Till The Cows Come Home

This idiom is a romantic and picturesque literary expression used to denote a very long time, if not an indefinite period. While we are still unsure of the exact coinage of the phrase, we find one of the earliest known usages in the 1593 French textbook Ortho-epia Gallica by John Eliot. So, culturally, we have known what this saying means for untold generations.
As with most of our life, this turn-of-phrase is rooted in and a marker of when we were an agrarian society. For many parts of the West, the cattle would be allowed to graze for months through the hill regions while the land was blooming with fertility, returning home in the autumn as the pastures thinned and prepared for winter. The idiom would be used well by John Elliot in writing, "I am tied by the foote till the cows come home" and in the 1616 English play The Scornful Lady, "Come my brave Man of War, trace out thy darling, And you my learned Council, sit and turn Boys, Kiss till the Cow come home, kiss close, kiss close Knaves."

Till The Cows Go Home

Since 2017, we have understood that our head of sheep needs to be increased to graze and maintain our pasture acreage correctly. Our neighbor, who ran a small herd of Dexter cattle, came to the rescue and brought his herd to graze for the summer. Their herd was put into the fold of our intensive rotational grazing system alongside our flock. Since then, the cows would return to the farm each spring as soon as the pastures dry enough to support grazing and return to their winter home in the late fall as the pastures prepared themselves for winter. This became productive for everyone, including the herd and the flock. This allowed our neighbor to put things off "till the cows come home" and allowed us to put things off "till the cows go home."
Ever since the first introduction of the Dexter to Loudonshire Farm, their ability to work the land differently than the sheep, goats,or geese, the calving in our fields, and the traditional views of seeing the herd in the field have been excellent. In fact, the Dexter was such an excellent addition to the farm we love; our wedding photo shows is of us watering the cattle after vows. The romantic idea of owning our own Dexter became a good joke within the home, knowing that "the cows go home."

When The Idiom Fails

Also, since 2017, each year, our neighbor has talked about his distaste for Dexter and his wish to move back to his comfortable breed, Hereford. The talk of the neighborhood is that this conversation has been a long-standing comedy since the day he received some from his neighbor years past. While delivering hay to us in 2021, he again stated that he was finished with Dexters and returning to Herefords, to which I quipped, give me a price. That sale was squashed by the Mrs. of his home, and the cows returned in the spring of 2022. In the autumn of 2022, while again delivering hay, the same story was presented, the Dexters would not return next season as he was selling them off. Again, I stated, give me a price, and the cows returned home to their winter farm.
In the spring of 2023, the neighbor who sold the original Dexter to our neighbor showed up and asked if we wanted to purchase his remaining two heifers. The answer was yes. It would be soon that our neighbor finally presented a buy-in price to take over his last remaining Dexter cows, to which we agreed. Loudonshire Farm now had its first four Dexters as a starter herd.

The Cows Came Home

Fortunately for us, our two neighbors clearly could see that once again, we had a cart before the horse, and were well over our skies with everything we have going on throughout the season. Thus, they both were kind enough to offer overwinter the cows for us, giving us a year to get the infrastructure up to start a beef cattle operation, even as small as we are. Naturally, we took them up on the kindness, and the cows went home for the 2023/24 winter.
As usual, the winter passed, the grass started to grow, the pastures dried out for grazing as has and always will, and the cows came home. Wait – the cows came home! This means that we can no longer put off building the new infrastructure for the sheep till the cows come home as the cows will occupy the current sheep structure.

The Future

At Loudonshire Farm, we are dedicated to quality above all else. Every breed we raise strives to create the ultimate meat you can plate. The Dexter cattle are no different. We were enthralled by the quality of Dexter meat, which can be present in almost all other breeds when raised correctly. In this concept, we also understand that the Dexter, as with our Black Welsh Mountain sheep, is a heritage hill breed that is slow to grow and takes time to reach the quality you expect and demand. As Dexter cattle take a minimum of 30 months to mature to their potential, we will start offering genuine quality beef cuts in 2026. The future tastes pretty good!