Randall Lineback Cattle

Vermont's first official State Heritage Breed

Pasture season 2011

Posted on | May 22, 2011 | No Comments

Well here we are on May 22 and we have just turned the milkers out to pasture. We in the Northeast have been inundated with rain this spring. In fact, Vermont has had a record spring for precipitation. The pastures look great and have made some impovement from years past. As we rotational graze our cow pastures we are seeing more dense growth in the grasses we want and many of the “weeds” that are unwanted are slowly being pushed out by impoved soil quality and more healthy and hardy grasses. This spring we worked closely with Dan Hudson, an agronomist at the UVM extension office, to intergrate frost seeding methods to improve our stands of forage and pasture. We broadcast seeded some Red Clover and some rye grass. You can follow some of our trials here:  http://blog.uvm.edu/djhudson/ I am very interested in trying a “new” breed of Meadow Fescue called Hidden Valley. If anyone out there can get some seed please let me know as i would like to try and establish a field of it in a trial. Sounds like it would be perfect fit for our soils and environment here in Vermont.

Paddock #1 grazed and #2 ready for tomorrow

tired cows after grazing

The cows know what they are supposed to do and did a fine job of grazing. Now for adjusting our grain weights, and adjusting our ration to save us some money on purchased feeds and grain.

Colin hoeing the cows down

PC Dart and winter at the farm

Posted on | January 21, 2011 | No Comments

PC  Dart is a dairy program for keeping records of everything to do with the cows. I have a lot to learn still but it has been very helpful keeping things organized. It is mainly used to keep DHI (Dairy Herd Improvement) records and the milk testing records we do every month. It also keeps track of herd health, pregnancy checks, calvings, breeding, and tons of other things. I have been using it for about 2 months now and am starting to feel more comfortable with it. Up to this point I am still keeping paper records as well as PC Dart but it is mainly due to the fact I don’t trust myself on the program yet. The program can give all kinds of useful reports too.

Everything at the farm is going really well. We have been milking around 75 cows now for around 8 months and we are now starting to dry off some cows for spring freshening. We should be milking around 60 soon. It will be a relief as 2 people taking care of 75 milkers as well as all the other stock, totaling around 140 animals in all, has been a lot of work. Cows have been milking well and the overall health has been excellent. Reproduction has been difficult at best this winter. Have been having a hard time getting some of these cows bred. We don’t turn out cattle at all during the winter, and it’s hard to catch heats when they are tied up all the time.

Today is a big herd health day — the vet will be here this morning to do 8 or 10 pregnancy checks. Wish me luck!

Sunrise from the barn

Sunrise from the barn

Barn up 2010

Posted on | November 3, 2010 | 1 Comment

After a very long and productive summer here at the farm, today was the day we brought all the cattle home to be put in the barn for the winter. We have rented 10 stalls at a farm in St. Johnsbury to board 10 bred heifers for the winter as we dont have room here for all of our cattle. The other 130 or so are all in our barn now. We have had a great hay year with high quality and quantity. Milk production has been good this summer with us milking a full barn most of the year now. Our butter fat in the milk has been an outstanding (for us) 3.9 % right now and protein at 3.0. We seem to have been around 64 pounds of milk per cow per day.

coming in from pasture

coming in from pasture

The cows and rotational pasture have performed very well this summer. Now its time to put away all the temporary fencing and get ready for a long winter. We have all the equipment put away in the sheds. I still have my Randall Linebacks out in pasture but will hope to have them home in the next week or so.

My Randall Linebacks November 2010

My Randall Linebacks November 2010

Randalls in Mt. Sinai, Part 2

Posted on | April 15, 2010 | 1 Comment

After Sylvester Randall’s final departure for the California gold fields, his son John stayed in Miller Place, and in 1867 married Eliza Catherine Davis. The young couple resided with John’s mother Fanny and brother Stephen in Miller Place, where they had three children:

  1. Eloise, born 1868
  2. Forrest, born 1870
  3. Edna, born 1872

In March 1876, John and his young family moved from Miller Place to Yaphank, leaving his mother and brother to care for the farm. At his new rented farm in Yaphank, he started raising, buying, and selling livestock, and raising cash crops including hay. When the landlord’s son unexpectedly moved into the house with his bride, John and his family returned to the home of his mother and brother in Miller Place. At this time, according to his journals, John was looking for a farm to purchase, and after inquiring about and visiting several in the area, on Tuesday, March 24th, 1885, he bought a farm of his own: “I have been to Mt. Sinai and have bought John Phillips farm will take possession as soon as possible.”

