David has managed the 2300 acre Greystoke Castle Farm for around 20 years in partnership with the owners, the Howard family, and has a clear focus on profitability. The farm lies just to the north of the Lake District National Park in Cumbria and rises to 1200 ft above sea level. The land is permanent pasture and the farm takes part in both the entry level and higher level environmental schemes.
Stocking includes 250 suckler cows with 40 heifer followers as well as 2500 breeding ewes. Cows are calved in the spring with the aim of selling calves from the mother as strong stores in October. To ensure herd performance is maximised, David is careful to choose his genetics to ensure that good growth rates are achieved whilst retaining enough hardiness to cope with life on an upland farm.
“My ideal cow is a Limousin Friesian first cross as they are strong, have plenty of milk to support the calf, and throw calves with good conformation,” David explains. “But it is getting harder and harder to buy good stock as TB becomes more prevalent, so we also run a small number of Belgian Blue crosses.”
David’s priority is to get maximum growth from calves early in their lives from their mother’s milk. Yet to achieve the overall growth rates he is after, he recognises the benefit of creep feeding, so calves are fed creep at a rate of around 3kg/head from August onwards.
In recent years, however, this has not always gone smoothly. David has struggled with calf health when creep is being fed, with some calves scouring and in extreme circumstances getting stomach ulcers. This has added cost and reduced growth rates on affected animals, to the detriment of profitability.
Having discussed this problem with his feed adviser, John Naylor of Carrs Billington, David was advised to try a compound feed that had Actisaf® live yeast added.
“Since we switched to the feed incorporating Actisaf® we don’t really have those problems any more,” David explains. “Calves seem to stay healthier and I wouldn’t use a creep feed now unless it contained Actisaf®.”
And the proof of David’s efforts is easy to find. All the calves are sold through Longtown market and buyers look out for his progeny. “We have built up a good following over the years from people who know that our calves will finish well. That reputation is important as it helps us achieve better prices,” David says.
And it seems the recognition of David’s hard work and attention to detail spreads beyond Longtown market. Last year David was a finalist in the Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year awards, with judges recognising his achievements in improving productivity and profitability on the farm.
Looking forward, David continues to focus on cost control, genetics and careful feeding to get the best from his animals and maximise profitability. And all the time that creep feeding features in his herd management routine, it is clear that Actisaf® will continue to play an important part in helping David achieve his objectives.