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MACKIE'S - THE COWS, THE MILK AND THE ICE CREAM

By Lauren Mullan, ECV Dairy Nutritionist

With summer round the corner, the thought of an ice cream brings nostalgic joy to many. What better ice cream to indulge in but the local, family run and sustainably produced Mackie’s Real Dairy Ice Cream.  Now a household name, the Mackie Family have been farming at Westertown Farm near Rothienorman for over 100 years.  Westertown started as a milk retail business in 1912 by Sir Maitland Mackie and has since grown through the years to the business we know today. The production of Mackie’s Real Dairy Ice Cream started in 1986 and  since then, the company has launched over 1000 ice cream flavours.  The company, still in family ownership, now consists of managing director Mac Mackie, development director Kirstin Mackie and  marketing director Karin Hayhow. 

Mackie’s of Scotland pride themselves on the ‘Dairy Difference’ meaning the most important ingredient in the ice cream is fresh whole milk and cream.  100% of all milk used is produced by their own herd of 325 Holstein dairy cows at Westertown Farm.  Originally a herd of Jersey cows, the farm has now developed the herd to Holstein, a more popular cow in the dairy  industry.  Chosen for their efficiency in  producing high milk volumes and maintaining quality butterfat levels,  the Holstein  is known for their gentle nature and hardiness.  This makes them the ideal cow for the modern dairy farm. 

The 1,000 acre farm, ranges between 300-600ft above sea level and comprises of 280 acres of grass silage, 200 acres of wheat, 160 acres of spring barley and 110 acres of winter barley.  A contractor with a forage wagon is sourced to take three cuts of silage and harvest all cereals and straw.

The herd is managed by David Smurthwaite. He is responsible for the 325 Holstein cows and the 300 youngstock including replacement heifers that will go on to be the future herd.  Sexed semen is used to inseminate cows for herd replacements and the rest is inseminated with either Belgian Blue or Aberdeen Angus.  The cows currently produce 12,000 litres of milk per day, with all cows milked through  Lely    robots. The robotic milking system allows cows to choose when to be milked.  The robots give the    added benefit of recording not only milk yield and quality but health measurements too. This includes temperature, weight and activity level.  The robot will send alerts to the cattleman if any issues arise, allowing for improved care of the cows through monitoring.  Westertown was one of the first farms in the United Kingdom to install a Lely robotic milking system back in 2001.  In 2013, the family upgraded to five A4 Lely Astronauts and last year invested in a sixth to cope with the growth of the herd, in terms of both  size and production.  The latest robot is an A5 Lely Astronaut. 

When a cow enters the robot, her collar is read to identify her. This allows the robot to know who she is, where she is in her lactation and how much milk she is likely to produce this visit.  The robot then uses this information to calculate her allocated amount of dairy cake. 

current dairy cake used in the robots is a bespoke formulation from ECV. This is a maize-based cake, formulated to work in unison with the base diet and silage.

In traditional dairy systems, cows are often split into groups depending on milk yield in relation to where they are in their lactation.  However, a robotic milking system is slightly different. To allow robots to work to their full capacity cows are in mixed groups.  This  allows the overall milk yield of the herd to be split across all of the robots to produce an average.   This prevents one robot having to work hard to maintain the yield of all high yielding cows, while another robot is only working at half capacity because it only has low yielders in its group.  It is for this reason that  rationing for cows milked on a robotic system is different from feeding cows milked in a traditional parlour. Balancing the ration has to be a careful process. To get this right, rations are formulated   using feedback from Dairy Manager, David, on the cow performance and data from the robots on cow visits and cow behaviour. As the cows have free choice to go into robots, it is vital that the cake is very palatable and provides a small treat while they are being milked.  It is for this reason that it is made using not only nutrient-dense but appetising ingredients such as sugar beet pulp and maize.

Testing silage monthly is vital to ensure the ration is always formulated to suit the cow’s nutritional needs and matches milk production.  Ensuring that cows’ nutritional needs are met promotes overall health, not just milk yield.  The ration must also consider hoof health to prevent lameness as well as metabolic health. Lowering the risk of acidosis can be difficult in such high yielding cows due to the energy requirement from cereals.

Last year, David decided to treat the home-grown cereals with Home n’ Dry which has grown in popularity in recent years. Home n’ Dry is an excellent addition to any feed grain to increase the protein  content, however the big benefit at Westertown is increasing the pH of the barley.  The cows have a high energy demand which needs to be satisfied by starch to allow them to produce quality milk in    abundance for ice cream production.  Using Home n’ Dry treated cereal in the base ration gives added peace of mind when high yielding cows are fed increased levels of cake to maintain their production. Alkaline treated cereals help to reduce acidosis risk, improve hoof health and maintain the efficiency of the rumen bugs throughout lactation. 

