Shat Acres Highland Cattle, LLC is located on two Vermont farms 35 miles apart, in Plainfield and Greensboro Bend. Although Ray’s family has been raising Highland Cattle since 1967, it wasn’t until 2007 that Janet and Ray began marketing the exceptional beef these animals produce. Janet had just finished reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and after tasting the 100% Grass Fed and Finished Highland Beef, knew this was a breed whose time had come.
Ray and Janet began marketing their beef under the name Greenfield Highland Beef, the name deriving from their respective home towns of Greensboro and Plainfield. In 2007 Janet and Ray expected to sell 2-3 animals for beef each year. Greenfield Highland Beef now sells thirty-five animals for beef and fifteen Shat Acres Highland breeding stock each year. The herd currently numbers 150 animals, the oldest registered and one of the largest Highland herds in the United States.
On February 1, 1904 Arthur Shatney, Ray’s grandfather, married Winona Orcutt, a member of the Koasek tribe of the Abenaki Nation. Arthur and Winona traveled to Canada to wed, as such unions were taboo at that time. In 1915 they purchased land in North Greensboro, founding Shat Acres Farm (derived from the name Shatney) over 100 years ago. The farm had cows, sheep, hens, work horses, driving horses, pigs, hunting dogs and cats. Ray’s grandparents, Arthur and Winona had six children, three boys and three girls one of whom died in infancy. Ray Shatney’s father, Carroll Shatney, born March 3, 1911 was one of the three boys. Carroll’s parents made or grew almost everything they had. Winona made all the clothing; Arthur made his children sleds, skis and even a scooter. For Christmas the girls would get a new rag doll, the boys a jack knife. Carroll loved animals and farming and was a member of the local 4-H club as a boy.
The youngest boy, Carroll, purchased the farm from his father, Arthur in 1940 when Carroll was just 29 years old. Carroll soon added 350 acres to the original farm. On June 3, 1943 at age 33 Carroll Shatney married 19 year old Anna Leona Lamphere, whom he met just two weeks prior as she sat on the cake of ice delivered by sled to the farm in North Greensboro. Carroll and Leona had five sons, the second to the youngest being Ray. Carroll and Leona milked Ayrshire cows, raised chickens and sold eggs. To supplement farm income Carroll caught wild cattle, first running them down himself and then training dogs to help him do so. Between 1940-1960 Carroll caught 456 head of wild cattle that farmers were unable to bring in from summer roam. In 1967, while still operating a dairy farm, Carroll bought his first Highland cow as a favor to a friend who became ill, for $50.00. “Scottie” had traveled East on a railroad car from South Dakota with no registration but multiple brandings. The brands were traced and it was discovered that “Scottie” was actually XX El Donn’s Lassie, born April 29, 1956--descended from the first Highland bull ever registered in the United States!
Carroll fell in love with these shaggy, long-horned beasts, and in 1980 gave the dairy farm to Ray’s older brother, taking his beloved fold of approximately 20 Highlands to a 177 acre, rocky, hillside farm in Greensboro Bend. Carroll had an eye for cattle and worked to constantly improve the quality of his Highlands. He bred for gentle temperament, culling animals that might kick or be aggressive. He bred for good legs and feet that would be able to traverse steep, rocky slopes for many, many years. He bred for maternal instinct, for momma cows that would calve easily and protect and tend their young without much human assistance. And, he bred for long, straight backs and robust, structurally correct frames for excellent beef production.
In 2001, when Carroll was 90 years old, he asked Ray to take over the Greensboro Bend farm and preserve the ancient and quality Highland genetics Carroll had worked so hard to develop. Ray moved into his parents’ home and began supporting them and their Highland herd, purchasing the farm in 2004. Ray lived on the farm until his parents’ death, Carroll dying in 2009 at age of 98 ½. When Ray began taking care of Carroll’s Highlands the herd had grown to around 40 animals. Ray and Janet have built the herd to 170, one of the largest Highland folds in the United States. Shat Acres Highland Cattle is also the oldest registered Highland herd and the oldest closed herd (no Highland cow has been brought into the herd in over 40 years) in the United States. Ray and Janet maintain the same standards for care and quality Carroll had for his beloved Highlands. Ray inherited his father’s “farmer gene” for relating to and taming Highland cattle, designated by many as “the Cow Whisperer”!
Shat Acres Billy '89
Ray and Janet’s goal is to honor Carroll and the Highland breed by producing the best breeding stock and beef available. When you purchase breeding stock from Shat Acres Highland Cattle you are assured that your animal is descended from the first Highland bull ever registered in the United States, with the superior genetics and gentle temperament Shat Acres animals are known for. Your Shat Acres Highland cow or bull offers an exceptional foundation for your starter herd or will improve and enhance your existing fold.
When you purchase beef from Greenfield Highland Beef, you are assured it has come from animals born on the farm, raised humanely with no hormones or antibiotics on 100% grass and haylage, with the experience of over half a century of superior genetics, best practices, and sustainable production. Greenfield Highland Beef is Better Beef--Tenderness Guaranteed, and the Best Tasting Beef you will ever eat!
Ray Shatney with Shat Acres Caroline. Tunbridge Fair, Vermont, 1969.