Ah, Henri! It’s not a bull, this steer is fat

Henry the Ox with his human, Shelly McMahon. ROGER WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

No bull!

It’s not a bull: The heaviest Holstein currently living in Florida or the United States could be a 5-year-old long-tongue, soft-eyed southern Fort Myers cattle named Henry, a sort of sweetheart who is 6 feet, 1 inch, at the withers – that’s the top of her shoulders – and shows exactly no interest in fame. Or sex, for which the polite term is “reproduction.”

That’s because Henry is a steer and the favorite pet of Shelly McMahon, who named him after his late beloved grandfather.

“Once we name a pet here, it doesn’t get eaten,” Shelly announced last week, pointing to the equally lucky little companions of Henry, a Brangus steer named Moostafa of medium height and weight, and a little Holstein steer about half the size of Henry. His name is Bob.

None of them seemed too concerned about the prospect, although nearly all male Holstein calves end up a year or two after birth at the slaughterhouse, typically weighing between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds. These days, such unfortunate creatures make anywhere from $ 50 to over $ 100 a quintal, as they call it, to become a burger.

Henry is so tall that his fence had to be built with telephone poles so he wouldn't knock it over.  PHOTOS BY ROGER WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Henry is so tall that his fence had to be built with telephone poles so he wouldn’t knock it over. PHOTOS BY ROGER WILLIAMS / FLORIDA WEEKLY

Since males haven’t learned the art of producing milk – a good Holstein cow, on the other hand, can deliver up to nine gallons a day – they don’t get the gift of longevity.

Half Henry’s size, in Bob’s case, still means well over half a ton of beef on the hoof. Henry, Moostafa and Bob are steers because Shelly castrated them.

“I do it myself,” she admitted. And for good reason: castration suppresses testosterone, which inhibits aggression and gives a generally docile animal. An animal that can gain a lot of weight without giving a voluntary head butt to the 5-foot-3 woman who hand-feeds it and scratches its ears.

This raises an important question: How much does Henry actually weigh?

On November 15, the fat guy was to be transported to the Fort Myers State Farmers Market to be officially but secretly weighed. And on November 20, there will be a raffle for everyone who bought $ 1 tickets to guess Henry’s weight. Florida Weekly will let you know later. The winner will get half of it, with the other half in Henry’s care.

Henry and Shelly McMahon.  They agreed to love each other, not to eat or trample on each other.

Henry and Shelly McMahon. They agreed to love each other, not to eat or trample on each other.

“The record height for a Holstein steer is 6 feet 1 inch and Henry is 6 feet 1 inch. The record weight is 2,330. Our large animal vet thinks he exceeds that, ”says Shelly.

He could make the record books, in other words.

Henry probably weighs as much as a Ford Fiesta or Toyota Prius, but probably (with emphasis on probably) not as much, say, as larger oxen weighed once, steers raised and trained to pull plows or plows. carts. They could go up to 3,000 pounds, according to the Holstein Association USA.

Henry’s large animal veterinarian Dr. Dennis Van Roekel, based in North Fort Myers, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, speculated that Henry weighed over 2,500 pounds and possibly over. 3,000.

He’s not what he seems, as Shelly has learned from the start.

“A man told me fat cows are nothing more than 2,000 pounds of stupid leather wrapped around it,” she recalls. “But they’re a lot smarter than that.”

Her husband, Robert McMahon, chose Henry as a birthday present for Shelly when the two found him orphaned on a dairy farm near Arcadia in 2016.

Robert literally picked it up, which seems hard to believe now.

The ‘little’ 80-pound newborn baby made it home on Shelly’s lap to Southern Fresh Farms, the couple’s paradise on Penzance Road, she says, open to the public every day – to families who want to see it. that means in terms of cattle eating from their hands, or showing their children where milk and vegetables come from, or buying the wide variety of fresh produce grown at Southern Fresh or in the region. Adults can even taste (or drink) the craft beers made and sold on site. Her daughter Amy is married to Mike Schwab, one of three owners of the Crazy Dingo Brewing Company, which produces some of its beer from farm-planted and reared hops – the most southerly hops successfully grown for brewing in the United States, Shelly said.

Henri doesn’t care. His interest seems to be to eat, and since he has four stomachs like all cattle, there is a lot of space to fill. Henry takes in about four big spoons or about 12 to 15 pounds of sugary food a day, plus all the hay he can eat, which can add up to 100 pounds in a 24-hour period, Shelly estimates.

And to wash it all off, Henry prefers water to beer – somewhere in the 25 to 40 gallon range each day.

Stable and corral cleaning is not for people who prefer office work.

But Henry’s other interest is Shelly herself, though he’s friendly to newcomers, sometimes sticking out her tongue that lasts over a foot and a half when a visitor arrives.

Unlike others in the general public, however, Henry refused to stick his tongue out at a member of the media the day a reporter arrived looking for an interview.

But he and Shelly are more than nice. They are friends. Cows can recognize humans equally well, and Henry sometimes rests his head on Shelly’s shoulder or tries to rub his face against her to scratch an itch.

It might be good for Henry, but not for Shelly.

“If he shakes his head and hits me, it can knock me over,” she admits. Visiting children hand-feeding him from outside the fence – built with telephone poles, not traditional fence posts, so he won’t knock it over if he’s leaning on it – might not appreciate to see Shelly flattened by nothing but a nice loving, well-meaning dude.

The public can come to see and greet Henry at any time during visiting hours – from outside the fence.

Or, before the 20th, they can still buy a ticket and guess its weight.

The media, for their part, often cited for a tendency to exaggerate, guess 2,825 pounds, 500 to 500. ¦

In the KNOW

Fresh Southern Farms

Address: 8500 Penzance Road, Fort Myers

Telephone: 239-768-0309

In line: Southernfreshfarms.com

About Marco C. Nichols

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