Feed efficiency is always at the top of the agenda for any farm enterprise.  The base to any dairy cow ration is always quality silage. Taking three cuts of silage and harvesting home-grown cereals on farm gives Mackies added control and sustainability. The focus is on including as much home-grown feed in the ration as possible, starting with silage and wholecrop. This significantly reduces the cost of production and reduces dependence on bought in feeds. It is important to note that this only works with high    quality silage and unfortunately the Scottish weather does not always allow for optimum silage production.  Some adjustment may be needed when formulating diets.

At Westertown, the base ration is made up of home-grown and locally sourced ingredients, including silage, wholecrop, draff, wheat dark grains and rapeseed meal.  When rationing these products in a base ration, it is essential that the energy and protein provided is a match to the cake.  This will minimise the risk of over or under supplying nutrients to each individual cow based on their own  requirements.  It also ensures no feed is wasted. 

Innovation and attention to detail across the business have been the key to the success at Mackies. By investing in new technologies such as the installation and continued investment in the robotic milking    system and keeping up with advancing feed technologies, like Home n’ Dry, they have thrived by focusing on the  attention to detail. The improvements to the dairy herd will continue through the generations of milking cows by focusing on quality genetics. Using trained and experienced staff guarantees efficient and healthy cows that get the best care and support through best farming practices. These innovative ideas and practices will allow    Westertown to keep up with growing demand for their delicious Real Dairy Ice Cream.  

By Paddy Jack, Account Manager DLF Trifolium

Scottish agriculture is facing many challenges in 2022, with higher input costs, less certainty on output prices, attacks on ruminant livestock farming for its green credentials and complications arising from    political decisions. East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition are in a great place to help you face these challenges and make your farm business better and more resilient. Working alongside our grass seed supply partner, DLF Seeds in Edinburgh, we are able to offer grass and clover mixtures which can help overcome some of the hurdles that farmers are increasingly having to jump over.

Ruminant animals are designed to chew the cud and convert complex plant fibre into useful energy and then into meat and milk. All plants grow towards reproductive maturity, it is nature after all, so we need to manage this to get the best outcome for our livestock systems. By breeding grass varieties that keep their fibre in digestible forms for longer than conventional varieties, we allow ruminants to break down cellulose and hemi-cellulose, before the fibre turns to lignin – which animals cannot breakdown. Mature hay and straw are examples of highly ligneous fibre feedstuffs, while young leafy grazing grass and leafy silage are examples of plant fibre with very little indigestible fibre. DLF Fibre Energy varieties are bred to have more of this accessible fibre than other varieties, which means that each bite of grass or silage has the ability to yield more meat or milk than less digestible varieties.

Look out for the DLF FIBER ENERGY logo to be sure you are feeding better bred grasses.

Nitrogen is a fundamental requirement for plant growth. This can of course come from decaying    organic matter, bagged fertiliser or leguminous plants, which have the ability to work with soil borne bacteria to fix atmospheric nitrogen into plant utilisable forms of nitrogen. To maximise this use of “air borne” nitrogen the root structures need to grow in good, open soils that can hold air pockets.       Legumes cannot fix nitrogen if the soil has no air in it so water logged or slumped soils will always produce poor results for legumes. UK soils and climate are better suited to white and red clover growth than many other legumes so they represent the best options for grass plants to be grown with companion clovers. Consider using red clovers for 2 or 3 year silage swards, and for fattening stock later in the season. Lambs regularly put on 300 grams/head/day on red clover aftermaths. Silage from ECV’s Protein Plus red clover mixture will typically have a protein of 15 to 20%, and can be cut 2, 3 or even 4 times per year with no requirement for nitrogen fertiliser after establishment. White clover will also contribute to silage yields but is probably more often seen in grazing situations. ForageMax Meat & Milk is a tremendous dual purpose mixture with 6% white clover inclusion, along with 100%  other SRUC Class 1 grass and clover varieties. This is our biggest selling mixture and is well suited to the harsher climate that the north and north-east of  Scotland frequently faces. Similarly our permanent pasture mixture also has 6% white clover and a slightly higher timothy inclusion for early bite, sward density, tolerance of wet and cold and long-term  persistence.

If you are farming free draining soil, with a high pH, you may want to consider growing Lucerne (Alfalfa). Once it is established it is a high protein forage crop which brings many soil benefits for subsequent crops. The root system is superb, allowing the Alfalfa plant to harvest nutrients and water from a much bigger area.