Front view of Phillips/Randall home ca.1900 photo by Green

Front view of Phillips/Randall home ca.1900 photo by Green

The John Phillips farm, built in the 1720s, was (and still is) one of the oldest homes in the area. Charles Phillips, John’s father, is rumoured to have chosen the name Mt. Sinai for the town, changing it from “Old Mans” in the 1840s. He also established the first post office in the town, and as postmaster, ran the office from his home. When John Randall purchased the Phillips farm, he not only purchased the 75-acre farm, but inherited the role of postmaster as well. John retained this position until his death in 1886. His wife, Eliza Catherine Randall, then became postmaster and held the position until 1907.

It was there that John’s only son, Forrest Bradley Randall, then just 15, would develop his work ethic and his refine skill as a farmer. On April 29, 1886, John died suddenly at the age of 45. He had, according to his journal, been fighting what he described as stomach pain, so much that at times he was unable to do anything. The doctor’s treatments caused vomiting and worsened his condition for several days after. John’s passing left his wife, daughters Edna and Eloise, and 16-year-old Forrest on their own, which suddenly forced Forrest to take on his father’s role as the provider for the family and caretaker of the farm.

Based on information in his journals, John had been raising and producing more than was necessary for an average subsistence farm. On Long Island at that time, many farms operated at the subsistence level, growing vegetables as cash crops to sell locally and keeping just a few cows for their own needs. The number of calvings recorded in John’s journal was indicative of an unusually large herd for that time; this in combination with their activities in improving the pond, clearing land, raising cash crops, and buying and selling livestock all suggest they were turning the farm into a viable business.

Loading cord wood on schooner Forrest Randall on wagon left. ca 1890s

Loading cord wood on schooner ca 1890s. Forrest Randall is standing on wagon at the left.

John and Forrest and others in the community also sold cordwood; they describe repeatedly in their journals how they loaded schooners beached near Miller Place. One time John mentions that they moved 36 cords during one low tide cycle. According to the journals, they cut the wood, hauled it to the beach with horses, and left it stacked there until there was enough to fill a boat. This wood was shipped to the growing cities around the shores of Long Island Sound. This income provided John and Forrest with cash to pay for improvements at the farm. Just 3 years after his father’s passing, at age 19, Forrest Randall had established himself as a successful farmer and had a new barn and outbuildings erected on his farm.

How the Randall family came to Mt.Sinai

Posted on | January 29, 2010 | 2 Comments

Sylvester Randall house c. 1850

Sylvester Randall house c. 1850

The story begins when the Randall family moved to “the Ridge” of eastern Long Island from Stonington, CT in 1738. There they purchased several thousand acres of wild land with fertile soils. From this beginning, the Randall family spread thoughout this area of Long Island. In 1839, Sylvester Gilmore Randall established his home in Miller Place, where he and his wife Fanny Davis started their family and raised four boys. In 1849, he purchased an additional quarter acre of “raw ground” on North Country Road, and in 1850 had a very large two-story home built.

Sylvester Gilmore Randall ca. 1860s

Sylvester Gilmore Randall ca. 1860s

Fanny Davis

Fanny Davis

Sanford Randall

Sanford Randall

John S. Randall ca.1860s

John S. Randall ca.1860s

Children of Sylvester and Fanny:

  1. Sanford, born 1840, was a sea captain and died in Cuba in 1876
  2. John, born 1841 (more on him later)
  3. Theron, born 1844, died 1849
  4. Stephen, born 1849. He apparently was never quite able to go out on his own, so stayed at the home farm under his family’s care and died at a care facility in CT in 1919.

By 1860 Sylvester and young John left Miller Place to go to the gold fields in Placer County, CA. They left New York City for Panama, crossed by land to the Pacific coast and boarded a vessel to sail to San Fransisco. Apparently Sylvester bought and sold many pieces of land before finally settling on a claim in Bath that later proved to be quite successful. According to some family accounts, because of poor health John was unable to work in the mines and so worked as a shopkeeper there for a time. Sylvester and John returned home to Miller Place sometime prior to 1867, but within a short time Sylvester headed west again, alone. According to family legend, it was Sylvester’s wife Fanny’s “sharp tongue” that inspired Sylvester to return to his claim and remain there until his death in 1871.

Home for the winter

Posted on | December 15, 2009 | No Comments

The girls are home for the winter. Daisy is bred and is due sometime in late May. Dolly aborted in October and is short bred to Solo Red. And Daliah is bred to Jules and is due in June. They arrived home on Dec. 1st. This is the latest we have had our dry cows and heifers out to pasture — about a month later than most years. My three Randall Linebacks  are doing well and are very happy just using the woods and three-sided shed for shelter. I am currently feeding some dry square first-cut hay. The 2 cows and one yearling heifer eat about two 40-pound bales a day.

the girls in the woods

Two of the girls at home in the woods

I will start feeding round bale silage shortly, as it hasn’t been cold enough yet to feed it. The silage will mold and heat in short order after removing the wrap if the temperatures are much above freezing. I am looking forward to it, as they require less water when feeding silage as opposed to dry hay. I carry all the water needed twice a day, so any less would be appreciated by me. I hope someday the dairy barn will have enough room to store my “hobby” cows for the winter, but for now this is what must be done. We have had a foot of snow already and the below zero temps are coming soon. But now have their furry coats, on so they will do fine.

