July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Moooving up to Detroit

Judy A. Totts | The Gazette

SPENCER TWP. — Looking like large Oreo cookies on the hoof, the cows meandered across the hillside pasture Thursday morning. Two calves napped in the spring sunshine. Typical of belted Galloway cattle, they both sported a broad band of white hair around their midsection in stark contrast to their black front and rear quarters.

Terry Hendershot and his family have raised belted Galloways, an old Scottish breed affectionately known as “Belties,” since 1999. Although their operation is one of only a handful in Ohio, Hendershot said it still was a surprise when he received a phone call from the Detroit Zoo late last fall, asking if he’d consider donating one of his steers to the zoo.

“We looked at registered breeders to find those closest to us,” said Robert Lessnau, curator of mammals at the Detroit Zoological Society, as he explained one of the zoo’s goals is to expand its barnyard animal exhibit. “Everything fell into place nicely.”

The Hendershots selected Bodie, a young steer who will celebrate his first birthday in May.

ABOVE: Terry Hendershot feeds his belted Galloway cows Thursday on his Spencer Township farm. BELOW: Dozier Hendershot of West Salem, son of Terry, prepares Bodie for transport to the Detroit Zoo. (Judy A. Totts | The Gazette)

“We thought it was a good opportunity to promote the breed,” said Dozier Hendershot, Terry’s son, as he sat back on the porch chair and resettled his tan Farmall cap on his head. “Mom and Dad got us kids into 4-H, but when we got out of that, we still wanted to stay in cows.”

Their search for a small breed ended when Terry accompanied his oldest daughter on a jaunt to the library. While she did her research, he went on a cattle quest.

“That’s where he found belted Galloways,” said Terri Hendershot, Terry’s wife. She crossed her arms over her chest and nodded at the cows gathered at the fence where they begged snacks from her husband. He obligingly fished feed cubes out of an old red plastic coffee container and doled them out.

“Get my husband talking about them and he can’t shut up,” she added with a warm smile.

“The Belties are easy keepers,” Dozier explained. The incredibly tough cows originated in Galloway, Scotland, and migrated to the United States in the 1850s, coming to Maine by way of Canada. The polled animals — no horns — readily adapt to whatever climate they find themselves in.

“The ones you see in Texas develop shorter coats. Here they stay kind of shaggy. They’ll dig under the snow the way the buffaloes do,” he said.

Although many Belties are black and white, they also can be a solid color, dun and white or red and white, he added.

The Hendershots raise the Belties on grass in the summer and hay in the winter, with mineral supplements to round out the menu.

“We raise them as natural as we can, that’s the whole idea,” Terry said, rattling off their attributes, such as cows that present very few calving problems, thanks to the small size of the calves, and meat so lean it requires careful cooking.

“They do get a little flaky when they have calves. They’re very protective and revert back to being a little wild then, which is a good thing if there are coyotes around, but otherwise they’re easy-going,” he said.

To meet zoo criteria, Bodie underwent numerous blood tests and received a microchip for identification 30 days prior to his trip to Michigan. When Lessnau and Tony Modica, one of the zoo’s mammal supervisors, arrived at the Hendershot farm, Bodie was ready to roll.

To make the transfer easy, Terry and Dozier loaded Bodie into their stock trailer. As slick as an astronaut docking a space capsule, Terry maneuvered the trailer so its doors opened directly into the zoo trailer.

As soon as Dozier opened the inner gate, Bodie nimbly leaped from one trailer to the other, his hooves clattering on the floor as he scrambled across the short gap.

“It’s a very generous donation, and the Hendershots have been nice to work with,” Lessnau said, as the doors closed behind the steer. “We’re pretty excited.”

After a three-hour drive to his new home, Bodie will spend 30 days in quarantine before meeting his new buddies, a Scottish Highland steer, one Meishan and two Old Spot hogs, a potbelly pig and a rescued Thoroughbred. With the addition of Bodie, it will allow the public the opportunity to see a contrast in species, although both cattle breeds originated in Scotland.

Terry said the family plans to visit Bodie in Michigan this summer, once he’s accustomed to his surroundings.

Contact Judy A. Totts at (330) 721-4063 or religion@ohio.net.