Matthew BrownleeMatthew Brownlee © Steffan Hill

Calving is nearing completion on our farm, with just five cows to calve at this stage. I’m ready for a break!

The problems we had with difficult calvings on heifers and the outbreak of cryptosporidium have caused a lot of extra work, as it takes endless time and effort caring for calves with scour.

Like all suckler farmers, we have had our losses and the total calf count for 103 cows calved is 97.

Despite the poor weather, we have been trying to get cows and calves out in small batches shortly after calving to try to overcome our neo-natal scour problem while minimising damage to grass swards.

See also: Calving stress sparks crypto cases

Currently we are trying to decide upon a new breeding bull to put to our heifers.

Although the Stabiliser calves pleased us, we had too many assisted calvings and caesarean operations to continue using this bull on heifers.

I have decided against the option of trying another Stabiliser bull with easier calving figures, as the Stabiliser calves weren’t consistent. Some heifers had small, easily-born calves; other heifers had monsters of calves, and the sex of the calf had no bearing on its birth weight or size.

I have read some very good articles on synchronisation and its success rate. So we are tempted to try that, but we would like a bull to sweep up after one service.

See also: A comparison of different breeds of male calves

We have also decided to cull one of our Charolais bulls for the same reason – calving difficulties. We do plan to replace him with another Charolais bull as our Pirate-bred stock bull breeds great cattle and is easy calved.

On our farm I believe we need to pay more attention to estimated breeding values of bulls, rather than the bull that pleases our eye.

Achieving a lower percentage of assisted calvings across our herd in the future will minimise the workload at calving and improve calf health – and hopefully decrease mortality rates in the first six weeks of the calves’ lives.

See also: Read more from the Livestock Farmer Focus writers


Matthew Brownlee farms 121ha alongside his father. They run 100 Limousin cross suckler cows and buy in store cattle to finish