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Dumfriesshire and Argyllshire Venues for Cattle Outwintering Systems Events 12/11/07

Beef producers across Scotland are invited to join in farm walks on the 4th and 13th December on two commercial farms where best practice techniques for outwintering cattle on hill or woodland areas are being evaluated.


highland cattle

The project which is run by SAC, is co-funded by QMS and supported by Rumenco.
These farm walks, in Dumfriesshire and Argyll, follow on from the highly successful outwintering work on brassicas carried out by SAC and QMS and are the latest in a series of walks and demonstrations which have been attended by around 1400 farmers over the last three years.

Both of the farms, Auchenbainzie in Dumfriesshire, and Glencreran Estate in Argyll, have been outwintering cattle for a number of years and have adopted systems which best suit their own conditions. The farm walks will therefore focus on these systems and will enable farmers attending to consider and assess how the system could be best adapted to suit their own farm.

Speakers lined up to take part include, in each case; the host farmer, SAC beef cattle specialists Gavin Hill and Basil Lowman, QMS Technical Projects Manager Johnny Mackey, local SAC Farm Business Consultants, local vets and officials from the State Veterinary Services and Scottish Government offices.

The presence of veterinary specialists will provide an opportunity to discuss cattle welfare and ‘getting the environmental conditions right’.

An important element of outwintering cattle on hills in certain areas is the potential problems that could occur from ticks. As part of the project, ticks on both the hills and cows are being monitored. SAC and local vets will be discussing this issue and the strategy that has been put in place to control the problem.

Details of the Farm Walks:

Tuesday 4th December 2007 at 1.00pm
Auchenbainzie, Penpont, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, DG3 4NE. Courtesy of farmer, David Kirkpatrick

  • There is a total of 857 ha split between hill and upland grazing, ranging from 60 metres to 300 metres. The labour force is 2.5 on the upland beef and sheep farm with 230 Spring calvers, and 1,700 breeding ewes. There are 180 dairy cows on another farm.
  • Stabiliser bulls are now being used with the aim of having cattle that can look after themselves, be outwintered on the hill for as long as possible, be easy calving and have good maternal characteristics. The farm now has a good mix of the older Angus cross cows with the younger Stabilser cows allowing comparisons to be made. This is of extreme interest to many cattle farmers.
  • The farmer, David Kirkpatrick aims to find the optimum number of cows that can be taken through the winter on the hill then calved outside without using kale.
    There are no sheep or cattle on hill from June until cows are put on in October.
  • There are no first calvers, old cow or thin cows on the hill. Grazing on green hill area of about 200 hectares through October to December is only supplemented with minerals. In the New Year cows are brought down and put onto kale (45 acres) and then taken inside one month prior to calving.
  • The future aim is to graze the cattle on the hill to calving with no additional feed. No kale would be grown.

Thursday 13th December 2007 at 1.00pm
Glencreran Estate, Fasnacloich, Appin, Argyll, PA38 4BJ Courtesy of farmer, John Livingstone
  • The estate totals 5,300 hectares dominated by hill land rising from sea level to 950 m. Silage is taken from 40 hectares of improved land. Rainfall is 3,000 – 4,000 mm with mild winters but heavy snow on the mountain peaks. The estate is currently in a number of schemes including a Rural Stewardship Scheme.
  • In 2003/2004, 1,000 ewes were removed mainly due to the shortage and cost of casual labour for gathering. There are currently no sheep. There are 50 cows and the objective is to increase this number to 60 in the medium term - mainly spring/summer calving. The early born calves (March) are sold off their mothers in November/December with the rest being overwintered and sold in the spring. Two Limousin and one Highland bull are used on predominantly Limousin crosses.
  • The cows are not wintered on the hills but in open woodland where they are fed silage. Cake is then introduced. Prior to calving the cows are moved onto enclosed areas. (The woodland has no economical value apart from shelter for the cows.) Although silage is fed the benefit of this system is that the cattle are outwintered in areas that can take them through the winter, and not taken in to sheds which have a high financial cost.
  • A current objective is to find ways to cheapen the cow systems.

Further information from Gavin Hill, SAC.

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