6th October 2010

Careful bull selection paying off on Skye

The recently completed monitor farm project on Skye will have long lasting benefits thanks to the careful selection of a bull.

Attention to detail and careful selection of a bull for the crofters of the Borve and Annishadder Township is paying dividends for the famers.

The Limousin bull Stronefield Connor, from Malcolm Cameron’s Accredited Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) and Johnes – free herd near Fort William, was bought in spring 2009 met the group’s strict demands for ease of calving and good health status.

Before buying the bull, some of the crofters visited Malcolm Cameron’s farm to get a sense of the “feel” of his cattle enterprise and to see Connor’s dam.

Stronefield Connor was used in his first season by four of the eight monitor farm crofters, with his first Skye calf born on March 23rd.

The township’s common grazing clerk, Alaistar Nicolson, said: “We now know that he got all his 17 females in calf, most of them first service

“For some of the crofters this was their first experience of calving cows in their own right, and Connor’s promise of easy calving came true, with all his calves born without difficulty and thriving, resulting in 100% fertility and 100% calving – ten bull calves and seven heifers.

“More females have been put to him this year – 26 - and it looks as if he has settled them all again.

“As the cattle spend time on common grazings, where they can mix with cattle from other crofters, it’s complicated for us to aim for BVD Accreditation. However we ensure that all the females which go to Connor are vaccinated against BVD prior to bulling, which protects their calves from infection.”

Alaistar and his brother Calum are keeping their Connor-sired calves to finish next year.

However cousins Angus and Donnie MacDonald, who have neighbouring crofts, decided to sell their calves earlier this month, at the Dingwall and Highland Marts auction at Portree on Skye, where over 1,100 weaned calves were traded. Overall bullocks averaged £ 1.849 per kg with heifers averaging £ 1.658 per kg.

Angus MacDonald sold five spring-born calves, three bullocks and two heifers. The oldest bullock weighed 220 kgs and sold for £480, (£2.18 per kg).

His other two steers weighed 200 kgs and made £435 (£2.175 per kg), and were runners up for the Limousin prize for the top price per kilo for a pair or more.

The two heifers tipped the scales at 210 kgs, selling for £360.00 (£ 1.71 per kg).

Donnie MacDonald’s two Connor-sired bullocks were out of Aberdeen-Angus cross cows. Weighing 230 kgs, they sold for £465 (£ 2.02 per kg).

Following the success of the project, it is hoped that QMS will be establishing a new monitor farm in the area in the near future. For general information on monitor farms, plus detailed reports of meetings – www.monitorfarms.co.uk

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