Victoria Reck Ames raises Certified Animal Welfare Approved by A Greener World (AGW) triple purpose registered American Milking Devon cattle at Honey Hill Heritage Devons in Swanzey, New Hampshire. As a source farm for Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW cattle, Honey Hill Heritage Devons is certified to raise and sell certified cattle to other AGW farms.
Victoria Reck Ames grew up in the remote Appalachians of northeast Tennessee, where cattle were a typical feature of the landscape. Her family moved to Washington, D.C. and, as a young adult, Victoria fled the suburbs as soon as she could. She eventually settled in Swanzey in 1999, where she cleared land, and established and tended vegetable and perennial gardens. In 2004, Victoria started working with Swanzey’s Open Space Committee to protect important open space, and served as personal assistant to Buck and Ike, the committee’s team of Simmental oxen. Through this experience, Victoria knew that cattle would once again be a feature of her own personal landscape.
The Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW cattle at Honey Hill are registered American Milking Devons, originally derived from British North Devon cattle brought to North America in the 17th century. “The versatility and adaptability that made Devon cattle the choice for English settlers in 1623 are among the reasons why, today, Devons are perfect for Honey Hill’s thin soils, steep slopes and long winters—and for my finite time and energy,” Victoria explains. “American Milking Devons supply rich milk, well-flavored meat, as well as liveliness in the yoke—a true triple purpose cattle breed. They’re easy to manage and hardy, thrifty on poor forage, long-lived, smart, endearing and endlessly interesting.”
The land at Honey Hill is steep, sandy and stony, with large glacial erratics. Shagbark hickories, pines, hemlocks, and multiple species of oaks flourish on the land. About 15 of the 150 acres are cleared, while 110 acres are permanently protected by a conservation easement. The farm’s nearby 30-acre summer pasture also is protected with a conservation easement. “At the summer pasture, wildlife abounds, and it is a paradise for livestock. Eradication of invasive plant species, liming and regular mowing have rewarded us with lush grass,” Victoria adds.
Pasture-based management is the most important aspect of the farming practices at Honey Hill. “Pasture-based management helps me accomplish my goals of increasing pasture soil tilth and fertility and, in my opinion, is the only management option for cattle,” Victoria says. “What’s good for the cattle also saves me labor. I strive to restrict my animal husbandry practices to a scale that is manageable for me. A conscious balance of resources—time, hay, pasture, space in the barn—maximizes the health and well-being of the cattle—and me!—and improves rather than depletes the farm’s soil.”
Victoria decided to pursue Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW certification because she is passionate about raising her animals as well as she possibly can: “AGW’s best management practices and annual audits are a valuable measure for ensuring that livestock receive the best possible care, and thereby are in the best possible physical and mental health. Our Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW logo says that American Milking Devons from Honey Hill can be purchased with confidence.”
For more information about Certified Animal Welfare Approved by AGW registered breeding stock from Honey Hill Heritage Devons, visit honeyhilldevons.com or follow the farm on Facebook at facebook.com/Honey-Hill-Heritage-Devons. Contact Victoria Reck Ames at HoneyHillDevons@gmail.com.