Farm News October 14

New Oct 14

Recently my boss handed me a article from a magazine. The article related to the need for a written risk assessment for a farm business. This reminded me of a run-in I had with a Council jobs worth at the Countryside Festival a few years ago. We were asked to put together an agricultural display to help visitors attending the festival gain more understanding of the activities that take place rurally.

Our display included Hebridean sheep, Highland cattle, and our Belted Galloway bull, Tavish. We erected 2 gazebos with various display boards, banners, breed society merchandise and marketing material. All in all I thought it looked great! The event ran for 3 days with the first day being solely for school children, and there were thousands of them.

On the morning of the day we had an inspection from the Council. The woman from the council first said we needed to put up signs asking the public not to touch the animals. We also had to provided hand washing facilities with sign-age stating “now wash your hands” really? She then disappeared only to return a few minutes later telling us to put up an another outer barrier to keep the public back from touching the stock. So a hastily we erected a 2 rail wooden fence round the cattle and a rope barrier round the sheep.

All day we were rushed off our feet fielding questions from quizzical and enthusiastic children. That evening the event was to host an open air concert with Run-rig being the headlining act. During the afternoon the band started having a sound check. The base player of the band starting tuning his equipment. Our bull Tavish took this low thumping sound as that of another bull and started making his own low sound drone, he began to get agitated and started pushing at the fence. As bulls do, he put his head on the floor rubbing back and forward, digging holes with his feet throwing straw and soil over his back. Trying not to look to worried I climbed on the hurdle to discourage him from moving his pen towards the sound. He became more vocal about his intentions to fight with what he believed to be another bull across the road. He decided he would not lift his tail and then smear what is expelled from that end of his body round his bum and tail. Still trying to keep calm and from my position of height I had the best view as to what was about to unfold. Each time he roared he would increase his volume and raise his head to the sky, each time the children took a step back. Then like a scene from a sniper movie everything slipped into slow motion. Opposite from where I was perched I noticed a well dressed school teacher standing on his own a little bit away from two little boys. Tavish continued increasing his roaring till he reached a deafening climax with his head raised high, he then powerfully flicked his very clarty tail and in slow motion I saw an arc of slurry fan out over the hurdles, past the wooden fence and begin to impact those closest; my eye caught site of a large marshmallow sized projectile at the outer reaches of the arc. This was spotted by one of the little boys and we both followed it as it headed towards the well dressed teacher. I couldn’t hear what he was saying but I suspect it was “step bac…” the marshmallow never touched his lips, as it shot into his open mouth! Again, a scene from the sniper film; the little laddie who watched this dropped to his knees like he had been shot and then burst out laughing as tears began to roll down his cheeks. The teacher instantly began to gag, spit and fish out pieces of slurry with his fingers. By this time the other wee boy had caught on and both lads where rendered incapable as they rolled around in hysterics. Things settled down, I caught the eye of the teacher and as I held back, as best as I could, my own laughter and tears, I could not resist pointing towards the sign, “now wash your hands”

 

 

