Introducing our new Farmer Focus contributor
Murray Garret farms 96ha
(240 acres) at Rowden
Farm, near Leighton
Buzzard, Beds. The whole
farm is permanent pasture
on heavy clay land. He runs
100 spring calving South
Devon suckler cows and a
flock of 200 Friesland
LIVESTOCK buildings at Rowden Farm are a mixture of ancient and modern. Unfortunately, the rather attractive old brick buildings contribute little to our limited labour resources which consist of my father Ken and 15-year-old nephew Ben, when available after school.
We used to employ a sandwich year student and I taught animal husbandry at a local agricultural college. However, after 13 years I felt I needed a new challenge and gave up the guaranteed salary and paid holidays to put all my energies into developing the family business.
Rowden is home to the Billington herd of pedigree South Devon cattle. We run 100 spring calving sucklers plus followers. The herd is Signet recorded and averages in the top 25% for beef value. Heifers are calved down at two years old to a home-bred Angus x South Devon bull. Their female progeny have gained a premium as commercial sucklers for JSR Farms composite breeding programme.
All cows are bred to top index South Devon bulls aiming to produce high value breeding stock. We currently have 10 young bulls with beef values in the top 1%.
We are keen on showing and we are enormously disappointed that we will not exhibit cattle at the Royal Show this year. DEFRA rules on quarantining were virtually impossible to implement and recent amendments have come too late in the day.
This is a typical case of DEFRA not caring about the livestock industry and muddling from one thing to the next. Showing requires animals to be halter trained months in advance and must be done 100% professionally.
All our male calves are kept entire and those not good enough for breeding are finished intensively and marketed at 12 months old between 550kg and 600kg liveweight, usually grading U3.
We also run a flock of 200 Friesland milking sheep, 100 of these lamb indoors in late January. The other half, including replacement ewe lambs, lamb at grass in May.
The best recorded ewes are put in the early batch and bred pure; everything else is covered by a Texel or Charollais ram. Milking takes place between March and November. *