To start with, some basic facts. Wheel-View Farms raises grass fed beef on their pasture. They raise a combination of Belted Galloway (Belties), Highland Cattle, and recently Murray Gray. All of these are considered heritage breeds, and they do very well on grass. In this area a lot of farms use Belties or Highland Cattle, but this was our first time encountering the Murray Grays. I realized the only photos actually really showing a Murray Gray in good shot is the opening photo. The pearly gray cow Above just left of the center of the shot us a Murray Gray, if you haven't already read the link on their name some of their history is kind of cool, you should glance through it. My favorite of the cows we met was one of the Murray Grays that we don't have a good photo of named Squiggle.
I personally had something of a prejudice against cattle having met them when I was younger, and found them stupid, skittish, and actually relatively mean. Not only was I impressed by the ethical and quality standards of care at Wheel-View Farm, I also had my general opinion of cows changed. I will note that my visits to Crabapple Farm and meeting their dairy cows had started that, but changing my opinion of meat cows is no small thing.
How did they change my view on meat cattle? Simply, they'd raised their cows in such a way that they acted like cows probably should act. They were curious rather than simply suspicious. They were cautious rather than fearful, and they were genuinely friendly and happy to be around people. Part of that is the breeds they've chosen, as a non docile set of breeds wouldn't be as friendly. Another part of it is that the cows are interacted with daily, and get touched regularly beyond just a health check. They get touched, petted, and some of them really like it, demand in fact. When a full grown breeder cow comes up and informs you that you're going to pet her, trust me, it's going to happen.
What do I mean by how they manage their herd? To start with unlike many commercial beef farms they give their cows plenty of space to roam, woods to go into for shade, and regular rotation through different fields. I don't know exactly how many acres they have, but their herds rotate through many different fields to manage the cattle's eating, and keep them able to eat grass for the entire possible grass eating part of the year. The grass management for this sort of farm is incredibly important, and to do that the cows never spend more than a day or two in an area of pasture for most of the year which preserves the grass and soil beneath, which leads to the grass growing faster and it being easier to maintain. They've been doing this for some time which means that their soil and grass has become very resilient, the results of decades or more of work. By having access to woods as well the cows can be more comfortable. They apparently have a pattern of coming out, eating for an hour or two, and then going back into the woods to be cooler. Having previously only encountered cows in open un-shaded areas, I hadn't realized they really like having good shade, it makes sense though, they have an awful lot of mass to shed heat from.
UMass Belties program. Some of his docility and friendliness probably comes from the fact that they were used for the Livestock Classic thus handled constantly when they were young. The gray bull Above Left was raised there from a calf. His mother is one of the Murray Grays still in the herd, and his father was the most gentle bull ever. Their personalities certainly came through in him. Mysteriously much like our rabbits being very docile with handling when constantly interacted with, it also applies to cows and bulls in a low stress environment handled regularly.