April has been a busy month, with cows calving fast which is proof that the bulls were working well last summer. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the bull that was out with our heifers. His fertility was tested last spring and it was fine. He possibly suffered a back injury and was unable to work. After we realised there was a problem, the bull was changed and as a result the heifers are calving much later than usual.
We cannot afford to keep a bull that isn’t working, so with the high value of cull cattle we decided to sell him. He went with some cull cows to a market just over the border where they exceeded all expectations and made more money than any cull cattle we have previously sold.
We hadn’t realised that prime cattle sold in English markets is sold and paid on the exact weight of each animal; unlike in Scotland where the amount paid is based on the weight which is rounded down to the nearest 0kg or 5kg. This can result in a loss of payment of 4kg per animal. I have no doubt that if we visited the butcher and said that we would like to buy 1.4kg of minced beef but only wanted to pay for 1kg, we would be told in no uncertain terms what to do.
The early grass growth during the warm weather in March enabled the cows and calves to be turned out as they calved. However, the colder spell in April has meant that the cows are catching up on the grass. We hope that we get some warm weather soon.
Robert and Jac Neill run 300 Limousin-cross cows on 1,082 acres at Upper Nisbet in the Scottish Borders. They farm 600 acres of cereals, and all progeny from the suckler herd are finished on home-grown fodder and sold live throughout the year to local butchers. Robert was Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year 2006.