Thursday, 02 August 2018 15:15
EAR tagging suckled calves single handed has been made a simpler and safer job by Tobermore producer Derek McKinney.
 “Like most working with a suckler herd  I have had near misses and painful injuries that could become the seat of long term health problems,” Derek explained.
“BVD sampling  with Typifix tags means we have never had a single 'Insufficient Sample' report back from the lab,” reports Tobermore suckler herd owner Derek McKinney seen here with son Matthew.
 “So a safe handling system and using Typifix tissue sampling tags for BVD testing from QuickTag that are easy to apply has been a priority in recent years.
 “Ironically I did not appreciate just how good Typifix tags are until some tags from another maker arrived here in error. We have long used Typifix tags, which come with good strong, long handled applicators and are just so reliable.
 “The other brand proved unreliable and footery to apply especially working alone with suckled calves.
 “Typifix makers QuickTag keep improving their tags and as regards BVD sampling we have never had a single 'Insufficient Sample' report back from the lab.
 “With Typifix tags the sample simply cannot fall out and  is sealed and secure with no contamination  Having used these tags for nigh on six years we will be staying with the proven brand.
 “Now obtained from Erica Thom at her recently opened Killeen Animal Health store on the Gulladuff Road, Bellaghy these tags do the job time and again.”
 Aside from a suckler herd of mainly half bred Limousin cows run with a Limousin bull the McKinney family buy in some calves to rear. All stock being sold on as stores, mostly through Richard Beattie's saleyard in Draperstown.
 Derek also keeps 150 Texel crossbred ewes not lambing until after St Patrick's Day so easing the pressure on early grass. 
 “With Typifix tags the sample simply cannot fall out and  is sealed and secure with no risk of contamination. They are just so simple to  use,” reports Tobermore suckler herd owner Derek McKinney.
 Ewe lambs are put to a Charollais ram and the rest run with Texel tups from leading local pedigree breeder Richard Henderson.
 “As well we grow potatoes and barley in co-operation with my brother though expanding the farm business has slowed this past few years due to time pressure, “ Derek added..
 “In 2014 I was encouraged to gain election for this rural area, Moyola, on to Mid Ulster District Council and find the role very satisfying. Aside from trying to ensure the council provides value for money, practical services to the entire community one can help individuals deal with problems. I was elected to get things done now rather than point score in the media.
 “As a farmer representing a rural area I find a councillor's work interesting. but it is always a balancing act as regards time.
“Coming home from a long meeting to then deal with cows calving or sheep lambing into the early hours brings a councillor back down to earth!
 “Hence the emphasis here on decent handling facilities plus Typifix livestock ID and BVD sampling tags to make working with cattle less stressful for man and beast alike.”
 For details of your local Typifix suppliers across the UK contact QuickTag Ltd in Ballycastle Tel;  (028) 2076 8696 or browse www.quicktag.co.uk

Tuesday, 05 December 2017 12:10
Volac Launching the new Urban Alma Pro

Automatic teat cleaning with disinfectant after every feed and a unique ability to give necessary medications, such as electrolytes, to the right calf, at the right time.

Two options available with the Urban Alma Pro calf feeder being launched in NI by Volac at the RUAS Winter Fair on Thursday, Dec 14.

High hygiene standards, disease prevention and early treatment are critical to successful calf rearing. Hence the already high demand for the Alma Pro model from Urban, one of the most successful manufacturers of computer controlled calf feeders.
Every teat can be washed and disinfected after each calf is finished drinking from the new Urban Alma Pro computer controlled feeder. The latest model from Urban will be shown for the first time in NI on the Volac Winter Fair stand.

The new Urban Alma Pro is the very latest in computerised calf feeding technology and can feed up to 120 calves through to weaning.

The innovative hygiene system helping protect calves from teat-transmitted infections by automatically washing and disinfecting teats after every feed has already proved popular. As has the Urban Alma Pro's unique ability to deliver the right dose of medications, such as electrolytes, to the right calf, at the right time.

The Urban Alma Pro can also incorporate a range of other innovations to help rear better young stock, more efficiently.

For example, it is equipped with the latest touch screen technology to give a simple overview of calf health thus alerting rearers to potential problems and allowing for a rapid response. The machine's full Wi-Fi connectivity can give remote access where ever you are, on or off, the farm.”

