Gray Owl Farms NCHCA Picnic

Gray Owl Farms is Hosting
A North Central Highland Cattle Assn. (NCHCA) Picnic

Saturday, August 18th, 2012 at 11:00 AM.

Gray Owl Farms extends the invitation of this NCHCA picnic to all Scottish Highland Cattle and Highland Beef Enthusiasts. We have attended several Highland Cattle events which has brought us to many Highland farms. The most valuable aspect of these farm and ranch tours has been learning the techniques and equipment other breeders use in their Highland management. We’re still perfecting things so bring ideas to share. Our goal for this picnic is to introduce attendees to our operation, which we hope will generate discussions and ideas amongst the guests and that these conversations transpire into a learning session for all. We hope you can join us for a fun filled day of Highland camaraderie.

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Gray Owl Farms – Profile

  • Gray Owl Farms Highland operation began from scratch just 7 years ago. At that time, the barn was ready to fall over, all the fences were in need of replacement, handling facilities did not exist and the pastures were overgrown. Everything has since been up upgraded; our techniques have been refined from both a trial and error approach and by learning from other breeders.
  • Gray Owl Farms is comprised of 614 acres, most of which is forested. Other than 100 acres of hay ground 2 miles to the west, the property is a contiguous parcel. Connected by a private gravel road, Don and Sandy live on the southwest side of the property, Sean and Becky live on the northeast side. The cattle operation utilizes approximately 150 acres, for the picnic we will be dividing this acreage up into Gray Owl Farms West, Central, and East. The distinction of these 3 regions for the picnic will allow us to coordinate destinations with station exhibits and events throughout the farm operation.

Gray Owl Farms – West (GOF-west)

The base location for the day’s events.

  • Arrival:Guests arrive at GOF-west (9414 517 th Street) where Don and Sandy live.
    • This will be the parking and initial gathering site.
    • A Large building on the premises is where we will be serving snacks, beverages and the meal for lunch.
  • Station #1:  At this site will exhibit haying implements to generate discussions on hay making techniques including bale wrapping for balage production.
  • Presentation: A short PowerPoint presentation and video on Highland Cattle grazing and their impact on woody-stemmed vegetation will be delivered after lunch at this location by Sean Vaughn and Minnesota DNR Wildlife & Habitat Biologist Dave Pauly.

Gray Owl Farms – Central (GOF – central)

Primary pastures where the cow/calf pairs will be with the bulls for our 2012 breeding season.

  • Station #2 is an exhibit with land management/pasture revitalization equipment for removing woody-stemmed vegetation including prescribed burns, rotary mower, drum grinder and Highland Cattle.
  • Station #3 will exhibit the bull corral including our mobile head gate.
  • Station #4 use of small shallow water tanks fed by a 3 season shallow underground waterlines.

Gray Owl Farms – East (GOF – east)

Primary handling facilities where we birth our calves, wean calves, and winter the cows and weanlings.

  • Station #5 is a visit to the restored barn. This was a full structural and cosmetic restoration that began with new support beams and ended with the Dutch-lap siding and PVC trim.
  • Station #6 will exhibit our outdoor sorting pen, chute and head gate. This head gate is also our load bearing platform where we weigh the cattle and operate our electronic tag reader and data logger.
  • Station #7 will review the watering stations. Few topics generate more discussion than the various methods breeders implement to water cattle in the winter. We have installed 5 deep, trench-fed heated winter water fountains and several hydrants for our cattle water needs.
  • Station #8 will exhibit our indoor head gate and handling facility.
  • Station #9 Like most cattle operations we are always looking for that perfect round bale feeder. We have 6 varieties of large round bale feeders that will be on display to discuss their pro’s and con’s. (…we’re still looking, the example to the right is far from perfect).
  • Station #10 will demonstrate our calf handling techniques which will include our calf chute with head gate, Calf-Cart ™, calf weighing, Roy-L-Heat™ Calf Warmer and a display of calf feeding bottles (with various nipples), and esophageal feeders.


Gray Owl Farms – Picnic Coordination

    • RSVP: Please inform us (via email, phone or Facebook) as soon as possible if you (family/farm) is attending the picnic; please include the total number of guests. RSVP Deadline is August 1st 2012.
    • Itinerary:
      • 10:30 Initial social gathering begins.
      • 11:00 Check in begins (name tags, introductions etc.).
      • 11:30 First shuttle departure for GOF-central.
      • 1:00 Lunch at GOF-west.
      • 2:00 Presentation at GOF-west.
      • 3:00 Shuttles resume for travel to GOF-east (and GOF-central if missed earlier).
      • 5:00 Shuttles will begin to return back to GOF-west for those who need to leave. We have intentionally not set an official ending time, that is up to the guests.
    • Farm Transportation: Depending on the number of guests we plan to have hay wagons running as shuttles from GOF-west to the other principle destinations (GOF-central and GOF-east). Personal vehicles, ATVs, horses, hay wagons and a short bus (in bad weather) will allow guests to move freely throughout the property. Hay wagons will be the means for guided group tours to the designated stations.
    • Location: Gray Owl Farms is located in East central Minnesota; 65 miles north of the Twin Cities, 85 miles South of Duluth and 1.5 miles West of the St. Croix River separating Minnesota and Wisconsin.
      Get Directions.
    • Lunch:The afternoon lunch will be at 1:00 PMat GOF-West. The meal and beverages (pop, beer & water) will be provided by Gray Owl Farms (please RSVP to help us plan the lunch).
      • BYOB for other adult refreshments are welcome.
    • Horse Riding:Horse owners are welcome to bring their horses. We have six miles of roads and trails on the property, factor in going through some of the perimeter gates to make one of several loop options on public gravel roads and that distance could triple.
      • You are welcome to arrive early to get your animals settled in.
      • Property trail maps will be available.
      • We don’t own horses but we will do what we can to accommodate you and your horses (Please call for arrangements).
      • Consider riding the trails in the Wild River State Park the day before or the day after the picnic. It’s only 45 minutes away.
    • Inclement Weather: If the weather is less than ideal we have arranged for a small transport bus to shuttle guests between the stations. In addition to the bus, our buildings at GOF-west and East will allow us to fulfill the days plans.
    • Camping: If anyone is interested in camping electrical hookup are available at Gray Owl Farms West and GOF-east. Remote camping is available just about anywhere on the property. We can accommodate a couple units on the south end of Vaughn Lake for a more picturesque setting. (Please call for arrangements).
    • Lodging:
      • Rush City, MN – Grant House, 5 minutes West from Gray Owl Farms.
      • North Branch, MN – AmericInn, 20 minutes South from Gray Owl Farms
      • Hinckley, MN – Grand Casino, 30 minutes North from Gray Owl Farms.
  • Additional information about Gray Owl Farms and future developments of the 2012 picnic please visit:

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