Keeping hill farming alive on Dunalastair Estate
11 Mar 2021
Scottish hill farming can produce top quality livestock from essentially low in-put systems. At Dunalastair Estate near Kinloch Rannoch, Farm Manager Finlay McIntyre is achieving just this through breed selection, good grassland management and ensuring stock are getting access to the right nutrition.
Covering 16,000 acres, the estate is home to 2,000 predominately Blackface and some North Country Cheviot ewes and 130 Luing suckler cows. Due to the marginal nature of the landscape, the majority of land is hill/ rough grazing, with in-by paddocks laid to grass which is used for silage.
Our Three Step Sheep Nutrition buckets were recommended by Harbro beef and sheep specialist David Allan back in 2018 after the harsh winter left some ewes lacking in key nutrients. “After the ‘Beast from the East’ we noticed a lot of the ewes were lacking in energy and had lost condition over the winter months,” says Finlay.“We introduced Harbro’s Energyze Vitality bucket around March to help provide the ewes with instant energy and supplement the forage deficiencies from the harsh weather conditions.”
Despite only using the buckets for just over a year, Finlay has seen a number of benefits, including a reduced number of empty ewes at scanning, as well fewer issues with Twin Lamb Disease. Ewes are lambed outside, with a small batch commencing around 20th April and the remainder of the flock lambing from 1st May. “I can count on one hand the number of ewes we have had to assist this year. They have had plenty fluid, with lambs being born wet, getting on to their feet quickly and suckling in no time at all,” states Finlay.
By autumn 2018, the flock had been through each of our Three Step Sheep Nutrition buckets. Feet & Fertility was offered to the ewes in early autumn with the aim to improve foot health and enhance fertility and Forage Booster was introduced from pre-tupping through winter to support forage intake and provide extra feed energy and calories when forage quality is poor. Vitality is then provided from early February right through the lambing season.
Lambs are weaned early September and sent to grazing near Morayshire. They are grazed on grass and stubble turnips until the turn of the year, when they are given access to Harbro’s Clover Lamb Feeder with Rumitech. Clover Lamb Feeder has a great reputation for finishing lambs and is one of our ‘Rumen Friendly’ feeds. Rumitech is included, which increases feed efficiency and utilisation, which in turn reduces the cost per kilo gain and the overall purchased feed requirement.
“Hoppers are put in with the lambs in the new year and I have noticed a massive difference in the killing out percentage of our lambs since introducing Clover Lamb Feeder with Rumitech. Lambs are averaging 20.5kg deadweight and are marketed as Highland Glen Mey Select through Dunbia,” says Finlay.
Maximising cattle performance
And it’s not only the sheep that are showing positive results with the Luing cattle at Drumalistair proving to be a low input breed. The herd are outwintered and receive silage alongside Super Suckler buckets before calving in March. Once calved, they receive 1-1.5kg of our Super Suckler cow rolls with silage and Energyze Cattle buckets to give them a small boost until the grass quality starts to improve. This spring, 120 cows calved with no assistance needed. Like the ewes, Finlay says the cows had good quality colostrum and calves were born wet, with plenty vigour and willingness to get onto their feet and suckle. David Allan explained the benefits of feeding the Super Suckler range: “Offering Super Suckler pre and post calving helps ensure the herd is receiving a nutrient balanced diet during the vital period of production. The mineral helps combat any deficiencies in available forages which leads a number of benefits including easier calving, improved colostrum quality and tightening the total calving period,” said David.
Calves are weaned at the back end of the year with heifers outwintered and fed our Beefstock nuts with Rumitech. Any heifers not selected as replacements for the herd are sold in May at Dingwall Highland Marts breeding sale. This year’s sale saw the progeny from 2018 average £950. Bullocks are housed at weaning and are sold through the store ring at Aberdeen and Northern Marts March/April sales with an average of £740 for their 2018 crop of calves.
As well as receiving regular visits from David Allan, Finlay is a loyal customer at our Country Store in Perth where he purchases most of the animal health products for the estate. “The staff and service at the Perth Country Store is second to none. Every time I go in for products the team are efficient and very helpful,” comments Finlay. “We buy the majority of our vet and med goods through the store and they have a large selection on offer. “I think it’s really important to support local country stores and it’s great to have one in the Perth area,” Finlay concludes.