Monday 25 March, 2013
Our smallholding here at Dalmore is not registered for Single Farm Payment and until this year, we’ve never applied for any subsidies. But with the cattle coming along, we found that we were eligible to apply to the Scottish Beef Scheme 2012 (which, confusingly, replaced the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme).
The application form was fairly simple. The Scheme operates on an annual basis and has a fixed pot of money; a claim is made for calves born in the calendar year and once applications close at the end of December, the pot is divvied up on a per head basis, but with a higher headage payment for the first 10 calves in each business. Payments are due to be made between April and June. Yippee!
Saturday 2 February, 2013
When we bought our first two weaned calves in autumn 2010, we housed them in the old byre. It’s fine for two beasts, but I wouldn’t want to put any more than two in there as it’s a bit dark and the ventilation is not up to modern day standards. We do leave the door open (with a gate inside :-)), and the door through to the looseboxes, which helps.
In 2011, we had a concrete floor put down on one quarter of the barn, about 31 square metres, with half height block walls on three sides. I used this for lambing last year but found that the wind and rain blew in, if the wind was in the “wrong” direction.
Sunday 13 January, 2013
When we only had three ewes, we couldn’t do what those with bigger flocks would do as a matter of course – for example, splitting the flock into those carrying twins and those carrying singles to allow correct feeding just isn’t going to happen. With eleven in lamb this year, it’s become a bit easier.
However, the perils of small numbers now apply to the cattle. We have two cows with calves at foot and a bullock of about 18 months. Now, when we bought Henry - the bullock – he was six months old and a year younger then Breeze and Blizzard. Now he’s bigger than both of them.
Thursday 3 January, 2013
When we bought our two heifer calves in October 2010, we kept them in until February / March time. This was to allow them to get to know us and to be halter trained. Over the winter 2011/12, our two heifers (now in-calf) and our bullock out wintered, with access to a field shelter. Now Shetlands will outwinter quite happily but we don’t have masses of grazing, so during the “summer” of 2012, I was thinking about housing the cattle for at least part of the winter, mainly to protect the grass.
Thursday 3 January, 2013
Although at Christmas, July seems a long way off, I’d been thinking about how we were going to get our cows in calf in 2013. Both are due to calve mid-June, so we would be trying to get them back in calf from the end of July.
The first time round, in 2011, we decided to use AI, as we weren’t confident about handling a bull. Now with AI, the stockman i.e. me has to detect when the cow is in “standing heat” i.e. willing to accept the bull, then call out the AI technician, who inseminates the cow. Again, as novice keepers, we weren’t confident that we could accurately detect standing heat, so we used PRID sponges, which are impregnated with hormones.
Sunday 23 December, 2012
Well, the shortest day has been and gone – probably floated away on the loch that is our fields. Hey ho, we’re on the way to spring now and the weathermen have promised a couple of days respite from the rain.
It’s the wettest I’ve seen it here (although nothing in comparison to other areas of the UK) although I think there was as much water around over the winter of 2010/11, it’s just that it was all frozen that year.
So, I had been planning to bring the cattle in about this time anyway, but the weather has just sealed it for me. Since the ponies had knocked down a bit of wall in the barn a few weeks ago, John and Dan spent this morning sinking a telegraph pole and fixing rails to enclose the three big cattle. Once the straw was down, lick in, trough in, hay rack in and filled, it was time to bring them in.
Sunday 16 December, 2012
When we moved to Dalmore, there was a good field shelter built in the middle of the west boundary of the five-acre field, facing east. Constructed with telegraph poles and substantial boarding, with a packed earth floor, it was well worth keeping.
When we decided to split the five-acre field into two, we wanted to be able to make best use of the shelter so the dividing fence starts at the field shelter. To allow the shelter to be used from both paddocks and to give a bit of shelter from the east, we constructed a pen around the shelter, with a gate on each side.
Thursday 6 September, 2012
When we started keeping Shetland cattle, the plan was to castrate any bull calves and run them on for beef. Our heifers carry Boris / Rasmie genetics at a level judged by SCBA to be too high to be the best. Funnily enough, on the Shetland trip, I never heard a breeder talk about Boris / Rasmie – their interest was in phenotype rather than genotype. But that’s another story.
Anyway, the bulls we used – Stanemore Odin and Collafirth Viking – are B/R free and when George was born, another breeder approached me and suggested that she take George for breeding. For various reasons, that hasn’t happened so we’ve reverted to Plan A.
Thursday 6 September, 2012
Last month I was fortunate to make a trip to Shetland with the Shetland Cattle Breeders’ Association. Over the three days, we attended Cunningsburgh Show, the biggest on the Islands, and visited a number of Shetland Cattle breeders there.
It was interesting to see the cattle in their native environment and to hear these breeders describe what they, as commercial crofters, are looking for. Some of it was practical – one breeder multisuckles, so a high milk yield is important. Another runs his as hill sucklers, so he only wants enough milk for one healthy calf. Too much may result in problems with mastitis. But some choices were personal – one looked for black feet, another for solid colours. ☺
Sunday 22 July, 2012
I can't believe it's more than a week since we were at Kirriemuir Show - but nevertheless, I thought I give a wee update.
Our main purpose in going was to publicise the Shetland cattle breed; the Shetland Cattle Breeders' Association had kindly given us a couple of publicity banners and some information leaflets. We also had a banner and leaflets publicising the Scottish Smallholder and Grower Festival, so that was a second reason for going. Thirdly, we wanted to support our local show and lastly, we love our cattle and wanted to show them off.