Perfect piece of paradise: Move to Driftless Area suits farmers raising grass-fed Galloway beef

posted Feb. 12, 2018 8:04 a.m. (CDT)
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by / Brooke Bechen, Regional Editor |

  • bb_CT_Galloway_1_021418
    Jeannie and Greg Bull purchased their “piece of paradise” in rural Richland County six years ago. Just this past summer, they moved their 48-head mixture of cows, calves and meat animals to the property from their former rural Watertown farm.
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    Galloway cattle are recognizable by their double coat of hair, meant to withstand the climate in the rolling hills of Scotland. Aside from their distinct appearance, Galloway beef is known to have a high rating in taste as well.
  • bb_CT_Galloway_5_021418-3
    Galloway cattle are recognizable by their double coat of hair, meant to withstand the climate in the rolling hills of Scotland. Aside from their distinct appearance, Galloway beef is known to have a high rating in taste as well.
  • bb_CT_Galloway_3_021418-1
    Jeannie Bull sees enjoyment in raising her Galloway calves into full-grown cattle, and watching their progress along the way.
  • bb_CT_Galloway_2_021418
    Pictured here are two of the Bulls' Galloway cattle, standing motionless as they have their photograph taken.

CAZENOVIA — Growing up in Milwaukee, it was always Jeannie Bull’s dream to live on a farm. When she was younger, she spent time on her grandparents’ farm, which was home to a handful of dairy cows.

Bull’s husband, Greg, was the same way, only a “little more hands-on,” she said. He spent his summers helping relatives with hay-making on their farm — and always had a love for the iron tractors his grandfather kept on the property.

Both of their dreams came true when they retired from their jobs and decided to purchase a few Galloway beef cattle in 2007. They started with six Galloway-Angus cross heifers that were 6 to 7 months old, raising them on their farm in rural Watertown.

Bull had heard “such good things about Galloways” but did a lot of research before purchasing the animals. The hardy, long-haired cattle are one of the world’s longest established breeds of beef cattle, originally bred in the hills of Scotland. With a double coat of hair, the cattle do not need much shelter, which made them almost perfect for the bitter cold winters of Wisconsin.

Bull also learned that the cows have strong maternal instincts with little birthing problems. And most importantly of all, the beef was rated extremely high in the area of taste and was something different than the typical Black Angus.

“I know I’m biased, but I think Galloway beef is amazing,” Bull said.

Soon after purchasing the first six, the Bulls added a pure-blood Galloway bull and two pure-blood Galloway cows into the mix — and have continued to grow from there.

Bull’s Ranch now has 48 head including a mixture of cows, calves and meat animals. They are settling into their relatively new home in rural Cazenovia in Richland County, as the Bulls made the move to the rolling hills of the Driftless Area this past summer.

Six years ago, the Bulls were looking for “someplace a little more quiet,” away from the hustle and bustle of living near Watertown. The couple wanted to stay close to their sons and grandchildren and began looking west.

“We started to look for property,” Bull said. “We thought it would take a couple of years to find the perfect place.”

The couple’s real estate agent had sent them information on a couple of potential places, but due to a snowstorm, Bull’s husband decided to just pick one property to look at that day because the roads were beginning to become snow-covered.

“This was the place,” Bull said. “I took off work the following day and we said ‘yes.’ This is it.”

When spring came around, their newly purchased 240-acre farm really came to life. Perennial flower beds blossomed and leaves filled in on the property’s apple orchard. The rolling hills held promise for the Galloway cattle as the Bulls aimed to raise the animals as grass-fed only.

After owning the property for six years, the Bulls moved their cattle to the new farm this past summer. It took them three to four trips back and forth to get all the cattle moved, but they were finally at Bull’s “piece of paradise.”

“This area is so pretty,” she said. “If I could live anywhere, I always thought it would be here.”

Jeannie and Greg Bull’s days start fairly early, with Jeannie commenting that she likes watching “the day get light.” It’s a special time, especially out here, she said.

Bull makes her first walkabout with the cattle at first light, checking to make sure everyone is accounted for and healthy. A couple of her heifers and cows are due at the end of February/​early March, so she has been keeping an extra close eye on those animals.

“I count cows and I count calves, making sure everyone looks good, and I throw hay to the horses, too,” she said.

Along with the cattle, two dogs, a few chickens and a rooster, Bull also has three horses she lovingly refers to as “pasture pets.” She adopted the Arabian and two Mustangs 22 years ago, and although she does not ride her horses, she enjoys caring for the animals.

Bull is an animal lover, which often leads her friends to wonder how in the world she manages to raise beef cattle.

“This is how I want my beef to be,” she said. “This is my way of caring for an animal well and still eating meat.

“Otherwise, I’d be a vegetarian,” she added with a smile.

Bull admits she and her husband probably pay more attention to their cattle than most people do, but it’s because the couple truly cares about the animals. Bull uses a no-chemical and more organic philosophy on her farm, something that is “a big, big thing for us,” she said.

“I’m a big believer that we should keep our lives as clean as we can,” she added.

Bull does not use Roundup, pour-ons or chemical wormers for her cattle. She works with a retired organic veterinarian to use homeopathy and natural, non-chemical remedies. None of her cattle have received antibiotics, with the exception of one calf.

“This is how we should be eating; I’m a big proponent of that,” she said. “I can tell you exactly the (animal’s) whole life.”

The Bulls put out salt and minerals every day for their animals, and in the summer, Jeanniel makes her own fly spray. And although the farm is not certified organic, she follows organic practices routinely.

“We keep the cattle real healthy,” she said. “There should be no issues if you have a real good mineral program.”

Bull’s Ranch is also a closed farm, meaning no outside cattle are allowed in. This gives the Bulls strict control over the cattle, including what they eat and what they are expected to do.

After the cattle have been raised grass-fed on the farm for two years, the time comes for them to be slaughtered. At first, the Bulls attempted to sell the beef whole or half, but they found it was difficult to get the average person to purchase that.

So the Bulls got their retail license from the state and began selling the beef in 25-pound boxes and by the pound. It was “much, much easier,” Bull said.

In the summer months, Bull sells her beef at the Watertown Farmers Market and the Baraboo Farm Market. She is excited to finally be able to sell her beef at the Madison Farmers Market on the Square this coming summer as she had been on the wait list for five years.

People from the Watertown area are still buying her beef, too, and Bull does get some inquiries via phone about picking up beef at the farm.

The Bulls have always used Straka Meats in Plain and stress that having a good processor is very important to any beef business.

“We send one to two in at a time for processing,” Bull said. “And if you work with a small farm and a small butcher place, they’ll all be the same way — careful with the animals.”

“I want the end of their life to be stress-free,” Bull added. “It is something that is important to me.”

Once the snow melts and another spring dawns on Bull’s Ranch, things will begin to pick up again. Greg will spend more time outside tinkering with the farm machinery he so loves and Jeannie will be making her usual rounds to check on her animals more and more.

And every once in a while, she’ll climb up into Greg’s grandfather’s John Deere B to make hay.

“I like raking hay — the swish of the rake behind you. It’s very peaceful and relaxing,” she said.

“This is part of my enjoyment, too,” she added, pointing to a few calves playing. “For me, it’s good for my soul.”

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