Five years on from purchasing his first pedigree Salers cow, David Watson of Darnford, Banchory enjoyed a bumper trade at the November 2013 Salers Cattle Society show and sale at Castle Douglas, jointly topping the sale with a price of 6000gns for the reserve senior champion Darnford Earl.

David Watson and Lynne Brown

David Watson and Lynne Brown

David also secured 5500gns for the bull Darnford Elite and picked up the overall female champion prize and 4000gns for Darnford Evita.

From the outset, it has been David’s aim to concentrate on improving the quality of his cattle, rather than increasing numbers and the herd currently has 25 breeding cows.

“My aim is to improve the scale, shape and conformation of the cows but not at the expense of their easy-calving trait,” says David.

The herd was founded with the purchase of Cuil Venice, who stood champion cow at the society show and sale in November 2008. Eight heifers from the McClymont’s Cuil herd followed in the summer of 2009 along with a further 19 from John Elliott’s Drumlegagh herd.

Until he had enough cattle to justify the purchase of a stock bull, AI was used and from the pool of genetics, David chose to serve the cows with Vaillant. A French bull owned by Brian Walling of Cumbrian Farmstock Genetics, Vaillant was overall Salers champion at the Paris Show in 2009 and has done ‘very well’ according to David.

Anything that does not hold to AI is covered by Chaplepark Ali, and in fact, the bulk of the pure cattle are to this bull.

David and his fiancée Lynne Brown travelled last October to the Sommet de l’Elevage in Clermont Ferrand to the Salers national show where the new stock bull Fangio was purchased privately.

Fandigo

Fangio

“The quality of stock on show was fantastic; it was a good reminder to us that we still have a bit to go with our herd. The purchase of Fangio will hopefully keep us moving in the right direction.” says David.

The herd, which is part of the SRUC Premium Cattle Health Scheme, is vaccinated for BVD and leptospirosis.

The pedigree Salers are run alongside the commercial herd of 400 Saler cross cows. His pedigrees are run commercially until he selects the bulls, adding that “they’re not mollycoddled”. Of the females, only the very best are kept for the pedigrees with the remainder going into the commercial herd.

Spring calving takes place in January and February and the cows are supplemented with Harbro’s Grampian Super Suckler SEC minerals pre- and post-calving, powdered minerals inside and as a molassed lick at grass.

Calves are turned out to grass in May/early June when they are introduced to creep feeding. The creep mix is based on Harbro’s High Voltage concentrate and includes Maxammon treated barley, oats, Invercrombies and sugar beet pulp.

David, his father Pete and uncle Andrew who runs another suckler herd at Glasslaw, Stonehaven have a long established customer relationship with Harbro and in 2011, hosted a very successful and well attended farm walk.

David Watson started feeding High Voltage concentrate on the advice of Harbro sales manager David Mackenzie. David wanted to feed his cattle on a natural diet, which would utilise his home-grown cereals and other straights used on the farm. Importantly, the focus for the diet was rumen health, foot health and fertility and from the cereal point of view, risk- free from acidosis.

“The cattle are in much better health and bloom, they’ve got a much better shine on them. We’ve never had any problems with feet and health,” says David Watson.

“Feeding High Voltage has given me peace of mind – there’s a lot of good stuff to help with all the potential problems with bulls – feet and fertility,” he added.

The High Voltage range is manufactured under the ‘Rumen Friendly Concept’, a unique manufacturing process where quality raw materials are chipped, steamed and pelleted to improve rumen function and to increase digestibility. This process is unlike conventional compound manufacture where raw materials are finely ground to increase pelleting capability.

The large particle size increases availability of bypass proteins and starches and also provides scratch in the rumen helping to stimulate rumination, improve rumen health and reduce the risk of acidosis.

All the rations at Darnford contain a constant level of High Voltage concentrate with other ingredients being adjusted to meet the changing needs of the growing animals. Forage is always made available to the bulls.

When weaned in late October/early November, the females and males are then housed separately with bulls going through the final selection in January. Any males not making the grade in David’s eyes go for finishing.

Bulls that are destined for show and sales the following October are turned out in spring for three to four months before the final preparation for show and sale in October.

It is very much a family affair at Darnford where the majority of David’s time is spent looking after the large suckler herd along with his father Pete and his brother Adam. At sale time, David’s fiancée Lynne a beauty therapist by day, makes a great job of grooming and showing the bulls.

The saying ‘beauty comes from within’ springs to mind and the feeding regime at Darnford has most certainly had some influence on the bloom and condition of the stock.

Courtesy of HARBRO