We have a cattle herd of 90 animals with 48 suckler cows expected to calve next year taking our herd to nearly 120. Woodland Valley specialise in Aberdeen Angus, which is an indigenous breed to the British Isles.These animals are fed solely on grasses from our herb rich pastures with silage and hay during the winter months.
Cows and CalvingWe calve in March and weather permitting; our cows calve outdoors, which reduces the risk of infection for new born calves and the cow’s milk production increases as the grass grows. We check the cows during the night throughout the calving period and have facilities within the cattle shed to assist with any calving difficulties. Our calves are single suckled by their mothers for at least nine months before weaning.
Buying a new herd sire (bull) is a huge decision and financial investment for any working farm. Our current pedigree Aberdeen Angus bull, Lanson Pride (AKA Bisto), is from the award winning Lanson Herd.
As the bull is “half the herd” the “estimated breeding values” (EBV’s) have to be taken into account, his offspring will be 16 months old when we put them in calf or 20 months for meat to the butchers shops. So it is nearly three years after we purchase the bull that we see any returns from him. The bulls will run with the spring calving cows at grass from June for three heats (70 days) and at 34 days after we will diagnose pregnancy. Should a cow be empty she will be removed from the herd. This tells us roughly how the calving pattern will work out.
Cows in the Winter
Our animals spend the majority of the year out at pasture and are then housed on fresh straw in our spacious covered yards during the worst of the winter months if the conditions are wet, so that we do not poach the grassland. We feed silage or hay ad-lib to the calves and fattening stock. During the winter months our daily routine seven days a week is feeding the cattle hay and silage, bedding up with fresh straw, checking the animal’s health and seeing that they have plenty of fresh clean water.
Unlike conventional farmers we don’t use nitrogen fertiliser to aid silage yields, instead we use nitrogen fixing clovers which are sown into the pasture, this produces a naturally enriched, organic silage, to feed our cattle through the winter.