Two Herd Open Day Report

Peak District • 12th September 2015

The day started off extremely wet, with the weather looking like it wouldn’t let up. But still, the Adams family at Bigginvale herd in Alstonefield welcomed 35 well togged up Galloway breeders, some local others well travelled.

The idea was to warm people with a coffee while the rain pelted down to see if it would give in... but this was not to be, wet matches, wind and gas tea urns don’t mix! Still the rain did give in, it seemed all had arrived apart from Liz Wilkinson who was somewhere off the motorway enjoying the Derbyshire dales finest back roads. (Though the effort of you travelling down was really appreciated by the family, Liz) So we decided to load everyone in to the feed trailer and start the tour, in the safe driving skills of Richard Adams. We set of down through Alstonefield village, (which annually gets the Beltie cattle walked through it from summer grazing back to the farm) to see the yearling heifers, Jo explained to those present, while frank the ‘in training’  18 month old collie was bringing the heifers down from the top, that these had been kept on this bank which was tight on grass mainly for viewing them as they were soon to be moved to the other side of the road, on to a piece of land the family had recently taken on which, as people could see, is some very rough steep land that has not been properly grazed for up to 15 years so is very overgrown and covered in gorse and thorn and all sorts. Had they been on there it would have been ‘spot the Galloway.’ Jo also explained they calve the heifers at 3 years so they have plenty of time to grow on the rough keep and then fit back into the calving pattern.



The tour moved on past two cows due to calve in October with last year’s calves at foot, though they were right at the top of the hillside so couldn’t be seen too well, then on through another pretty village and then for a short walk along the River Dove to view the rest of the back end calver’s, again fetched down the bank by Frank but with some help from Jo this time. On here many picked out the Mochrum heifer bought at Castle Douglas last year, and 8 year old Bigginvale Myrabell whom Jo explained was born on this hill in 2007 and had come back every summer to calve there again. The cows still had last years’ calves on them and Jo explained this was a trial which had worked last year, she had watched, as the cows had weaned the older calves a month or so before they calved again, quite often she found the yearlings in a gang on their own away from the cows and if they chanced a drink they’d get a swift foot in the face. In previous years the cattle had been walked back up to the farm, weaned and then the cows either returned to the bank or kept on the land around the farm, but as there was only a small group it seemed to work leaving them all together and monitoring the situation. They will stay there until beginning of November and then be walked back to the farm for winter, weaning and getting them back in calf on the level ground. As we were walking back to the trailer enjoying seeing the cows which had come down into the river, we met some of the more local visitors of the group who had thought they knew the way to the farm and were not keen on a trailer ride up the bumpy track so opted to walk to the farm directly, thereby unfortunately missing seeing the young stock.

We then travelled up said bumpy narrow track to the farm, where Jennifer and the rest of the family had a now functioning tea urn and a delicious BBQ using the family’s own Beltie beef.

Robert then gave a talk on the history of the herd and how they started with Beltie’s back in 1993, previously they had run blacks with a Limousin bull, and currently they run a flock of 450 ewes lambing in April along with the spring calving Beltie’s.  All progeny off the cows are kept through to finishing with any special heifers kept for replacements or sold at Castle Douglas or privately. As they farm organically the rest are sold direct to Dawn Meats at Carnaby or boxed up by the local abattoir for private sale. The family also runs a herd of 140 Ayrshire cattle plus followers on a separate holding 12 miles away.

After a good feed we walked across to view the spring calvers out with a young bull, Park Meastro, where a splendid view over the valley and along the river was enjoyed by all. We then loaded back up on to the feed trailer and headed back to the cars in the village for the convoy to the Edale herd belonging to the Halliwells.

We passed through some stunning scenery to be greeted by a lovely hot brew and beautiful cakes.  As we walked up to the field the herd looked such a picture nestled between the end of the Pennine way and Kinder Scout. Robert pointed out his strong cow families and told us his policy was to try and use bulls that others don’t. They have been running with Raisedale Rodger but he injured himself, so are currently with Glenn Commet, with calves at foot by Whitlaw Ronaldo. They have about 20 calving cows aiming to calve in spring, selling off heifers and store cattle. Robert believes in raising his quality herd on a high forage diet with no concentrates.  We spent a good time getting in amongst the cattle, with any questions answered by Robert or Alice, before heading back to the barn for more delicious cake and hot tea.

A good day was had by all and I would just like to say thank you to all involved.


Open Day Photos