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By Joanne Hay, ECV Nutritionist

There are 80 days in every cow’s reproductive cycle which are crucial to the success and profitability of any suckler herd.  To maintain a tight 365-day calving interval the cow has just 80 days to recover from  calving and  conceive her next pregnancy.  Nutrition and herd management play key roles in achieving this through health and fertility, improving conception rates and tightening the calving period.

Managing Body Condition Score (BCS) pre-calving will help to reduce calving difficulties and prepare the cow for the coming breeding season.  By grouping cows based on BCS they can be fed accordingly.  Target BCS at calving is 2.5-3.0, this is optimum for restarting the oestrus cycle.  Any cows calving at a BCS less than 2.5 will need extra nutrition post-birth to help boost fertility.  Without this additional nutrition to increase their body condition post-calving, these cows will take longer to restart cycling and have an extended calving interval, reducing profitability.  Table 1 below shows the effect BCS has on calving interval.

Table 1 – Effect of  BCS on Calving Interval

Source: AHDB, Beef & Lamb

Maintaining BCS during the breeding season is vital to encourage oestrus activity while improving egg      viability and embryo survival. Nutrition from six weeks pre-calving through to six weeks post-calving is crucial for an easier calving and improved reproductive performance.  The energy requirements of a cow will double, once calved, as she is required to produce  increasing amounts of milk.   Ensuring the cow has adequate nutrition for both milk production and maintaining body condition will increase the chance of ovulation taking place. 

Vitamin and mineral supplementation are essential for optimising the health and fertility of the breeding suckler cow.  Calcium and Phosphorus are both vital to maximising fertility.  High levels of Selenium and Vitamin E are important for improving conception rates and embryo survival.  Copper is also key to    optimising suckler herd fertility.  This helps to aid ovulation and the expression of oestrus behaviour.  Magnesium should always be available to calved cows after turnout as they are at higher risk of               hypomagnesaemia (grass staggers) when switching to grazing lush grass. 

East Coast Viners Suckler Fertility Gold mineral is  specifically designed to meet the needs of breeding suckler cows.  It is formulated with all the essential minerals and vitamins to optimise herd health and  fertility whilst supporting the developing foetus. Using  a well-balanced supplement will help to reduce the risk of deficiencies and improve herd performance.  Available as a molassed bucket or a powdered       mineral, it will suit any suckler herd.  Our team are happy to discuss different options to help boost health and fertility in your suckler herd.

By Steven Eddie, ECV Nutritionist

With the cost of key inputs such as feed, fertiliser and fuel steadily increasing, it is now more important than ever to consider how you manage silage production on your farm. Silage is not cheap to produce so it is important to ensure that what is made is of high quality. By managing grass correctly, the silage produced will have good energy and protein levels, be highly digestible and leave little or no waste. This in turn will improve livestock performance and profitability.

The first step to improving silage quality is to decide how much and what type of silage is needed. Stock such as sheep or growing and finishing cattle require high quality silage with good levels of energy and protein paired with high digestibility. Suckler cows do not need silage with such high energy levels especially if being fed ad-lib in bunkers, this will ensure they do not become too fat. This is easier when producing baled silage. Fields can be cut when they are at the optimum grass quality or can be left to bulk out further for a greater yield. Farms operating a pit do not have this luxury and often need to take a number of fields at the same time to get the pit filled. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. Using a “one big first cut” approach to make silage increases the risk of fodder shortages because second cut yields and annual grass production are both reduced by pushing  first cuts  later into the summer. With  earlier cutting there is a great opportunity to make a cost-effective second cut of silage.

Once the decision has been made as to the type of silage to be produced, there is now a target to meet. For higher quality silages, cutting grass at the correct growth stage is the most important factor. Once the grass produces a seed head, the digestibility of the silage produced from this grass will be 70% at most.

This then decreases by 0.5% each day until the grass is cut. In mature, bulky crops there will be a further reduction of 3-4% digestible dry matter due to the dead material at the base of the sward. 

Having decided at what stage to cut the grass, there are a few further steps to consider on the day of cutting. Avoid cutting grass early in the morning. Where possible, leave cutting until the afternoon/evening when sugar levels in the crop are at their peak. High sugar content allows the crop to ferment quickly in the pit/bale, reducing pH and preserving the crop  correctly. If sugars are over 3% then the crop will ensile readily, at 2-3% wilting will be beneficial, while below 2% an additive may be       required.

Machinery settings are also important when trying to achieve high quality silage. It may be tempting to set mowers low to the ground to increase the amount of crop cut but this can lead to soil contamination. This in turn leads to moulds forming which can cause waste and lead to health issues in livestock. Ensure fields, intended for silage production, are heavy rolled to consolidate the ground, remove stones, mole hills and any areas poached by grazing stock. Ideally the mower should be set at a height of around 6-7 cm and increased to 10 cm in newly reseeded leys.

