An innovative Stirlingshire farm with plans to expand its beef herd will play host to an SAC Animal Health and Welfare day on 26th January.
Moira Stewart and her son Nicol, who run West Plean Farm, Stirling, are confidently raising their suckler cow numbers from 50 to 80 this year. It is a herd that was recently accredited under the SAC Premium Cattle Health Scheme, which puts particular emphasis on controlling Johne’s disease and BVD (Bovine Viral Diarrhoea).
SAC economists calculate that losses from BVD in a 100 beef cow herd can exceed £45,000 over a ten year period. Moira and Nicol are determined to avoid these and happy to explain the positive benefits of joining the PCHS scheme. They will also discuss the management issues and obstacles encountered during the health scheme testing process. Moira’s husband Tony Stewart is a retired vet and his previous experience with health schemes and disease control in suckler herds has been of great benefit to Nicol.
Nicol returned home to run West Plean after time at agricultural college and on farms in the Borders and New Zealand. The unit is 172ha (425 acres) of productive land and 20ha (50 acres) of woodlands. It is a mixed livestock, arable and grassland business, with winter wheat, spring barley, whole crop barley, whole crop lucerne and sweet lupins. These are fed to the cattle, something not often done in Scotland.
While the cows are mainly Aberdeen Angus crossed with Limousin, some newly introduced cattle have been crossed with the French Montbeliarde breed which has even more milk to feed its calves and a quiet temperament. The herd is split 50:50 with half put to a Charolais bull and the other half mated with a Stabiliser bull to rear replacement breeding stock. Calves are normally born in February.
The event is part-funded by the Scottish Government as part of its Animal Welfare Advisory Activity. Alongside Moira and Nicol will be experts in animal production and health from SAC, with local veterinary practices also participating. It will start on the beef unit at West Plean Farm at 11.00 am and will then move to the King Robert Hotel for lunch and more detailed discussion.
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