Creep feeding is key to improving frame growth at Tundergarth Mains

Stuart and Lynn Dodd and their family have farmed at Tundergarth Mains, near Lockerbie since 2002 where they run a suckler herd of predominantly Luing cows and their sheep flock, split over three farms.

In 2018, the business took on more land at which stage the cows were mainly Limousin or Limousin crosses. With limited staff, Stuart was looking for a breed which would be less labour intensive and require less intervention and with this, Luing was chosen.

The better cows are put to a Luing bull to breed Luing replacements with the remainder going to the Simmental bull. Luing heifers are either home bred or purchased from the Cadzow family.

“We have found the Luings from the Cadzows to be docile, good mothers and medium sized but produce fast growing calves. My dad is 73 and does a lot of the cattle work so they need to be easy to work with.”

“We used to buy a 16% protein barley blend and the calves looked and weighed well but were a bit fat so we made the change to Harbro Calf Elite.  Our main market is Simmental x Luing heifers so we really need to get a good frame on them for bulling at 15 months. We wanted this better frame – aimed primarily at the heifers – but the benefits have been across the board. The LWG has increased slightly, importantly putting it on their frame. The DLWG for bullocks is 1.2kg and heifers just over a kilo.” says Stuart.

By feeding creep at an earlier age, Stuart is making the most of his calves inbuilt growth efficiency, as the younger they are, the less feed they need to eat to gain weight.  With current store prices, it really pays to maximise frame growth so you get the biggest return for your animals but without them getting overfat. This not only means they will go on and do well for their buyers, but there are additional benefits including reduced stress at weaning, along with reduced pressure on the cows.

“Since 2018, our Simmental bulls have come from Jim Goldie of the Newbie Mains Herd, Annan and we find them long lasting and fairly easy calving. Being in the Premium Cattle Health Scheme, we are selective where we purchase from but hope to buy less heifers in the future as we build up numbers.”

Bullocks are sold mainly at 12 months. A draw of 10 month old Simmental Luing bullocks recently sold through Lockerbie market, achieving £1390. Some Simmental Luing heifers will be sold through the Simmental sale at Carlisle market in May and the remainder of the heifers will be sold off farm.

Clover is grown on a few parcels of land, baled for silage and this along with pit silage and Calf Elite comprise the calf ration which is fed as a TMR. Calf Elite is an 18% protein pellet, designed to drive frame growth and maximise rumen function to complement the transition onto a forage based ration.

The mainstay of the business is quarries and concrete and alongside the suckler herd, a flock of New Zealand Romneys and Romney Easycare crosses – split 50:50 – completes the picture. The pure Romneys are run in two groups, half going back to Romney to breed replacement lambs and half to Easycare and Aberfield for replacements or selling as ewe lambs.

The Romney Easycare crosses are put to Abermax tups, with progeny destined for the store/finishing market. “We sell as many as we can when we wean in August, 40% of lambs sold finished and 60% sold as stores.”

“With only my dad and another member of staff doing the stock, it is an extensive set up. Like the cattle, the breeds we have chosen suit our system, with sheep lambing themselves and requiring minimal intervention.”

“Clover Premium Ewe is the only ewe feed we have ever used. It’s a good quality feed and gives plenty milk on the ewes. When the first ewes start lambing, we bring them in-by and they all lamb outside. We stop feeding ewe rolls then and move to high energy buckets apart from ewes with triplets who stay on Premium Ewe through lambing and beyond.”

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