Farm News August/ September 2014

As I start to write this article you would find me in an unfamiliar place and situation. I might be on something called a holiday although I am not sure. My daughter and her Highland Pony qualified at the Highland Pony breed show for the National Pony Society finals down in Malvern and this is where we are. I am not sure it is really a holiday as I am made to get up even earlier than if I was at home to help get Seamus the pony fed, watered, mucked out, washed, polished and brushed for the many different classes entered over the 3 days of the show. Also tensions can run a little high at times and my repeated reiterations of “this is supposed to be fun” falling on deaf ears while my wife and daughter bicker and I am instructed to go and fetch or do something else! What is amazing about this little adventure is here we are today near the Welsh border and a few months back Seamus was in the Equine Hospital on what we thought might be his death bed being  given only a small chance of survival  but again, here we are on merit competing with some of the country’s best, just brilliant. Earlier in the summer I was approached by a lovely couple from an estate near Braemar. They look after a large house and small estate for a Swiss Contemporary Art dealer who was looking to have small fold of Highland cattle in front of the house. Having had only a little previous cattle experience they were also looking for advice and guidance as well as sourcing the foundation stock. We had a couple of meetings and struck a deal for 6 bulling heifers and my agreement to help set things up, including finding a good quality bull. Sometimes things go so well….through the social media of Facebook, one evening I posted that I was looking for a bull and by the following morning I had a message from a local farmer saying he had a stock bull that was coming into his own daughters and was available. I knew of this bull, having watched him sell for 5000 guineas at the annual Bull sale in Oban a few years ago. Perfect, the deal was done and I delivered the bull up to his new home where he was introduced to the heifers. All was well while the bull went about doing his job. After a having settled his ladies he became a little restless and one morning he had disappeared. The story as told to me was that the bull had come up with an ingenious way of finding for more female company. His field in front of the big house has the river Dee running alongside it, the bull would walk down the bank and into the river. He would then walk, swim and bob past the end of the fence, exit the river and continue downstream to the next fence and do the same thing again. He was found contented with a herd of 50 suckler cows. He was returned to his own field but by the following morning was back with the suckler herd. He is now in an electrified paddock and when I get home I will find a couple of young bullocks to keep him company, while we think of a plan to stop him going in the river. Fencing the river off is not an option and any suggestions or ideas are most welcome. In the next month or so we might get our first ever 2nd cut of silage, it has been a tremendous period for grass growth. Early in September we will also have a good couple of long and hard days were we do our annual blood testing, all the cattle are brought in and go through the crush for blood sampling by the vet.  I will need to do some repairs on the cattle handling before then and my boss’s granddaughter is planning to become a vet and has offered to help out so I must get it done before she returns to her studies  as all help is appreciated. I am finishing this article on the glorious 12th. For the first time in over 40 years my boss will not be out on the hill for the first grouse day. Although he gave up shooting many years ago he still enjoys walking the moor. Early this month he had toothache with pain spreading down his neck, a trip to the dentist saw him being referred to his doctor. Two days later he had a quadruple heart bypass followed by a stay in intensive care. He gets home today and all has gone well. My best wishes have been with him. However we do have different views on shooting grouse and my best wishes are with the grouse today. Hide, fly low and fast and keep the sun to your back.

 

The age old tradition of Droving returns to Perth with a modern twist.

Highland cattle breeder Kenneth Headspeath runs Highland Drovers, a small red meat processing plant based in Perth. Kenneth who manages over 200 head of  Highland Cattle in Perthshire, considered a local food champion has taken a bold step in the current climate and opened a new Butchers shop called  Drovers in Perth.

Kenneth says “ For the last few years we have spent most Saturdays selling our Highland Beef at various local Farmers markets. I am a huge fan of the farmers markets, it provides a great opportunity to talk to face to face with customers about Highland Cattle and the wonderful beef

From a selling point of view there are two main problems with market stalls Most markets are on for a few hours once a month and I have still yet to meet a customer who has either the strength to carry or deep enough pockets to buy an entire months supply food at one market. As sellers we get one chance a month for a few hours to sell our produce  If the customer has something else on that day it is at least 2 months before you get a chance to see them again!
So our shop located in the middle of Perth  is able to offer for sale Highland Beef 6 days a week. In order to help make the venture viable we have sourced complimentary local products with a strong provenance and identity to sell along side our Highland Beef. We have a selection of either Blackface or Hebridean Lamb and Mutton, in-season venison and game and of course Scottish bred pork and bacon. The local award winning Wee Pie Company supplies us with delicious pies made with our beef.
We are making  further investments into a production kitchen to enable us to supply cooked meats and ready meals which are guaranteed to have neigh problems with the local ingredients

By offering local products each and every day we will hopefully help encourage shoppers to return to the shop frequently. With this and our newly update website we are taking steps to ensure HB is recognised as one of Scotland’s national dishes.

Due to increase in demand we are looking for steers and heifers with a good finish to sell through our outlets as guaranteed pure Highland beef.

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