Installing an Urban Alma Pro simplifies effective, hygienic calf feeding and eases your work load. Calf milk replacer is mixed precisely with water and an in-line temperature sensor ensures milk always arrives at the teat at the correct temperature.

The machine recognises an individual calf’s ear tag when it enters the feeding station and allocates the correct milk amount and concentration.

Once the calf has finished drinking the teat will re-track to be sprayed with cold water and a disinfectant solution. To further boost hygiene standards the machine is designed to clean and sterilise feed lines and bowl with acid and alkali up to four times a day..

Compared with bucket feeding, this new machine saves producers 190 hours of work for every 120 calves reared.  Group feeding also saves on individual pen bedding preparation.

Visit the Volac stand at the Winter Fair in Balmoral Park on Thurs, Dec 14 to see the first Urban Alma Pro displayed in NI.

As ever with equipment from Volac the Urban Alma Pro is supported 24/7 by technical specialists based right here in mid Ulster. For further information contact Alistair Sampson of Volac, tel; 07860 626442.
Thursday, 05 October 2017 14:12
SCOURING calves usually have collapsed and inflamed guts with the digestive tract walls rubbing on each other thus causing the animal a lot of pain.
Using Volac ASGold helps overcome this by expanding and pushing the gut walls apart to give the villi time to heal and putting a soothing lining on the gut wall. By expanding the digestive tract ASGold allows electrolytes to quickly move though into the blood stream to aid rehydration and replace salts lost due to scouring.
Alistair Sampson, Volac NI business development manager
During October ASGold, the 'must have' for every calf rearer, comes with a very special offer of 500g free per 5kg purchased from your usual supplier.
Commenting Alistair Sampson, Volac NI business development manager, said that, “ ASGold contains electrolytes and glucose similar to that found in other products, but as a gel it does so much more to help calves recover from digestive upsets.. Primarily by opening the gut and allowing it to heal with natural plant fibres and pectin included to maintain gut health.
“Equally important ASGold can be fed in milk, milk replacer or water so the animal is not starved and can recover rapidly. Remember, a calf with with mild or nutritional scour must continue to be offered normal amounts of milk or milk powder.
“Diluted milk must never be fed nor milk totally withdrawn from animals unless in very severe cases of scour as calves rapidly loose body condition leading to stunted growth or premature death..
“An ideal first feed for bought in calves or to aid recovery from digestive upsets ASGold gel has been proved on farms nationwide.”
Where scour is severe or persistent a vet must be consulted. For further information about the ASGold 500g free offer contact Volac Freephone 00800 8652 2522 or Alistair Sampson tel; 078606 26442.
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 16:33
 IN 2017 farmers, contractors and merchants can again help fund breast cancer research and increase awareness of the condition by using pink big bale wrap from Volac.

 This past year the nationwide campaign generated an amazing £26,624.40 for the charity Breast Cancer Now, more than double the 2015 donation.
Volac animal nutrition managing director David Neville, left, joins Volac NI manager Alistair Sampson and Jim Davidson, right, Trioplast MD, in presenting Lorna Thomas of Breast Cancer Now with £26,624.40 from last year’s pink silage bale campaign. In 2017 farmers, contractors and merchants can again help fund breast cancer research and increase awareness of this condition by using pink big bale wrap from Volac.

  Commenting Volac NI business manager Alistair Sampson paid a warm tribute to the local farming community, their suppliers, contractors and the media for their support.

 “Pink bales popped up in all arts and parts raising money for research and reminding busy mothers, wives and daughters to take time to take care of their own health.

 “Such was the level of support for this pink bale campaign that Volac are delighted to again back Breast Cancer Now in 2017.

 “This charity helps fund work at over 30 research centres, including Queen’s University Belfast where three projects supported by Breast Cancer Now are led by Dr Niamh Buckley and Dr Paul Mullan.”
Money is donated to the campaign from each roll of pink Topwrap film farmers purchase – with contributions coming from Volac, film manufacturer Trioplast and agricultural merchants.

Special bright pink stickers are available for farmers choosing to make green or black bales, but who want to donate and demonstrate their support.