Barn up for winter

Posted on | November 1, 2009 | No Comments

Daisy and Dolly

Daisy and Dolly

Here it is November and it’s time to start filling the barn for winter. Many of the dry cows and heifers are still out to pasture and will be till snow flies. The barn is mostly ready and the older unbred heifers are being brought into the barn for breeding.

Winter feed

Winter feed (photo by Matt Randall)

Because of a poor summer for haying, we find ourselves in the same spot most farmers around here are in…. short of feed. To make problems worse, we have cut back on grain feeding in an effort to cut cost due to historic low milk prices. Cutting back on grain causes the cows to eat more forage to replace the dry matter they were taking in through the grains. We have purchased some additional round bales that we hope will get us through to next year’s pasture season.

Cows still out to pasture are eating some fall feed and will be brought in anytime now depending on when the first snows of winter come. Last year, as I recall, it was just a few days before Thanksgiving.

Are you ready to own a Randall Lineback?

Posted on | May 1, 2009 | 4 Comments

I have received many phone calls over the years from people wanting to discuss owning bovines, raising a calf or other questions. It has been great to talk you all. I would like to share with you a list of questions I suggest you ask yourself if you don’t have experience owning large animals. Answer these questions honestly, and they will help guide you to a decision of whether or not you are ready to own a large animal. 

1. Do you own enough land? Cows are very tough on the land; a few acres of land with a few cows can be a big mess in short order. At the bare minimum, you can expect a single cow to devour 3-5 acres of pasture during the summer season. Of course, every area is different, and whether you’re in a wet or dry area of the country will make a huge difference. Ask your local Department of Agriculture to get specifics for your area. 

2. Do you have a reliable hay source? Whether you purchase feed or put up your own, you must be sure you have enough. There is nothing worse than having to look for feed in the spring if you run short! 

3. Do you have a shelter for the animal? My recommendation is to have at least a 3-sided shed that is on dry ground for protection during inclimate weather, no matter where you live. I have found this to be more than adeqate for the Randall Linebacks for the winter here in Northern Vermont. It provides shade on hot days too. Cows have shows remarkable determination when it comes to their “home base”; there are countless stories of cows refusing to leave (and stay out of) their barn during a barn fire. Always remember that the cow barn is their safe place!

4. Do you have an adequate water source? Cows can drink an amazing amount of fresh water! A lactating a cow can consume as much as 40 gallons a day. For the fresh cow (right after calving), we bring warm water for her to drink. I have seen some drink as much as 25 gallons in a short amount of time. This is calming, and helps to take up space in a cow’s gut to avoid a displaced abomasum. So water is very important. Also consider that in colder climates, you’ll have frozen water to deal with every day for months. Hauling water from your home is an option, but from experience I can tell you that carrying five gallons of warm water at least twice a day, every day, all winter long, can be a drag!

5. Are you prepared to deal with the other end… waste? There is a LOT! A single cow can easily produce as much as 35 pounds of urine and 65 pounds at least of manure each day. So if you have just 2 cows, that’s 36 tons of manure in a year to get rid of! So having a plan for disposal, whether a big compost pile or fields to spread it on, is important. 

6. Do you have access to a large animal vet? No matter how sure of yourself you are, or how skillful you are with animals, there will always be occasions when a veterinarian is needed. I do most of the vet work for the farm here, which holds about 140 cows, heifers, and calves, but many times the vet will be called for an emergency. Some of the drugs used for the care and health of your cows are only available from the vet. Vaccinations for healthy cattle are necessary as well, and some states may even require it if the animal (or animal products) are to enter the food chain. Check with your state veterinarian. 

7. Do you plan on milking your cow for your own use?  Ok, this is a biggie for many of you. If you want a homestead cow, a rare breed animal could be right for you. A rare breed cow is typically a multi-purpose animal (used for milk, horsepower and/or beef) and will give less milk than a dairy breed. If you were to have a Holstein or a Jersey as your family cow, be prepared for a lot of milk, as they will produce around 10 gallons of milk per day during their peak milk production at 60 to 90 days. That’s a lot of hand-milking, and a lot of milk to process and consume by one family. A Randall Lineback, on the other hand, will (in my experience) produce around 4 gallons a day at her peak, which is still a lot but managable. Learning to milk properly is a art form in itself. Cleaning procedure is very important (the cow and your milking machine or container). Learning to identify mastitis is also very important for the safety and health of your family and the cow. 