Once cut, it is important to let the grass wilt to remove excess water. This will reduce the amount of crop to cart to the pit or reduce the number of bales to wrap. When wilting grass, aim for a dry matter of 30%. This is very beneficial to good preservation,  especially if sugar levels in the crop are low. To speed up the wilting process, the cut crop should be spread out, tedding out for 24 hours is the recommended approach. Grass will not dry enough if left in the bout, even if left for 36 hours. A rapid wilt prevents excessive sugar and protein losses so ideally grass should not be left for longer than 24 hours. Getting the correct dry matter is crucial to ensuring a good fermentation. When grass is ensiled too wet, the silage produced will be very acidic as a large amount of acid needs to be produced to stabilise it. Equally, grass that is too dry also has its problems. It is difficult to consolidate in a pit or bale and often secondary fermentation can occur at feed out.

Filling of the pit is where the biggest problems lie in terms of making quality silage. If correct clamp management is maintained then the chance of losses will be reduced. Before filling, ensure the pit is clean and the floor and walls are in good condition. If walls require sheeting, ensure there is adequate overhang as this will reduce as the pit fills. Ensure grass is spread in even layers of no more than six to nine inches and rolled consistently. When silage layers are too thick, pockets of air will form. This slows fermentation and increases yeast and mould growth. This is more likely to cause the silage to heat when the clamp is opened.

Once the pit is full, the aim should be to cover the pit as soon as possible. Make an envelope with the side sheet so that any water running off the top of the clamp runs down the side and not into the silage. Double sheeting with silage sheets is recommended to ensure all air is expelled and a good seal produced. Cling film type silage sheets are becoming widely used. These thin plastic sheets cling down on the top of the silage, reducing air pockets and reducing spoilage; a black silage sheet will still be needed on top.

Baled silage must be managed similarly. Ensure bales are wrapped soon after baling and do not bale more than can be wrapped that day. Baler wrapper combinations cut out this step as bales are wrapped straight after baling allowing the fermentation process to begin immediately.

Some farms can lose up to 20% of dry matter post-ensiling through poor management. This can be a combination of effluent losses, failure to fully seal pits, and damage to bales. Monitor pit and bales continually and check for damage caused by weather conditions and vermin. Using a block cutter when feeding out will also reduce waste.

A further step that can be taken to improve silage quality and reduce waste is the use of a silage additive. East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition are  stockists of the Ecosyl Range of silage additives from Volac.

Using a proven additive like Ecosyl 100 on pit silage gives a much better control silage fermentation.   Ecosyl 100 has been shown to cut dry matter losses by half, improve silage digestibility and give better preservation of protein. More importantly, feeding grass silage made with Ecosyl has been shown to boost milk yield in dairy cows and improve daily liveweight gain in beef cattle.

For higher dry matter baled silage, Double Action Ecobale combines the same proven bacteria in Ecosyl 100 with a second beneficial bacterial strain plus a feed-approved preservative. It is a single treatment designed to keep bales fresher for longer by improving fermentation and targeting mould growth, heating and waste.

ECV also stock a high-quality range of bale wrap and net available for collection or delivery. Triowrap, Topwrap is manufactured to the highest specification using quality raw materials to ensure uniform thickness; giving a good seal and excellent weather protection. Topwrap is available in green or black.

RKW Topnet is a versatile, premium quality net suitable for all makes of round balers.  It provides edge to edge coverage to help achieve compact, well-shaped bales every time.

Also available to order Oxyseal and Secure Covers. Oxyseal Covers are a single 90 micron sheet with a built-in oxygen barrier that prevents oxygen from entering the clamp. This will eliminate surface waste, prevent mould and bacteria growth and improve silage quality.

With the cost of making silage increasing, any steps that can be taken to improve quality should be taken. Contact the sales team at ECV for more information on silage products.

By Calum Littlejohn, ECV Nutritionist

There is no denying that the costs of all inputs have risen dramatically in the last year for all farming enterprises including sheep flocks. Many farmers will be looking at ways to reduce costs and one of those ways may be reducing the amount of bought in concentrates but is this really cost effective?

An early lambing system will be aiming to get lambs away fat at around 12-14 weeks of age with the help of concentrates throughout. If the concentrates are reduced or taken away completely then this time scale could double if not triple with some lambs being kept until they are at least 12 months old. This in theory may be cost saving but for every extra week you keep those lambs they will be consuming more grass, silage, hay or some type of fodder. With fertiliser costs having at least doubled on the year along with other costs such as fuel, plastic and machinery, the costs of these forages have also increased dramatically. Creep feeding will allow you to get lambs off the farm quicker.  Less mouths to feed for a shorter period can only bring benefits. 

