I had the rare privilege to interview one of the last of the modern day “mountain men,” taken place in the twilight of Kit Smith’s life.
Smith, who is now in his late 60s, describes growing up in a “town” of Shell, Wyo. — population 50.
The town was aptly named Shell because of all the artifact sea shells which are common to the area. This comes from a time in our past where the sea was breaking at the foot of the mountains some 1,246 miles from Los Angeles, Calif.
Smith has never married.
He explained that, when you grow up in a town of 50, there are not many women to choose from.
A car accident and subsequent stroke had Smith making severe modifications in his lifestyle.
He sold off his ranch and house, and today lives in a senior apartment. He maintains a few animals for selling semen from top bulls, and embryos for transplant from his Galloway cattle on rented pasture.
Smith has been tireless and a life-long promoter of the Galloway breed of cattle.
He is convinced that if anyone gives this breed a thorough look, it becomes a “no brainer” in today’s society.
As every cattleman knows, making a living or a profit in cattle is tough.
Smith would like to introduce you to the Galloway breed:
Facts to ponder
• Gain: Would an average daily gain of 3.62 pounds be satisfactory in your feedlot?
• Grain and grass: Would an average feed efficiency of 5.24 pounds of dry matter per pound of grain work for you?
• Grade: Would you be satisfied with 88 percent of your product grading AA and AAA?
• Gross weight: Would an animal weighing 1,230 pounds with these grades enable you to make the premium cut and size of your steaks and roasts?
• Growth: Would an 85-pound birth weight calf weaned at 200 days, weighing 600 pounds, put on feed for just 172 days and then slaughtered at 1,230 pounds be considered satisfactory?
• Greenhouse gases and the environment: Wouldn’t it make sense that a higher gain on less grain consumed over fewer days would make less methane gas and manure per pound of beef produced? And how much water does an animal on feed consume?
Galloways are the most efficient breed at feed conversion, beating out the Angus with a conversion rate of 6.64, according to reports.
Galloways also have the ability to efficiently finish on grass. It takes a little longer, but is far cheaper, especially with the recent exponential increases in grain prices.
For ranchers accustomed to grazing their cattle in mountainous terrain, Galloways are known for their resistance to Brisket Disease. Brisket Disease is a form of altitude sickness that is fatal in cattle above 8,000-foot elevation.
Galloways contentedly graze on rough forage that other cattle breeds would bypass.
Because of their very heavy coat, they are well-insulated and do not build waste fat for insulation purposes.
Because their overall fat content is lower, it is lower in calories than conventional beef, but due to the excellent marbling techniques on lower fat, the Galloways score high in flavor and tenderness.
It has been bred from centuries back expressly for beef production rather than dairy or draft use.
Smith complains of politics predominantly from associations that have huge investments in marketing their brand. They claim that Galloways are known for getting dirtier in the feedlot.
Smith counters with the fact that buyers give no discount for being dirty, that it does not affect the meat quality in any way. Harley Blegen, president of The American Galloway Association, corroborates a prejudice against the Galloways.
“They don’t have pretty, shiny and slick coats,” basically because they are ugly-looking to some, he explained.
Because of the long thick hair of the Galloway, they can hold mud and manure, which will affect the cut yield if they are not washed before weighing. The American Beefalo Association is having similar problems marketing their crossbred product as well.
To look at the Galloway and the beefalo on paper is a total win-win.
Grass finishing portends the way of the future for economy and healthy flavorful eating. ❖