Unique cattle known for milk production, disposition

CULVER, Ore. — Nearly everywhere you look in Maureen Mack Kullman’s cow pens you can see red. Red cows, red calves — all are part of a unique breed called Tarentaise that she has raised for 36 years.

Kullman got her start with Tarentaise cattle in 1982, when she purchased three bred heifers at a sale in Brothers, Ore.

Kullman’s family had a ranch near Maupin, Ore., when she was growing up, where her grandfather raised his Hereford cattle. “He was so proud of his Herefords because they were uniform, they were red — he had the dark red ones — and he would take me out and say, ‘Look at these,’” she said.

The pride her grandfather had in his cattle stuck with Kullman, and as she went through life she always wanted cattle of her own.

By the time she went to the sale in Brothers, she said, “I was finally in a place where I had some land and was finished with school and everything,” and she decided it was time to buy her own cattle.

In 1990, she was looking for fullblood Tarentaise and bought several older cows, and continued to collect them from around the country in the years following.

Today she runs about 40 head of uniform-red Tarentaise on her place in Culver, Ore. At one point she had about 86 head.

Now she says that she has one of the biggest herds of fullbloods in the country, though she still raises some purebreds. Fullblood Tarentaise have 100 percent Tarentaise genes, whereas purebred females have 87-99 percent Tarentaise genes. The bulls in the breed have to be a higher percentage to be considered purebred, possessing 92-99 percent Tarentaise genes.

Kullman has never used a horse to work her cattle. Instead, she has done everything on foot.

“Hundreds of acres, I’d go down and open a gate and say, come on, girls, and they would follow me to the next field,” Kullman said.

The cattle’s disposition is important to her. Kullman doesn’t keep any cows or calves that cause problems.

When holding onto cattle or buying cattle, Kullman said, “You are going to get something safe, and beautiful and gentle and productive.”

Tarentaise cattle are originally from France, where they are still used almost exclusively as a dairy breed because of their high milk production. They are a horned cattle and have an auburn red color. Originally, the breed was brought into the U.S. beef market to cross breed for certain traits, such as their dark eyes, which make them more resistant to pink eye.

On Saturday Kullman was inducted into the American Tarentaise Association’s Hall of Fame.

“Longevity and service,” Kullman said, regarding the reason behind her induction.

Kullman has served on the board of directors for the ATA, on and off, since 1998 and as the president from 2008 until 2011.

In her years raising Tarentaise, Kullman has registered 852 different animals in the breed.