These benefits include:

· Freeing up more grassland for other classes of stock/forage production.

· A potential for reducing fertiliser requirements.

· Weaning earlier which gives ewes longer to recover condition.

One of the main things to consider when finishing lambs is the feed conversion ratio (FCR).   The FCR of the lamb is one of the factors that drives the profitability of your sheep enterprise. A lamb’s FCR is at its optimum when it is youngest and will start to decrease as it gets older. It costs more in terms of energy to maintain a lamb before it can gain weight. By feeding ECV Lamb Finisher Pellets, lambs could achieve an FCR of up to 4:1. Therefore every 4kg of feed that is fed equates to 1kg of liveweight gain.

Below is a table noting the effect that both price of feed and FCR has on the cost of a lamb to gain a kilo of liveweight.

With feeding costs higher, farmers need to make sure that whatever they are buying is of the highest   quality which may not necessarily mean being the cheapest. ECV Lamb Finisher is a 15% protein, high energy finishing feed. The Lamb Finisher contains high quality sources of protein such as hi pro soya and wheat distillers dark grains. Lamb Finisher also includes a full mineral package along with ammonium chloride to reduce the risk of urinary calculi.

At East Coast Viners, we have a team of nutritionists who are always available to help advise farmers on how to get the most out of their home-grown produce and animals. Whether it is creating rations, sampling silage, creating costings or just general   advice we strive to help our customers become more efficient and profitable.     

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By Joanne Hay, ECV Nutritionist

Feed costs have taken a dramatic rise in the last year being an average of £40/T higher than that of summer 2020.  Creep feeding calves can have long term advantages and is a good investment that provides better returns.  Both the livestock sector and market requirements have gone through changes in recent years resulting in efficiency and performance becoming increasingly important for beef farmers.  Maximising calf performance at an early stage is a key part for improving efficiency.

Grass quality begins to drop as we get further through the growing season and with the glorious hot weather of late some areas have also seen a reduction in grass availability.  It’s an ideal time to start introducing calves to creep feed.  By 120 days of age more than 50% of a calf’s nutritional requirements need to be met by feeds other than milk, e.g. grass or concentrates.  Calves are most economically productive pre-weaning, with the feed efficiency of spring born calves being higher just now than at any other stage of their life.  Their feed conversion ratio (FCR) can be as good as 4:1 at this stage, meaning that 1kg of creep feed could achieve as much as 250g of daily live weight gain.    Creep feeding at the pre-weaning stage can prove far more cost effective by gaining you a better return.

Creep feeding calves can have a range of other benefits.   Increasing their dry matter intake through access to concentrates, as well as the starch present in these feeds, helps to stimulate good rumen development.  This allows calves the best opportunity to reach their genetic potential and can improve weaning weights by an average of 35kg per head, as well as reduce stress during this period.  This reduction in stress will minimise growth checks along with pneumonia risk when being housed.  Feeding a high-quality creep allows for maximum frame growth, delivers increased weight gain over a shorter time period and provides calves with a better bloom at the time of selling.  Supplementing calves can also have benefits for the cow.  Access to creep will help reduce the pressure of providing for her calf in late lactation, allowing her to recover condition and ensuring optimum fertility for going back to the bull.  These benefits can aid profit margins and calf creep can provide one of the best returns on investment.

East Coast Viners Second Stage Calf Nut + Xtract is a high spec compound feed ideal for creep feeding.  It features an optimum protein of 17% and high energy at 12.5ME.  Formulated to be high in starch for greater rumen development, it also includes high quality protein sources such as soya for increased levels of DUP.  This creep feed supports frame growth while ensuring rumen efficiency.  This complementary feed is fully mineralised to promote a healthy immune system.   ECV Second Stage Nuts are also formulated to include Xtract, an additive proven to enhance animal performance.  This is achieved by improving feed conversion efficiency by up to 7.5%, boosting rumen function and increasing daily live weight gain (DLWG) by as much as 7.9%.  Methane production can also be reduced by up to 6%, with Xtract having achieved certification from the Carbon Trust LTD as a proven product leading to the reduction of methane produced by cattle.

FeedCost (£)
Cost per kg
(£/kg)
Cost per kg
gain (£)
DLWGExtra LWG over
120 days
Extra value at
£2.40/kg
Overall Profit
(£)
Grass0 (Control)0 (Control)0 (Control)1.00 (Control)0 (Control)0 (Control)
Feed 1£25525.5p£1.021.112kg£28.80£16.56
Feed 2£27027p£1.081.224kg£57.60£31.68
Table 1: How an increase in Live Weight Gain (LWG) can change profit margin.

