Tebay, Cumbria: In an effort to become more self-sustainable, and to help the landscape of the farm, we are starting a new suckler herd.
After analysing our farm economics in 2020, we sold our Aberdeen Angus suckler herd as they were losing money. With the basic payment scheme falling at that point, we had to take a long hard look at the farm and become more efficient financially. Unfortunately, with the loss of the suckler herd also went the ability to use cows in the landscape as “ecosystem engineers” year-round. We had calves coming and going during the year, but no regular workforce of hardy cattle.
We had also lost the ability to provide our own beef for our family, so this year I decided to buy some young belted Galloway cattle with a view to building up a small herd. The idea was to become more self-sustainable, provide for our family and sell the excess meat to our neighbours. Besides, my husband had also promised me three hairy cows (hardy native breeds that can survive our climate) as a much-delayed Christmas present, which was cunning of him since he knew I was going to buy them anyway at the Galloway show and sale in Carlisle in March.
I pored over the auction catalogue all week, but when the day came, the farmer did not bring the ones I hoped to buy, so I had to dash around all the pens. My son was at home on the farm, so I did a video call as I walked along the pens, showing him what was on offer. We agreed on the ones we wanted, but he said: “You’ll not get them – too expensive.”
I slid along the benches at the ringside to join a friend I had spotted. “You don’t have Galloways,” she said, surprised at my attendance. The prices were not great. I saw some lovely cows come and go, but held out for the very last three in the ring. They came in together, and someone outbid me. There was no flexibility in my budget. The buyer could then choose how many of those three cows he wanted at that price. He only wanted one, so the bidding set off again. This time I was bidding against someone online, and thankfully I heard myself saying, “I’ll take them both please,” when the online bidder dropped out.
Later that afternoon, two black noses stuck themselves out of the back of the trailer and rushed out into our yard. Welcome to our farm, Dawn and Dorothy, the founding members of our pedigree belted Galloway herd.
Source: The Guardian