Raising ‘Belties’ a labor of love for Silt rancher
Citizen Telegram Contributor
What’s a ‘Beltie?’
The Belted Galloway, or “Belties,” as they are known among cattle breeders, were originally developed during the 16th century in the former Galloway District of Scotland, a rugged and hilly seacoast region where hardiness is necessary for survival. They are thought to be a cross between Black Galloway and Dutch Belted cattle.
A full grown Belted Galloway bull weighs between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds, while a three- to four-year-old cow weighs in at 1,100 to 1,300 pounds. This is an average weight among beef producing cattle; however, there is large difference in carcass dress weight, or the weight of the animal after it has been slaughtered and trimmed of fat.
The ‘Beltie’ as a beef animal will produce dress weights well in excess of 60 percent of its live weight, where other beef producing cattle can be as low as 30 percent of its live weight. The reason the Beltie can do this is because it produces a double layer of thick fur around its body to keep it warm in the winter and does not rely on heavy layers of fat for warmth, as most breeds do. Because of this, the Beltie is known for producing exceptionally lean and flavorful meat, which is in great demand in the health-conscious world of today.
SILT – Not many people would say it would take a traumatic brain injury to want to be in the cattle business.
For Lyn Danielson, it was different. She did it to help her son – or so she thought – and ended up falling in love with a breed of cattle from the Scottish Highlands.
In 2007, at the age of 35, Danielson’s son had his own cattle ranch near Meeker and was out riding with his 10-year-old daughter when a freak horse accident gave him a severe brain injury. As the years of recovery progressed, Danielson felt her son needed a job, thinking he would want to continue in the ranching business. As he could ill afford another accident, Danielson began researching docile cattle breeds that would do well at high elevations. The answer came in the Belted Galloway breed.
Commonly known as “Oreo” cows, they, like the popular cookie, are black at both ends with a big, white stripe of “belt” around the middle.
After Danielson purchased four Belted Galloway cattle to start a herd, her son found he no longer had an interest in ranching and recovered enough to be on his own again with a different career. Danielson, however, found she had fallen in love with this docile breed of bovine. So, after retiring from a long career as a legal assistant, she started anew in the cattle business.
“This is my retirement,” Danielson said. “It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but it’s really more of a hobby.”
She and her husband sold their home in New Castle and built their dream home on 14 acres of land they owned along the Collbran Road, overlooking the southern end of the Divide Creek valley. Because of the small acreage, Danielson said she limits her herd to four cows and sells her calves, not as beef, but to other breeders looking to build a purebred Beltie herd. And with only four cows, it wasn’t worth it to purchase a full-blood Beltie bull to insure a good calf crop, so she uses artificial insemination to impregnate the cows.
“That way I get the choice of the best bulls and don’t have to feed it all year,” said Danielson.
Other attributes of the purebred Belted Galloway, said Danielson, is that they are polled, or do not produce horns, are not susceptible to high-country diseases such as brisket, and poison plants such as Larkspur, which Danielson has in abundance on her property.
Although they are not all that common in the Western United States, the Belted Galloway is far from being a novelty pasture ornament and Danielson has made it her passion to see them become an accepted and common beef-producing entity in Colorado’s high country.
“And you should try the meat,” Danielson said. “The taste…it is absolutely wonderful.”
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