When choosing a potential creep feed for your calves £15-20 per tonne can seem a big difference in price.  Table 1 above shows that even a small increase in daily live weight gain can convert to a large lift in overall profit.  The difference in the two feeds initially looks to be £15/T but when divided down to cost per kg Feed 2 is only an additional 6p/kg of weight gain.  Although more expensive in price per tonne, the extra 0.1kg DLWG that Feed 2 provides results in almost double the profit margin at £31.68 per calf over Feed 1 at £16.56 per calf. 

This shows that by providing calves with a high-quality creep feed pre-weaning you are making an investment to maximise their potential, improving efficiency through supporting calf development and in turn boosting performance.  Prices may be high this year but calf creep will continue to deliver the best return and benefit profit margins.

With increased propcorn and protein prices this year many farmers are looking at other options for grain treatments and feeding their livestock. One option which may be of interest is treating barley at harvest time with Home n’ Dry pellets to make Alkagrain. See below for some of the benefits of feeding Alkagrain:

Home n’ Dry pellets can be applied through our on-farm grain processor at harvest time. Our high-capacity bruiser is capable of bruising and treating between 20-30 tonnes per hour. We can also provide Prosid MI700 which is a buffered propionic acid to treat grain with. This product is far less dangerous to handle and much less corrosive than propcorn however sticks to the cereal better and protects from moulds and yeasts for longer. As can be seen from the graph below, Prosid MI700 remains far more stable over the storage period than both straight and ammonia buffered Propcorn.  Esters in Prosid MI700 provide a more gradual release of propionic acid, which protects the grain longer.

To find out more about Home n’ Dry, Prosid MI700 or the services we can provide please contact your local Rep or phone the office on 01569 740251

65 Years of Albert Fyfe Haulage by Steven Eddie, ECV Nutritionist

For many farmers in the north-east of Scotland, the sight of an Albert Fyfe lorry turning into their road end means that their feed delivery is in good hands. For anyone in the area involved in agriculture or road haulage, the company’s well-presented lorries are instantly recognisable by their dark green and red livery with tartan banner along the front grill.

Based in Auchenblae in the Howe O’ The Mearns, the haulage company was founded in 1956 and this year marks 65 years in business.  Owned and operated by husband and wife team, Albert and Elizan Fyfe, the family business has built up a reputation for high quality and excellent levels of service. They specialise in bulk deliveries with their fleet of rigid eight wheeler lorries. The vehicles are equipped with pneumatic blower equipment which allows bulk animal feeds and combinable crops to be discharged into bulk storage bins, silos and buildings where access is limited for tipping. The body of each lorry can be split into four separate compartments using internal doors. This allows up to four different products or deliveries to be hauled at once with a maximum load of eighteen tonnes. They have found a niche in the market as there are very few independent haulage contractors that carry out this type of work. Their main line of work is delivering animal feed and grain from the local millers and merchants out to customers as well as doing farm to farm work.

Albert Fyfe Snr with a local lad who enjoyed spending time with Albert.

The business was started in 1956 by Albert and Bunty Fyfe. Upon leaving the army, Albert purchased a lorry and started doing work locally for farmers and merchants using a flatbed lorry which saw many loads of feed and fertiliser in its time. These sundries were mostly sold in hundred weight bags and required to be hand balled off the back of the lorry and carried up the usually steep set of byre steps into the loft. In 1961, the couple had a son, Albert Jnr. A second lorry was purchased in 1963 and by this time the business had expanded its range of services to include livestock haulage as well as continuing with the flatbed work. In the early days, the company favoured operating either Seddon or Commer lorries before settling for Volvo which they continue to use today. In July 1963, tragedy struck when Albert Snr was killed in a road accident. The business was continued under the watchful eye of Mrs Fyfe and over the years expanded as demand grew for their services. At this time, most of their work was through North Eastern Farmers (NEF) based in Aberdeen. Fyfes carried out the majority of the work for the Mearns area. Sandy Petrie, an ex-trader at North Eastern Farmers, said that no matter where or when they needed a lorry to collect feed or grain, the Fyfe lorries were always there on time ready to carry out the work. Their friendly, efficient service was second to none.

Albert Snr

Upon leaving school, Albert Jnr started as an apprentice mechanic with Volvo Commercial Vehicles in Aberdeen. After serving his time, he returned home to learn the family business. He celebrated his 21st birthday on a Monday and had passed his lorry test by the Friday. This was no mean feat; his mother had a full day’s work lined up for him on the Saturday!

