CULLMAN, Ala. – Scottish Highland cattle are highly sought-after livestock for their docile nature, ability to withstand harsh weather and high-quality beef. Gleann Brook Acres, family-owned and operated business since 2006, has raised more than 200 highlands in over 10 states. Their ranch is located in Bremen, Cullman County where the cattle are raised on open pasture. Tracey Kerbler, with her husband Stéphane, and two kids Sydnée and Synclair, run the farm.
The highlands reap the benefits of being raised humanely on open green pasture with shaded areas for getting out of the sun, while consumers get the benefits of organic beef that is free of hormones or antibiotics. Tracey stated, “We don’t confine them or overstock them to the extent that they need antibiotics to fight contagious disease from being too close. Some of our breeding herd are 17 years old this year and still producing a calf every year—that comes from slow but steady growth the way it was intended.
Hormones are used to accelerate growth and increase feed efficiency; The results are fast growing animals that can’t survive in the herd due to structural insufficiencies. Cattle aren’t meant to be at market weight in 14 months. This can only be achieved with artificial means in both diet and additives. We don’t believe this is in the best interest of our cattle or our clients. If one of our animals should become ill, we treat with appropriate antibiotics in conjunction with our veterinarian’s recommendation—we do not use antibiotics prophylactically ever.”
Grass-fed beef is also lower in both overall fat and saturated fat and has the added advantage of providing healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to consumers’ diet in much higher quantities than feedlot/corn-fed beef.
Tracey completed her B.S. in Agriculture and her M.S. in Reproductive Physiology, specifically for cattle, at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She then worked at the University of Guelph as the head research technician for their dairy facilities until 1998. She said she fell in love with cattle in high school while doing rounds with a large animal veterinarian and ever since then had dreams of owing her own cattle.
This background, along with a few summer jobs working at different dairy and equine facilities, gave her a good preparation for farm life, but, she said, “We’ve definitely had to reinvent the wheel a few times transitioning from research to practical farming. Like many things, it’s a lifetime of learning and everyday teaches us something new.”
Tracey and her husband decided to start the farm in Alabama because Stéphane’s work brought them to Birmingham. At this time, their kids were in school full-time, so Tracey searched for ways to fulfill her research background by owning cattle. She explained, “When we moved to the USA, my vocation as a dairy researcher was over. We didn’t live near any universities that do dairy research. Beef was perfect for us as we didn’t live on the farm when we got started. My husband recommended Highland cattle and when we did the research, they fit our situation perfectly.” After getting hooked on Highlands, Tracy and Stéphane contacted Don and Margaret Badger of Jadhore Highlands, Maple Lea Farm in Quebec who acted as their mentors heading into the venture.
They first began with heifers from Cube Mountain in New Hampshire, Black Watch Farm in Vermont, and Locustbrae Farm in New York. They purchased Black Watch Breagh Tighearnan from Frank and Liz Manafort to be their herd sire. In 2007, Gleann Brook Acre’s Gleandan (AI), son of Kanaka Hill Maximilian (AI), #6783-26455 and Baker’s Cube Mtn. Saba S283, #43410, were born and contributed greatly as their second herd sire. Since then, the farm has had over 200 calves born under the Gleann Brook Acres name.
Tracey said, “Highlands are easy to work with, the cows calve without issues, they are very protective of their young and the meat is of outstanding quality. Even when we got busy with kids playing hockey and long road trips, the cattle kept doing their thing. Munching grass or hay and having the most adorable babies! We sell our cattle around the USA, all the way to California, up and down the East coast and of course, to all our neighboring states. We feel so privileged to be able to share the breed with folks.”
The family welcomes anyone who wants to visit Gleann Brook Acres and learn about Highland cattle. Arrangements must be made in advance to ensure that someone is available to show them the cattle. They also ask for a contribution to cover time away from other tasks.
Gleann Brook Acres visits Cullman Festhalle Farmer’s Market on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. They can also be contacted through their website: https://www.gbahighlands.com/get-in-touch-copy/.
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