Dustin Heeter -- Continuing the Hereford Heritage
Dustin Heeter, Saltsburg, operates Heritage Hill Farms, a cow-calf, forage based operation of Registered Hereford cattle that strives to match stylish cattle with genetics that thrive on grass. Each year Heeter maintains 50 brood cows and markets select bulls and replacement heifers. Now in existence for 28 years, Heritage Hill Farms was first started as a 4-H breeding heifer project and blossomed over the years. Their cattle herd has grown and they are proud to say they have been in their present location for the past 15 years.
Heeter enjoys having his twin seven year-old daughters, who bring joy to the many daily tasks that are at hand, on the farm. The girls love to take evening strolls through the cattle pastures. They help dad look for issues and evaluate the need to rotate cattle onto new grass. Calving season is highlighted by hearing his girls’ voices exclaim, “Dad who calved today?” as they get off the school bus.
Heeter’s love for farming extends back to his childhood. Spending summer days with his grandfather and helping on his aunt and uncle’s farm made him want to carry on the heritage of raising livestock. Hereford cattle have always been close to his heart, after seeing his grandfather’s Horned Herefords for the first time as a young boy. Heeter hopes to “maintain an image of what care and work go into bringing food to people’s tables.” He enjoys “seeing an animal I have bred and sold, perform well for the new owner.”
Heritage Hill Farms takes time out of each day to observe their cattle in order to keep them healthy and free of any problems. Heeter also employs several best management practices to help conserve the land. Cattle are rotationally grazed and the grasses are well cared for in order to provide excellent nutrients to the cattle. Work is being done to install additional water sources and establish more cross fencing. This fencing practice will help to keep cattle out of streams and away from less productive, heavy soils.
Looking to the future, Heeter sees many opportunities for individuals in the cow-calf segment, and the entire industry as a whole. He realizes the industry has opened up demand for US beef internationally while domestic demand has stayed strong, and sees this trend continuing. Yet, he understands the challenges of production costs. Heeter suggests, “We must keep looking at forage production and use to keep our costs in line. Producers in the Northeast, I think, have a great advantage because of the amount and quality of forage we can produce.” He continues, “The trouble comes in finding large enough tracts of grass to allow a large number of cows to be run in one location, so overhead can be kept low.”
When asked what he wants consumers to know about his operation Heeter responds, “We care! We care for each and every animal we produce.” Heritage Hill Farms ensures that the needs of every animal are met. They work hard to balance nutrition needs and strive to keep them healthy. The best care and environment is provided for them as Heeter uses a calm handling approach to work cattle. Heeter also adds, “We do this, not only because it is the right way to do things, but because it is the proud heritage that was handed down from past generations to me and is now being shared with my daughters!”
Heeter is also proudly involved in several industry groups at the national, state and local levels. The Cattlemen’s Association is a great example of this. He also serves as an officer for the PA Hereford Association, part of a community service organization and a member of Petrolia Masonic Lodge.
Learn more about Dustin Heeter and Heritage Hill Farms by watching their video.