|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
HAMILTON, Ohio — Mike McDonald got tired of cutting grass, so he bought some cows. Those cows brought about career changes for Mike and his wife Janet.
“We fell in love with it (having cows),” said Janet “It surprised us and surprised our family that’s for sure.”
Mike owned a business and Janet was a bank vice president. They both retired on the same day six years ago. They live on a small farm in fast-developing Liberty Township but wanted more room. After a three-month search they bought 155 acres in Hanover Township.
“After we so-called ‘retired,’ we started doing this full-time,” Mike said. “We traveled all over the country looking for the best Angus seed stock that we could buy. We still have both commercial and registered Angus.”
They started with 11 commercial Angus. The McDonalds now have about 100 head of cattle. The main goal at their Ol’ Mac Angus Farms is producing quality beef. For three years they have sold beef to Kreimers Bier Haus, a restaurant in Miamitown.
“Now we’ve been able to grow a little bit more so we have a test program going with Willie’s Sports Cafe,” Mike said. “Brad Orr is the owner - he’s buying ground beef from us.”
Producers Steve Kacin and Mike Jackson are in the program, too. Eventually the trio hopes to provide the sports cafe’s six locations with 1,500 pounds of ground beef per week.
“We’re a long way from that,” Mike said.
Although the main focus is on quality beef, the McDonalds also participate in some registered Angus sales.
“I guess the reason we got into the registered high end stock as well as the feedlot was, we wanted to learn the whole business,” Mike said. “We knew we had a lot to learn - we still do. But that allowed us to learn the whole business and we can focus on what we enjoy doing the most.”
Part of that learning involved both Janet and Mike attending AI classes and learning to do their own artificial insemination.
They also learned about herd health issues.
“Our Johne’s herd status is level five, which is the highest,” Janet said. “That’s taken us over five years. I never imagined all of that.”
The McDonalds raise quite a bit of hay for their own use and they have created a niche market raising orchard grass hay for several Alpaca producers. They plant a few fields for them and make the hay into four-foot round bales.
They get help from Mike’s brother, Greg, and his wife, Barb, who live on the Hanover Township farm. Greg and Barb had never done any farming, and it was culture shock for them, Mike said. Janet and Mike still live on their Liberty Township farm with subdivisions nearby.
“One of the things we did for weaning time when the subdivision moved in behind us is we wrote (our new neighbors) a letter. We introduced ourselves, explained what would happen twice a year at weaning; that they would hear all the calves crying for two days, and we apologized ahead of time,” Janet said. “People love it. We find them back along the fence with their kids, watching the calves run.”
Meanwhile, Mike and Janet are happy doing something they love while their business suits gather dust in the closet.
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This farm news was published in the Nov. 29, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.