COLFAX — Chad Berge grew up around Scottish Highland cattle.
So when a job opportunity closer to his childhood home coincided with the timing of his father’s herd being sold, Chad and his wife, Holly, jumped at the opportunity and bought the herd from his father.
In early 2014, Chad and Holly moved back to Colfax from northwestern Minnesota and took over Berge’s Beef, a third-generation family farm where they now raise grass-fed Scottish Highland beef cattle.
“Chad always knew that he wanted to move back to the area and farm,” Holly said. “The timing just worked out really well. Chad’s dad was selling what he had when we were ready to move back.”
Chad’s father, Mark, started the herd with seven Scottish Highlanders in 1999 after getting out of dairy farming a couple of years earlier.
“I got up to 26 or 27,” Mark said. “Before Chad and Holly came back, I decided I didn’t want to get that big.”
At that point, Mark started to sell off the herd. He had sold about a dozen Highlanders before Chad and Holly decided to move back to Wisconsin and buy the remainder of the herd. When they moved back, Mark sold the remaining 15 cattle to Chad.
The cattle are raised on Chad’s parents’ 160-acre farm, where the herd is now up to 35 animals. Chad said he would like to grow to the point of having about one cow-calf pair or one steer per acre.
Berge’s Beef is available directly from the farm just north of Highway 40 between Colfax and Bloomer and at Just Local Food Co-op in Eau Claire.
“With their long hair, they’re insulated so they don’t get as thick of a fat layer,” Chad said. “They don’t burn fat; they keep warm from their hair, so that translates into a leaner meat.”
“From an eater’s standpoint, (the Scottish Highlanders) tend to be very lean, but they have good, rich, beefy flavor,” said Nik Novak, meat buyer at Just Local Food Co-op. “It’s very tender for a grass-fed steak.
“Plus, they don’t use antibiotics, no synthetic growth hormones and they abide by and exceed organic practices and standards, but they don’t pay the extra price to get organic certification, which we then don’t have to pass on to the customers, so it keeps it a bit cheaper.”
For now, Chad, Holly and their daughter, Aubrey, live off the farm in Colfax, but they would like to find property near the farm to live on and expand the herd.
“His parents help out quite a bit, especially during the winter,” Holly said. “And it makes it much easier that the cattle are here verse just renting land somewhere. But we’d really like to get our own piece of land.
“We’ve been looking for our own farm, but we want to be close to the farm here. He would always farm this. He would never give this up.”
Jackson is regional editor for The Country Today, a rural life newspaper owned by APG Media of Wisconsin. He can be reached at 715-833-9275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.