCC is the breeding program. When picking sires for the following years calves there are many different traits that she looks for. Some of those traits are, muscling, conformation, style, and calving ease. Once those sires are picked, she matches them with the appropriate cow. All of the breeding done at AMCC is Artificial Insemination (AI). When Ashley first got involved with showing cattle she knew that she wanted her career to be in agriculture. After attending two universities and receiving her Bachelors in Agri-Business Management and Rural Development from West Virginia University she now works at the Connecticut Farm Bureau Association. She is also involved in other Ag organizations such as a variety of breed organizations, working with 4-H students, judging throughout CT, and selling beef at local farmers markets.
It is only within the past two years that AMCC has started selling their beef locally at farmers markets throughout the state. With the help of her cousin Julie McCullough, AMCC is licensed to sell at markets as well as on the farm. Both Julie and Ashley sell beef every Saturday at the Burriville Farmers Market, and the Scituate Farmers Market. They both enjoy chatting with customers and educating consumers about where their food comes from. Both often invite costumers to come visit the farm to learn about the beef business.
|Life is so good here that there are even cattle imposters|
The McCullough's firmly believe in supporting local farms, especially in Rhode Island where agriculture is a dying practice. Ashley and Julie hope that AMCC will be able to expand so that they can continue to sell their products at farmers markets, and eventually begin marketing to local restaurants. There is a notably relaxed environment at AMCC Cattle Co. I think that their caring-oriented approach allows for the McCullough’s to raise their livestock in a natural, healthy environment that marches to the beat of nature and not production. As a result, Alota- Mouth Cattle Co is producing beef products that are delicious and “A Head and Rump Above the Rest!”