PARIS — A rare heritage breed of cattle that originated in England about 200 years ago, has arrived in Oxford Hills.

Barry and Lauren Collette of West Paris, with some help from his brother Bruce, have started 1/2 FASST RANCH and are introducing a rare breed of dual-purpose cattle, Red Polls, to Maine.

The Red Poll was founded by crossbreeding Norfolk Red beef cattle and Suffolk Dun dairy cattle breeds, neither of which exist as separate breeds today. Red Polls were first imported to the United States in 1873 and while they can be found in several states across the country, rare livestock organization The Livestock Conservancy’s website lists the breed as threatened.

In October Red Poll heifers Gertie and Dixie were transported from South Carolina to Collette’s farm in South Paris.

Red Poll heifers Gertie and Dixie stay close to owner Barry Collette in their pasture at 1/2 FASST RANCH in Paris. The two are the first of their breed to be introduced to Maine. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

The half-sisters are the first members of 1/2 FASST RANCH’s foundation herd. Barry and Lauren first began researching the breed about a year ago.

“We were looking for something that temperament wise, was good,” he explained as the two girls hovered close by, curious about the visitor walking around with a phone in their pasture. “We’ve got kids and family around, so that was important. Also, this breed can be used for dairy or beef so we have opportunity to do both. We will breed them when they reach about 18 months.”


When the heifers, born in January and March of this year, reach 18 months of age they will be bred through artificial insemination. Collette is learning about the process through ag programming presented by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

At the same time he is studying the breed’s genetics and standards to determine traits that will best complement Gertie and Dixie, who share the same sire.

“We’re looking at lines of bulls for their pedigree” and conformation, Collette said. “How straight their backlines are, how wide. And if you’re going to breed, you don’t want to use a bull that produces cows with big heads that will be more difficult to calve out.”

Collette’s entry into cattle breeding is more of a return to family tradition; growing up his and Bruce’s father raised Herefords, Durhams and Angus cattle.

They will eventually add two more heifers to the foundation herd and expand the farm as calves are born.


The herd may provide opportunities for younger generations of the Collette family to participate in 4-H, but traveling to regional shows is not in the plan. Their priority is to maintain a low-stress and relaxed quality of life for animals on the farm.

Since Gertie and Dixie arrived, Collette has closely managed their transition to life in Maine. The difference in climate – especially as winter approaches – is an important consideration.

So, too, is their diet. The girls have free-choice access to minerals, as soils in Maine vary considerably from their original home in the southeast. Hay and grazing are different as well.

“Our hay is sweeter,” Collette explained. “If you look at their hay, it’s tannish, what our hay looks like after it sits outside.”

The diet shift began before they left South Carolina: Collette brought Maine-grown feed hay to South Carolina to mix with their southern diet, continuing the blend on the trip home and after to help the heifers ease into their new environment. A month into their new digs, which includes their first experience with snow, the heifers appear happy and content.

Seven-month-old Red Poll heifer Dixie cannot seem to decide whether it’s time to eat or greet the community news reporter who came to meet her Nov. 27. Nicole Carter / Advertiser Democrat

“They’ve been a huge support,” Collette said of the breeders who sold Gertie and Dixie to 1/2 FASST RANCH, and of Maine’s cattle community. “This is new for us and we’re learning as we go.


“We have friends who raise different types of cattle. It’s nice to be able to lean on others. There’s one who stops in at least every week or two to check on them.”

1/2 FASST RANCH’s business plan calls for selling freezer beef direct (which they already have demand for), selling offspring to others in Maine looking to establish Red Poll breeding programs, and to homesteaders who want an easy-keeper dairy cow.

“We’ve got to get it rolling,” Collette said. “It takes time. We’re thinking about five years” before the operation is ready to start selling.

“Everything we do, it’s with keeping our costs down.”

“1/2 fasst,” quipped Bruce Collette.

In the meantime, the Collette family is excited to introduce the breed to Maine’s agricultural community, and to the public through open farms.

With their curious and affectionate nature, Gertie and Dixie are ready to become Oxford Hills’ Red Poll ambassadors.

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