8.  How are you going to breed her? A cow kept for milking will need to be bred each year. Will you use artificial insemination? If so, you or someone else will need to have a semen tank available to hold the frozen semen. You will also need to learn to breed the cows or have a breeding service do the insemination. Do you have a source for semen of the breed you want to have? Will you own a bull? This requires alot of care, as bulls will need to be isolated from the ladies at times and will require strong fences too. Never turn your back on a mature bull; dairy bulls are notoriously unpredictable especially as they get older, so be careful if keeping a bull is your chosen method. Just think, how would your neighbor feel about having a 2000-lb. bull in their yard if he were to get out of the fence? And how would you catch him again?

9.  Do you have reliable feed and supplement sources? Many people have told me they’ve heard that heritage breeds can survive on poor quality forage and pasture. While it’s true most cows would survive, they would be much healthier, happier and more productive on high quality forage and pasture. I strongly believe in providing trace mineral salt blocks and some small amount of protein, energy, and mineral supplements during a cow’s peak stress times. Whether you use kelp or conventional sources, cows need this stuff. For example, here in northern New England, the land is very low in some trace minerals including vitamin E. This one trace vitamin can be very helpful for the reproductive health of the animal. So check with your Ag Department and find out what you should be looking out for in your area. 

10. Do you have a babysitter? Once your cow starts milking, she will need to be milked daily and on a schedule. If you want to take off for a weekend or a few days, you will need someone reliable to take over while you’re gone.

If you answered “yes” to all of those questions, ask yourself this: Do you really want to care for a 1000 lb. 3-year-old that, with the proper care, may live for 20 years? If so… you need to have a cow. They are loveable, fun, entertaining, a lot of work, and sometimes completely crazy but will provide a wonderful service to your family. There is nothing like having fresh milk, cheese, butter and other dairy delectables made by you and your new boss, the cow.

A special word about rare breeds: When you own an animal of an endangered historic breed, you have a responsibility not only to the animal you own, but also to the breed. The decisions you make about your animal concerning breeding and husbandry may well affect the breed’s survival and its genetic diversity. It is very important that you don’t lose sight of this.

Porch Boxes

Posted on | March 16, 2009 | No Comments

When milk was delivered to homes, it was common for customers to have a “porch box” for the fresh milk to be left in. Porch boxes were used to keep milk cool in the summer and above freezing in the winter; in summer they would usually contain ice for refrigeration.

Around 1947, the first of Randall Farms porch boxes were given to “good” customers. These were galvanized metal boxes with insulation and “Property of Randall Farms” in raised letters, and held 6 quarts of milk.

Metal porch box

Metal porch box

Wooden porch box

Wooden porch box

From the 1950s until 1969, wooden boxes holding 3 and 6 quarts were used. These boxes were less expensive and were painted a blue-green color with white stenciled letters that read “Randall Farms Inc. Mt. Sinai New York”. These were made by the Industrial Home for the Blind in Brooklyn, NY. A clip was fixed inside for attaching orders and or receipts.
Wooden porch box interior

Wooden porch box interior

Thank You

Posted on | March 12, 2009 | 1 Comment

I just wanted to take a minute to thank a few special people. First, my father, Warne Randall, and cousin Harry Randall. Without their contributions to my efforts, this could not have even started. They were there in the thick of it during its hay-day. Their help in facts, dates, pictures and thoughts cannot go unnoticed.

There are many others who have been a great help. Mrs. Mack, a neighbor and summer- and then full-time-resident since the 1920s; your memories of a past that I could never know have been so valuable. Edna Davis Giffen, my cousin and local history resource. My grandmother, Sarah Randall. Bottle collectors from around the country. Sammy and Michelle Harris, for their help and memories. Ron Bush, a special thank-you to you.  Those of you whom sent memories and comments have been an inspiration and brought a focus of how important this project is. And to Chantel, my wife and partner, a big thank you for your timeless patience, knowledge of the English language, and inspiration to me to make this passion I have for where I grew up into something timeless. And finally hours of taped interviews with my grandfather Waldo Randall (Pop Pop). Every second I ever spent with Pop Pop has become a part of who I am today; how I wish I could have had so many more years to spend with him. (The questions I have for him now!)

Thank you all and keep your input coming. Lots more to come!

keep looking »


Randall Linebacks are a rare breed of cattle which originated in Vermont and are steadily gaining popularity. Here you will find photos and stories about my own Randall Linebacks, as well as my experiences on New England dairy farms.

My childhood home, Randall Farms of Mt. Sinai, NY is also a subject near and dear to me. I have been collecting photos and memories and will share some of them here.

(The name is a coincidence; historic Randall Farms and the Randall Lineback breed bear no known connection.)