By Jared Janzen
HALSTEAD—Calving season is in full-swing at Terry and Jerry Holdeman’s farm northwest of Halstead.
The twin brothers expect to have about 65 calves born this year, with 30-some born so far and more coming every day. The first arrived on Feb. 23, and the last should arrive at the start of May.
“The most we’ve had this year so far is five in a day, and then of course there’s some days we haven’t had any,” Terry said.
Last Saturday afternoon, when Harvey County Now was visiting, Terry discovered three new calves born earlier that day. The two brothers have about 80 to 85 heifers, or mother cows, in their herd right now.
Terry and Jerry jumped into the cattle business when they were 19.
“Dad had cattle when we were young, but he lost most of his pasture, and so he sold off most of his herd,” Terry said, adding he and Jerry were around their early teens when that happened. “We wanted to get back into it.”
The brothers’ cattle operation is based at the late Ivan Schirer’s property northwest of Halstead. Terry said he once helped care for Schirer’s cattle.
“At the tail end of when Ivan had cattle, I did all the labor for him, and he had the cows and supplied the feed,” Terry said. “Then I bought all his cows out. He passed away kind of unexpectedly.”
Nowadays, Terry does most of the day-to-day cow chores, checking the herd at least twice a day. Brother Jerry works full-time as a heavy equipment mechanic, but he helps on weekends with some of the more labor-intensive tasks, like vaccinations.
About a third of the Holdemans’ herd is registered, but they want to increase this percentage and “grow from within” by saving back heifers to build up the herd.
“It’s a way of tracking their pedigree so a buyer in the future might know where it came from and what it was,” Jerry said. “That way a potential buyer knows what genetics he’s getting into.”
The brothers said they didn’t think it was as common for people in this immediate area to have registered cattle, mainly because most farmers have more to do with crops than livestock. They first got into registering animals in 2017.
The brothers also have a trailer they use to sell beef from the cattle they raise. They call the business 86 Farm, after the year they were born. They’re getting ready for their third season at the Newton farmers market. Their products include steaks, ground beef, summer sausage, roasts, hamburger patties, beef jerky and bratwurst. They sell meat by the cut or by the quarter, half or whole.
“Our goals with our meat business is to bring a quality product to the consumer,” Terry said. “You go to these grocery stores, and you really have no idea where your meat is coming from. It could be coming from overseas—who knows where.”
He noted that packaging can be misleading because even if beef says “Packaged in the USA,” the cow may have been raised overseas and brought to the country after it was slaughtered.
Terry also pointed out that their meat is dry-aged for 10 to 14 days, which he said gives the meat a better taste and means the consumer isn’t paying for water in the weight.
“When you buy from a big beef packer, it’s butchered, put in the package, and the only aging time is from when it goes from the processing plant to the store,” Terry said. “So it’s aged in its package.” Ours is hung at our processor for 10 to 14 days before it’s packaged, so you’re getting a higher quality product.”
In addition to the Newton farmers market, the brothers have sold to customers in Wichita. Terry noted some of these folks have enjoyed their meat so much they only buy from them.
Terry and Jerry plan to butcher 12 cows this year for their meat business. Others they’ll sell through the sale barn, but they would love to increase their meat sales to the point where they no longer have to do that.
“That helps take out the middle man, so obviously that helps us out,” Terry said. “Somebody else is getting a cut of it if we do it that way.”
When COVID-19 first struck a year ago, the brothers had trouble getting dates scheduled with their butcher. By June, they had sold everything they had in stock and had to start telling customers nothing was available.
“The day we had it back in stock was the best day we’ve had at the farmers market in all our years of going,” Terry said.
He added that raising cattle is the sort of business you have to be in long term to see results, but they’ve discovered a love for it.
“The reason I do it every day is for the love of land and livestock,” Jerry said.
“I guess you could say agriculture is in our blood,” Terry added.
For a full price list or information on how to place an order, visit the 86 Farm page on Facebook or email email@example.com.