TIMONIUM, Md. — The world of beef may be ready for a change.
Angus, Charolais and Hereford continue to dominate, but unusual breeds are gaining popularity.
“You watch any beef show and you see the same thing,” said Ashlyn Morelli of Howling Springs Farm in Elverson, Pennsylvania. “I like the difference between the Highlands and the other meat breeds.”
The Morelli family – Thomas, Beshka and their children, Ashlyn and Thomas Jr.(TM) – opened the farm in 2016 after Beshka saw Highland cattle at the Keystone International Livestock Exposition. She then decided to buy one at a cattle sale in the Highlands later that week.
“Tom was coming back from a trip to the mountains the day before and I was feeling bad, but I told him he had to get in the trailer because we were buying a Highland heifer,” Beshka said.
They found a heifer for sale who was quiet and small but had potential. This heifer helped the Highland herd at Howling Springs Farm grow to 20 head.
At first the animals were breeding projects for TM and his best friend, Mitchell, to show off.
Ashlyn was an avid horse rider, but was at cattle shows with her younger brother. She soon began showing heifers and bulls.
The Morellis worked hard to establish their place in the farming and ranching communities.
Although Tom is not from a farming family, he knows farming practices and has friends who are active farmers in the Elverson area.
In addition to Highland cattle, Howling Springs is home to a few other farm animals. The family also owns cultivated land on which they grow hay and rent the rest to a local farmer.
A hardy breed, Highlands can survive the hotter summers of the southeast with the right amount of care. Originally from Scotland, cattle were for generations a source of meat and milk for small farmers in the high country who lived mainly from fishing and subsistence farming. Cattle hair was used to spin thread.
Beshka is focused on breeding her Highlands to excel in the ring. His ultimate goal is a much bigger banner.
“I want the Grand Champion Breeding Heifer banner,” she said. “It would be an incredible honor.”
The family exhibits nationwide at Highland cattle and beef cattle shows, including the National Western Stock Show in Denver, where won the grand champion bull with STR Burning It Down in 2018, and reserves the bull great champion with their bred and held Howling Springs King Maker. at the beginning of this year.
At the Mid-Atlantic Highland Cattle Association Spring Classic in May, TM won the Grand Champion Junior Breeding Heifer with STR Adrenaline, and Ashlyn won the Reserve Grand Champion Junior Breeding Heifer with Howling Springs Dream Whip.
Ashlyn has also won directing accolades, winning the title of Junior Directing Reserve during the show.
And while the Morellis didn’t win the Beef Supreme Championship title at the Maryland State Fair this year, they didn’t come away empty-handed.
With Champion and Reserve Champion honors in the All Other Breeds classes, as well as premier breeder and exhibitor for the AOB show, the Morellis are well on their way to achieving their goals.