Help for Galloway beef farmers

Wigtownshire’s mixed landscape and climate has helped it become an important area for Scottish beef production.

However, two years of mixed weather and recent gales mean both the breeders of suckled calves and beef finishers are seeing the effects on their animals.

A free event planned for Drumblair Farm, Port William, on Tuesday, February 25, by specialists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) offers farmers a chance to consider how best to manage their herds for the future.

From 10.30am to 3pm, the meeting, by kind permission of the Galloway family, will address key issues such as making best use of on-farm nutrients and assessing options for future cattle housing facilities.

According to Tim Kneale from the Stranraer office of SAC Consulting (a division of SRUC), months of variable weather led to variable quality and quantity of animal feed, especially silage.

“That has had a direct impact on the condition of the cows and their productivity,” he said. “It’s a situation worsened by recent events and one which can impact on the whole farming system.”

Kneale will lead a series of presentations and practical sessions. He will address the critical questions of the feeding and body condition scoring of suckler cows to help ensure they are in optimum condition. His colleague, Rhidian Jones, will consider how to maintain herd efficiency through proper policies for replacing older cows. He will also have tips for preparing cattle ready for spring turnout.

With the support of EU funding, the Galloways have invested in slatted cubicle housing for 100 suckler cows. This has allowed for the expansion of their herd. Well known local senior consultant Seamus Donnelly will review the development and also look at a range of other housing options for reduced costs and improved efficiency.

Joining the specialists will be SRUC vet Colin Mason from the Vet Lab in Dumfries. He will investigate some of the more unseen problems facing beef herds such as diseases like BVD and Johnes. He will also address animal welfare issues and explain the importance of trace elements, including magnesium and iodine, which are important for calf vitality.

While the event is free it wold help those organising the catering if those planning to attend could register with Judy Graham in the Stranraer office on 01776 702649.