A short phone call one August day in 2010 led to a visit that shaped my future and the future of the Old River Farm. Stewart showed up, stated his vision, and that led to a meeting of 40 people being introduced to true herdsman type observations and livestock patterns. The truths shared that day have changed many. That meeting eventually led to a herd of Devon cattle grazing here in this very place. At the start, it amazed me that Devons became Stewart’s passion and focus because we had chatted of different breeds. But after my research I confirmed his findings that the Devon is a pure, very rare breed in North America, unique in certain traits and qualities, hardy, low maintenance, quiet natured – yet they know how to get their own way.
Stewart was passionate that there was a different way. He challenged conventional approaches to breeding. Stew was willing to observe and share the genetics. He wanted to help the next generation learn new ways. He had the true mind of an entrepreneur. Everything was done under Stewart’s watchful eye.
I will say that the Devons and Stewart challenged me to see what is possible: gain on just grass; the length of time that calves suckle cows; final weights that rival grain-fed on a cost per pound basis; or the use of line breeding (which makes many cringe). I will say when Stewart decided to sell the cows, they were the easiest cattle I have ever sold (although Avelino will tell you they sure did not want to leave this Old River Farm).
Stewart always said he started a little late on some of his projects. Like others, I am glad he did.
I will leave you with Stewart’s sign off:
“Don’t know what I would do without you. Thanks a lot!”
Mike Earley’s tribute to Stewart Simpson at Stew’s Memorial Service, April 16, 2016 at the Old River Farm.