Our Easter weekend started out, well kind of Easter-y…
However, over the Easter weekend, we had found out about an upcoming sale on Easter Monday for store cattle (those that are sold on to a buyer for fattening up/finishing and selling on for meat). We had been thinking about moving our yearlings on for a few weeks and this seemed to be a good opportunity to do it. We will keep Jock, our bull for another season, and this therefore presents a problem for keeping his daughters (heifers). In addition, the Steers (castrated bull calves) would be sold at some point over the next few months anyway. As the weather has been pretty poor this year the less hooves we have churning up the ground, and the fewer mouths to feed through cold weather, the better.
We gathered them up by hand, hoping that they would follow a bag full of feed down to the yard, but these year old South Devon cross steers and heifers have inherited their father’s relaxed outlook on life and decided to enjoy an evening of rare Spring sun and a bite of different grass (well almost grass anyway). After a lap or two of the best grassy bits of the field we got them gathered and billeted in the shed overnight, ready for the journey to Stirling the next morning.
As this sale was during the school holidays we were able to bring the whole family along – I have mentioned before that the kids used to love watching The Mart on TV, and were dead keen to see a market, and some of our own cattle being sold, in person. The market is really busy with dozens of pens of cattle being ushered through to the sale ring in a day. In order to ensure that ours were presented as best they could be, we went through to the pre-sale pens and organised them into lots according to which we reckoned would fetch the best price. This is one big advantage of going with them to the sale.
Our cattle appeared calm, clean and looked well as they passed through the ring which was good to see even though some of them were lighter than we would have hoped. While the South Devon breed has lots of advantages, laid back, easy calving and fairly easy kept, they’re not as big or shapely as some of the more mainstream beef varieties. On the day Charolais and Limousin were most numerous and faired best on price. There was also a number of Aberdeen Angus (AA) sold, similar to the South Devon, the AA have a sightly smaller and traditional shape but benefit from a premium sale price which goes someway to offset this against the meatier continental breeds.
Seeing the cattle sold is a bittersweet sense of satisfaction. These were the first batch of Lochaber calves and we’ve all bonded as we’ve travelled along. The kids used to sit on their backs, and spent a lot of time with them when they were younger and there’s been an extra sense of partnership as we’ve come through the unexpected “beast from the East” recently.
Over a snack in the cafe afterwards the kids were keen to ask where the calves would be headed now and if they would be able to go and see them and find out what their new home was like. It’s sensible not to get too emotionally attached or be too sentimental about your livestock, but its not always easy to stick to that. Dan, the kids and I have done what we can to give them a good life at Lochaber, and now it’s time for them to move on and us to get back to the busy calving shed where the second generation of Lochaber calves are coming thick and fast.
Upcoming post: Round up of Lochaber’s second calving season