3 March 2000

Thrifty Galloway might offer a taste of success

By Jeremy Hunt

SUCKLED calf producers looking for longevity and hardiness in their cows without sacrificing conformation should seriously consider the Galloway.

Thats the advice of Cumbria beef producer John Stephenson, Stone House, Skelton-Wood-End, near Penrith who produces Limousin-sired calves from his small herd of Galloway cows and finishes about six pure Galloway steers each month for one of the countys leading butchers shops.

Mr Stephenson has kept Galloway cows for 30 years. Now semi-retired he buys-in strong pure-bred steers at 18 to 23 months old to supplement his home-bred Limousin x Galloway prime cattle.

Steers are bought-in through Longtown and Newcastleton auction marts and taken to 275-325kg deadweight for Brampton butcher Norman Kyle.

"In summer, grass finished cattle are supplemented with about 2lb a head a day of a 50:50 barley/blend mix for the last six weeks. In winter, yarded steers have a daily feed of 6lb of the mix and ad-lib straw fed under cover and silage offered from outside troughs," says Mr Stephenson. He reckons the breed is underestimated for the rate of growth it can achieve from about 18 months.

"The Galloway is a slow maturing breed, but it really moves into top gear from about 20 months old. People would be surprised at just how much they can gain at this stage from a basic ration.

"A lot depends on how well they have done in the early part of their lives, but good Galloway steers can put on flesh quickly."

Mr Stephensons home-bred Limousin x Galloways, weighing up to 600kg liveweight, have been averaging £1/kg through Longtown mart and finding regular buyers such as ScotBeef.

Recent wet winters have seen his Galloway cows housed from Christmas to March, but in drier years they are out-wintered.

"The Galloway is underrated and deserves more recognition for her thriftiness and hardiness. They are cheap to feed in winter and thrive on silage and a mineral lick.

"Cows milk well, can produce 10-15 calves in a lifetime and still look half their age," says Mr Stephenson.

Norman Kyle, who buys about six pure Galloways a month from Mr Stephenson, had to supplement his regular supplies with other steers to meet Christmas demand.

"We sold about 20 pure-bred Galloway steers over Christmas and we had a constant stream of comments from customers about the beefs flavour. The more we sell, the more customers come back asking for Galloway. It is the flavour that hooks them and it is flavour that is bringing consumers back to eating beef again.

"The pure Galloway might not have the conformation of a Continental, but the consumer cant taste conformation. They buy beef on its flavour and eating quality," says Mr Kyle.

GALLOWAY POTENTIAL

&#8226 Thrifty, hardy cows.

&#8226 Cheap to over-winter.

&#8226 Good growth rates possible.

The flavour of Galloway cattle is attracting and keeping customers, believes one Cumbrian butcher.