In 1978, the Fyfes made the decision to move away from livestock haulage and diversify into bulk tippers fitted with blowing equipment. At the time, their first main customer for this service was The Panmure Trading Company based in Monikie. Most of the work involved delivering feed barley and oats to farms. Blowing equipment allowed for the feed to be blown into storage lofts, cutting out the work of carrying bags up the stairs much to everyone’s relief! Albert notes that great care had to be taken in the early days trying to negotiate blower pipes through skylights and not break any slates or gutters. Life has certainly become much easier with most farms now having dedicated feed bins and silos for dedicated products. Each farm is different and feed stores vary. Today, many farmers have opted for ex-shipping containers which provide a flexible, vermin-proof store. The early blower lorries were kitted out with drop sides and internal doors. This still allowed the vehicles to be utilised for bags and pallets as well as bulk work. At their peak, the Fyfes ran a fleet of five lorries employing four drivers plus Albert. His mother attended to the day to day running of the company which is now done by Albert’s wife, Elizan.

As the blower work took off, Albert picked up work from several companies. As well as expanding their work with NEF in Aberdeen, work was picked up from Bibby based in Scone and ABN in Cupar. In 1991, Drumlithie-based grain merchants, East Coast Viners Grain, expanded their Broadwood site and installed their feed mill. East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition was founded. With orders on the system, who else would be better suited to handle the deliveries than the local, well-established haulier Albert Fyfe. Nowadays, Albert is a well-known figure in the weighbridge office at Drumlithie where he picks up his daily loads and gets ready to head off on his rounds. Other work is sourced from Norvite and WN Lindsay as well as farm to farm grain haulage. Traceability introduced a major benefit to Fyfes when they registered with TASCC – quality assurance for combinable crops and animal foodstuffs. Initially it was quite a high cost for the small company but they were “ahead of the game” to an extent being one of the earlier companies to sign up to the scheme.

Over the years, Albert has seen many changes to his job and in the agricultural industry. Throughout his career, the vehicles in his fleet have advanced greatly. They’re more hi-tech and come complete with onboard weighing equipment. This is a must-have when doing split deliveries on pig or poultry units. The downturn in the dairy industry in the north-east which provided steady work throughout the year has been a big loss. Smaller farms that were passed down through generations have been lost and taken over by bigger outfits. In the early days, there was always someone on farm to greet you and help with unloading. Today, with many farms spread out over several units, it can be a lonely existence for the drivers and farmers alike. Thank goodness for mobile phones to help with delivery instructions – all very well if you can get a signal!

We live and work in a world where things are continually evolving and changing. Nothing seems to stay the same for long and personal contact can sometimes be sadly lacking. However, it is always a pleasure to get a friendly wave, smile and toot when you meet Albert Fyfe on the road.

East Coast Viners, The Forbes Family and staff would like to thank Albert and Elizan for all their hard work and keeping our customers happy over the many years!

By Steven Eddie, ECV Nutritionist

Feed costs are one of the main factors affecting the overall profitability on beef units. Over the last year the price of bought in proteins has risen greatly. Raw materials like Hipro Soya have seen large price increases which then cause a knock-on effect to other protein products. The Covid-19 Pandemic has also caused supply issues of alternative products due to plant shut downs and reduced production. Raw materials such as Distillers Dark Grains and Pot Ale  Syrup which make up a large proportion of cattle rations have become difficult to acquire and supply is not guaranteed.

East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition, in partnership with molasses supplier ED&F Man, can tailor your feed plan to improve animal performance while reducing costs. Including a molasses blend in your total mixed ration  improves palatability, reduces dust and increases intake. Within their product range, ED&F Man can supply molasses blends that have added protein in the form of Regulated Release Urea. These products, when combined with home grown cereals and forages, can produce a balanced diet for finishing cattle and suckler cows.

By utilising the ruminant’s natural ability to produce microbial protein, this can allow for more cost effective production. Microbial protein is the most economic source of protein for ruminants - with a high digestibility value and optimal amino acid profile. It is used in the synthesis of milk protein, muscle structure and various other enzymes and hormones. To optimise animal production, whether for milk yield or live weight gain, it is important to correctly supply protein both in terms of   rumen degradable and undegradable protein. Around 70% of the protein consumed by ruminants is broken down into ammonia which is used to produce the microbial protein.

In order to produce microbial protein, the rumen also  requires a source of fermentable energy. The inclusion of a molasses blend to the ration improves rumen function. This increase in activity is mainly due to sucrose present in the sugar in the molasses. Sucrose is a six carbon sugar that has a significant effect on fibre digestion and production of microbial protein. Sucrose fermentation also favours butyrate production which  lowers acid  loading in the rumen which in turn reduces the risk of acidosis.

