For over 20 years, the Duguids have sold the majority of their autumn-born calves at the mid-January store sale at Aberdeen Northern Marts. Over Christmas, the family were weighing and preparing the autumn 2019-born calves for sale and from the data gathered, Arthur is pleased with their performance this year.
“They are a bit heavier than usual, which I put down to us changing their diet,” explained Arthur. “We moved from buying a high protein mineral blends to buying a lorry load of 50:50 soya and rapemeal blend and adding minerals.”
Each autumn, they take delivery of a lorry of soya and rapemeal layered in the load, saving transport costs. When the lorry tips, the two products mix together 60:40, giving an even blend of use.
The average weight of the heifers was 474kg, with a high of 548kg and a low of 409kg
The average weight on 28 December of all of the autumn 2019 steers was 458kg, with a high of 530kg and a low of 333kg. Average daily liveweight gain (DLWG) from housing was 1.275kg, with the fastest growing animal doing 1.55kg and the slowest 0.58kg per day.
The average weight of the heifers was 474kg, with a high of 548kg and a low of 409kg. Their average DLWG was 1.2kg, with a high of 1.57kg and a low of 0.665kg per day.
Arthur was pleased about how even the batch of cattle is. However, he feels that nine of the stores are not big enough for sale in January and will keep them with the spring calves and sell them in April.
In previous years, he would have kept back 15 or 16 cattle not ready for sale. He puts this improvement down to having a tighter calving pattern, making batch of stores more uniform and removing poorer performing dams from the herd.
Several of the cows that produced the poorer performing calves will no longer be used for breeding and will be finished before being sold in the cull ring.
Arthur’s daughter Gemma looked into the cows that were producing the poorer-performing calves. She found that most of these calves had come from cows that were some of the oldest in the herd.
The only feedback we can get on our cattle is if we speak to the buyers at the ring side
With hindsight, Arthur feels that they should have been culled earlier. Now that he is armed with this information, he plans to work towards an age limit of 10 years old for the herd.
Having been to the same sale for so many years, the Duguids have the same buyers coming back to purchase their heifers and steers every year.
“The only feedback we can get on our cattle is if we speak to the buyers at the ring side,” said Arthur.
“But if it is repeat buyers, then that tells you that we are selling what the market wants.”
Six heifers for replacements
Not all of last years autumn-born cattle are destined for the sale ring, as six heifers are being kept for breeding. After the success of the purchased Angus heifers over the last couple of years, Arthur has picked heifer calves from Angus cows that went to the Simmental bull.
He also is only keeping heifers born in the first half of calving, to drive fertility in the herd. A good temperament is also vital, with one good quality heifer not being kept for breeding because she wasn’t docile enough.
“If they are fiery then they don’t bide,” explained Arthur. These heifers will go to the Limousin bull for their first calf.
There are 48 of the spring-calving cows on 16ac of the hybrid Swift since 15 November, and they have eaten just over half of the crop so far. To give them long fibre and make the Swift last, they are also being fed two bales of silage per day. The outwintering cows were picked out as having a medium body condition and Arthur is delighted with the progress so far.
“We are on track to take the cows in somewhere around the start of February,” he said.
“This gives us six weeks until calving starts to get them settled in the sheds and onto their pre-calving diet. The cows have done well, despite the wet and cold conditions, as both the field with the forage crop and the runback field have good shelter.”
Scott is moving the electric fence every day.
Neeps and beet
The 330 ewes in the main flock are currently strip grazing the fodder beet. Arthur sowed the beet on the ridge, which makes giving the ewes a new dreel every day easy, as the plants are far enough apart to prevent earthing the wire.
Sowing on the ridge is also helping the ewes to eat the beet more cleanly than if it was sown on the flat. The ewes have a run back onto a stubble park and are getting two bales of silage every second day as their long fibre.
This year’s crop is not as good as the last time the Duguids grew it
The turnips are being lifted and fed to the housed cattle through the mixer wagon and also to the earlier lambing flock in the field.
Forage rye, which was sown after winter barley, will get 125kg of nitrogen per hectare in February to boost growth and will be used by the earlier lambing ewes once they have lambed.
This year’s crop is not as good as the last time the Duguids grew it, as it was sown later because they had to wait for the seed to arrive. However, due to an error at ordering, Arthur ended up with 10ha of seed not 10ac.
They used half of the seed in the end, sowing a little more rye out than planned and have the remainder of the seed in stock for sowing after winter barley this year.