Karen Scalf calls herself the “DC Cowgirl”, “DC” stands for Duplin County by the way, and she’s carrying on the tradition of Polled Hereford beef cattle:
“My mother and father started it in 1949 when they purchased the first registered Polled Hereford from Virginia.”
And while Karen’s brother manages the row crop part of their family farm, she’s in charge of the cattle herd, and all the while raising three children:
“I do the insemination and all of the day to day operations, including baling the hay and feeding the cattle. Its definitely been a learning experience trying to manage cattle and children at the same time. In order to take my youngest child with me while the others are in school, I had my husband install a car seat in the cab of my tractor, because as my daddy told me ‘you’ve got to bail hay when the sun shines.’ And of course nap time starts at one o’clock and that is prime time to be bailing hay.”
And while the kids are small, Karen explains that she’s reduced the size of her herd:
“Right now we currently run 50 cows, we used to manage up to 80 cows but as I told my husband when we started thinking about having a third child, we would need to downscale the number of cattle because cattle and children are definitely both work intensive.”
Karen explains that the focus of her herd is breeding stock:
“We have always sold breeding stock to local cattlemen all across the state of North Carolina as well as 10-12 steers a year as custom feeding, one for my own family to eat as well as our neighbors.”
The Scalf cattle is primarily a grass-fed herd:
“We actually use Bermuda which is a joint grass that you can concentrate cattle on during the summer. We use a rotational grazing system where we keep the 50 brew cattle on five acres for about five days and then they rotate to another five acres. We find that the grass is actually more productive this way because it has a period of time that it can grow and a period of time that it can rest before it has new growth on it.”
In addition to managing cattle and raising children, Karen finds time to be active in Farm Bureau at the county level:
“I am on the board of directors for the Duplin County Farm Bureau which is very active in trying to promote agriculture on the local, state and federal level. It is trying to reduce some of the regulations for the farming community and trying to stay focused on regulations that are necessary and regulations that are unnecessary and make it cumbersome to continue to do business.”
Scalf is also active with the North Carolina Cattlemen’s Association:
“Education has been the focal point of my life over the past three years. I’ve been very active with the association over the years and trying to get them to have more of a management system with their cattle. A lot of times people will come out to my farm and take a tour, and a lot of the time I’m showing them management techniques rather than trying to sell them cattle. I’ve found that if people are more efficient with their own operations, then they have more money to spend on improving their cattle. Management really goes hand in hand with selling.”
For more from our Celebrating Women in Agriculture series, including photos, click here.
Duplin County North Carolina’s Karen Scalf.