Livestock

Buying Cattle

As a novice cattle keeper, I would advise you to seek expert advice before buying cattle, either from a breed society or from an experienced cattle keeper. If you can arrange to buy privately, do so. There is much reduced risk of health and welfare issues arising if you can do this.

If you are now seriously considering keeping cattle, you will need to think about how you are going to manage your cattle – feed, housing, fencing and handling.

Having decided that Shetlands were for us, we set about buying some. As with all herd animals, you really need two as company for one another. A cow with calf at foot is supposed to count as two, but I’m not convinced – I think “two” means two the same sort of age.

The general advice about buying a house cow is that the best thing to buy is a “made” cow i.e. one that has calved and been hand milked already. However, these are hard (almost impossible) to find because not many people hand milk. So we went for buying two weaned heifer calves; this allowed us to get to know each other, halter train them and get them used to us long before we’d be able to milk them.

The breed society was incredibly helpful and, in particular, the North of Scotland representative. With contacts on the Shetland Islands and having recently visited the islands, she was able to point us to a new breeder who had two cows and a bull – and two heifer calves that were ready to wean in October 2010.

So we came to buy Beadies Breeze and Beadies Blizzard. I think having two from the same herd also helped with handling, as they seemed to take confidence from each other. They are closely related – same sire and their dams are full sisters – so choosing an unrelated bull is made simpler.

Rosemary Champion

About Rosemary Champion

Rosemary lives on a 12 acre smallholding in Angus, in the east of Scotland, where she keeps Ryeland Sheep, Shetland cattle and assorted poultry. She was destined to be a smallholder from an early age.

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