For details of more than 100 projects supported at 30 UK and RoI research centres browse www.breastcancernow.org
Monday, 23 January 2017 09:14
As we move towards Brexit in 2020 and remaining UK farm support moving towards marginal land Rodney Magowan reflects on the role of Galloway cattle. Can the experience of the Spours family prove useful to Ulster farmers in the uplands?

THE Spours family farm 4,370 acres of tenanted land across north Northumberland comprising large, scattered blocks of heather moorland plus improved lowland.
Daniel Spours finds Galloway cattle maximise margins and reduce labour being ideal quality beef producers and conservation grazers
 The emphasis is on self-sufficiency and keeping inputs to a minimum for the enterprises based at Twizell Farm, near Belford, just north of Alnwick.
A herd of commercial Aberdeen Angus cows and a commercial sheep flock along with arable land were the mainstay of the business until 2010 when a block of 1,800 acres of heather hill at Chatton Sandyfords was designated SSSI to help encourage wild juniper plants and protect the many archaeological features...

“We had to reduce sheep numbers on the moorland and there were areas of vegetation that required a native breed of cattle to reduce the moorland grasses and help encourage juniper growth,” said Daniel Spours, who farms in partnership with his brother Richard, father Lawrence and uncle Paul. There are also two full-time staff with casual labour employed at peak times.

“We looked at various native breeds and, originally, Galloways were our second choice. But then the end users we spoke to praised the superior eating quality of Galloway beef and we already knew about the ease of management - de-horning, easy calving and that they were very low maintenance cattle. A big plus as we already had a massive workload.

“They are fantastic, non-selective grazers which we knew would suit the SSSI scheme,” he added.

Five years on from investing in Galloways the Spours are not only reaping the benefits of conservation grazing, but are selling quality meat to a successful nearby on-farm restaurant overlooking the causeway to the world famous holy isle of Lindisfarne.

“The herd was started to help fulfill the SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest) scheme requirements, but now with a ready outlet for the Galloway meat we are planning to increase numbers. Our original goal was to have a 60 cow herd with half to a terminal sire but we are going to increase numbers to 90 cows and run them pure bred as we now know the full potential of the breed.

“It was a bit of a leap in the dark but I am really impressed with the Galloways and particularly how well they are finishing,” Daniel added.

The Galloways have fitted into the farming system which is complicated because of the scattered grazing land up to 10 miles away from the home place at Beal.
The cropping land runs to 1,200 acres which rotates with improving the grassland. Of the arable crops, 600 acres is grown for sale with feed grades being utilized on farm. Wheat, barley, oats and oil seed rape are grown as well as fodder beet, kale and sheep feed rape.
Famed for their ability to produce beef with taste at minimal cost the Galloway is popular from German heathland to the green Glens of Antrim.

The commercial Angus herd runs to 260 cows plus 30 breeding heifers following, all bull calves are finished by 16 months and sold to Scottish beef processors AK Stoddart along with any heifers not kept as herd replacements. All the cows are crossed with a registered Angus bull; although the herd is not registered it is likely that a small pedigree herd will be established in the future.

The Galloway herd now numbers 50 cows, most of which are registered cattle.  Before embarking on the new herd, Daniel saw the attributes of the breed at John Carr-Ellison’s nearby Beanley, Powburn farm.

Foundation cows were from Beanley, Miefield and Moor House with heifers from Blackcraig, Romesbeoch, Klondyke and the Nether Cleugh herds added. The aim is to buy larger animals with more frame which the hill land can carry - and those with a good quiet temperament.

Stock bulls are bought from the Galloway Cattle Society’s Castle Douglas sales and current herd sires are Ballavair Marley, Barquhill Frank and Value of Kilnstown, the spring 2016 purchase.

Daniel personally has carried out some AI on the Galloways with success and there are a number of bull and heifer calves by Orinocho of Over Barskeoch on the ground.

While most of the replacements will be home bred, some bought-in heifers will also be included. Next year up to 20 heifers are expected to be added to the herd and the intention is to run three bulling groups to suit the way the hill is split. Heifers are calved at three years old.

The Galloways are calved in the spring from the end of April behind the commercial Angus herd on the lower ground. Cows receive no assistance or housing at calving unless it is required.

“The Galloways certainly do the job and we have seen huge improvements in the reduction of the coarser grasses. The sheep are keen to graze the areas which have been cleared by the cattle,” affirmed Daniel.

“They are very low maintenance and while on the hill they only get a mineral supplement. Weaned calves are housed and fed a maintenance ration of barley and silage through the winter while the cows out-wintered on the hill are fed big bale silage when required.”

 Galloway steers are finished between 22 and 27 months old off grass plus roughly a tonne of a finishing diet costing £140 introduced at the turn of the year... The only other inputs, veterinary costs and labour, are minimal.
Hardy Galloway cattle meet the needs of farm businesses aiming to benefit as any remaining government support is increasingly directed towards poorer land after Brexit in 2020

The first Galloways were finished as bulls along with Angus cattle but the Galloways struggled to reach a weight that would leave much profit as they are a slower maturing breed, but still managed a fairly respectable 300kg deadweight at 16 months. Roughly £900 a head at that time and considering the lack of inputs there was still profit in them.

Then it was decided to run Galloways on another year as steers. This is proving a much better and more profitable system, which utilizes their favourable eating quality rather than losing them to the meat industry as mince.

They are slaughtered at J A Jewitts in Spennymoor and hung for 21 days and processed at Reiver Country Farm Foods, Reston, near Berwick. 

Carcasses weigh between 365kg and 420kg, grade R4L and kill out around 55%. Cattle are not regularly weighed before slaughter as Daniel believes adrenalin is the largest contributing factor to spoiling meat so cattle are drawn based on condition to reduce handling and stress.
Since February 2016 roughly two whole carcasses a month have been sold to The Barn at Beal, established almost 10 years ago by farmer and entrepreneur Rod Smith on the mainland furnenst the causeway to the popular visitor attraction Holy Island of Lindisfarne.

The Spours as sole beef and lamb supplier to The Barn restaurant also provide 10 home produced lamb carcasses a month in what everyone sees as ‘very much a partnership’ with Daniel receiving feedback from the chef and customers so that the product can be adapted to suit the real market.
 “Sadly in farming generally animals are slaughtered with little or no feedback to the actual producer,” he said.

Head Chef at The Barn at Beal for the last five years, Cameron Waterhouse, is a great fan of Galloway beef and its consistency in producing a wide variety of beef dishes from breakfast sausages to rib of beef, rolled brisket to sirloin steaks. Mince, as well as being made into lasagna, is made into burgers.

 Chef Cameron noting that, “The fat content of Galloway beef is perfect for making burgers with just a little seasoning. Most burgers elsewhere include rusk but our meat only burgers are gluten-free, and, as a result, we have been included in guides for coeliacs eating out.
“We have sold around 3,000 Galloway beef burgers in the summer school holidays.”

The Barn at Beal sources local products and Cameron says provenance and traceability are key to the foods produced in the kitchen for the restaurant and bar for both the many passing visitors and those staying at the on-site camping facility.

The Spours family’s sheep enterprise, which numbers 3200 breeding ewes, is split between hill and lowland. This has also been changed over recent years from a traditional stratified flock of Scottish Blackface ewes on the hill and Scotch mules on the lower ground to Easy Care ewes on the hill which are bred pure and then draft ewes are crossed with Suffolk sires on the lower ground.

“We are still producing a similar number of lambs off the hill as we were even though ewe numbers are down 300,” Daniel Spours noted.

The other side of the sheep enterprise is an intensive continental flock of ewes producing E and U grade lambs from three quarter bred Texels and purer which are crossed with Belgian type Beltex rams. The Texels are split 50-50 between Texel and Beltex rams and are run on the better ground and lambed inside from March 25.

This year E grade store lambs out of hoggs have sold at Hexham Mart for up to £96 a head while finished lambs readily make more than £2.20 a kg.
  The next major Galloway Cattle Society sale in Castle Douglas, an hour’s drive from Cairnryan ferry, is on Friday, Feb 17. For details browse www.gallowaycattlesociety.co.uk   ph; 01556 502753 or e mail 
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GALLOWAY cattle, for generations common in the Glens of Antrim, are proving popular in other parts of Ulster including the western Mournes and the Sperrins. As farm support moves from the lowlands to marginal ground this hardy breed has a growing role to play in beef production and conservation grazing.
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