The ED&F Man range of Regulated Release Molasses Blends such as Regupro and Regumaize supply a cost-effective source and an ideal combination of readily available energy and both natural and regulated release proteins.  Regulated Release is a unique patented process developed by ED&F Man Liquid Products and is designed to give rumen bacteria exactly what they need to thrive. By providing a balanced and synchronised  supply of energy and protein, this leads to increased  microbial protein production and better animal performance. With a higher yield of microbial protein, less extra protein in the form of soya or bypass protein need to be fed. This maximises rumen performance   resulting in a more cost-effective ration.

Research carried out at the University of Reading investigated the effect of replacing 1.6kg of a soya and rapemeal blend with 2kg of Regumaize 44 within a TMR. The results found a significant increase in milk protein (+0.09g/kg), an increase in milk fat (+1.5g/kg) whilst feed intake was maintained.

Regulated release products can also be used as an alternative to Pot Ale Syrup. While pot ale can be a  cost-effective liquid protein, cost and supply fluctuate throughout the year. Nutritionally, it varies in analysis depending on the process at each distillery. Dry matter contents vary from 35-45% and protein can range from 10-14% crude protein as fed. Pot Ale also has a low  sugar content so does not provide the same rumen  stimulation. Regupro products have a much higher dry matter content. This means that 0.83kg of Regupro 50 will replace the protein found in 2kg of Pot Ale. Each product in the regulated release range is blended to a formulation. This ensures that each load is consistent in analysis and physical quality.

WHEN TO FEED

Regupro 38 and 50:

Ideal supplement to rations containing lower protein ingredients and home-grown cereals. Helps to complement rations based on grass silage by correcting energy and degradable protein imbalances. (Dairy and Beef).

Regumaize 44 and 65:

Targeted to get the most from maize, wholecrop silage and straw. Regumaize blends have a high nutrient  density meaning that high levels of animal performance can be supported (Dairy and Beef).

Regumix:

Designed to complement grass, mixed forage diets and straw based rations. Ideal for balancing buffer feeds for grazing animals (Dairy, Beef and Sheep).

Steven Eddie, ECV Nutritionist

By Lauren Mullan, ECV Nutritionist

The profitability of any suckler herd is determined by a healthy calf born to every cow every year within a tight calving pattern. Cow nutrition will have a huge influence on this, as healthy cows produce healthy calves and keep production costs down.  If the pandemic has taught us anything its that prevention is better than cure! 

With these points in mind, fat reserves are also important in a suckler herd. Fat reserves are an energy source that the body uses to maintain production when feed intakes are low. For example, when a pregnant cow is carrying a calf, her stomach capacity is reduced in late pregnancy. This results in less space for feed intake. As we all know, fatter cows   have  an   increased  risk  of  caesareans and calf      

mortality, similarly cows with low fat reserves can lack energy at calving and struggle with a slow labour. Targeting a body condition of 2+ at calving can help to minimise these issues (QMS, 2019)

Graph 1: condition scores for spring calving cows (QMS, 2020)

Working in partnership with an ECV nutritionist can help to improve your farms nutrition management.  Our team can assess your herd’s body condition score and then tailor a feed plan to suit your cattle’s requirements. ECV offer a forage analysis service free of charge. This allows for necessary changes to be made that are based on home produced forages. By ensuring that these steps are taken at the correct time, optimal nutrition should reduce calving issues related to nutrition. This will in turn improve calf health and growth.

Lauren Mullan, ECV Nutritionist

By Joanne Hay, ECV Nutritionist

With the weather changing and Spring teasing its arrival, grass growth starts to increase with the milder conditions.  It is an important time to ensure that suckler cow mineral requirements, more specifically magnesium, are being met. Magnesium is a crucial mineral for suckler cows, playing a vital role in mobilising calcium from the bones.  In the run up to calving this access to calcium can be key to ensuring a smooth calving.  Any deficiency could be very detrimental, causing metabolic issues such as milk fever.   Magnesium tetany – more commonly known as grass staggers – is caused by a lack of  magnesium. 

Lush spring grass can often be low in this essential major mineral, on average having around 1.6g of magnesium/kg of dry matter.  This can increase the risk of deficiency as low fibre grasses pass through the rumen very quickly, resulting in a decreased uptake of magnesium through absorption.  Cattle being grazed on fields where fertiliser has been applied can have an  increased risk of deficiency.  Both nitrogen and potassium inhibit the uptake of magnesium in the plant which, in turn, reduces the level of magnesium available to the cattle.  Similarly, if housed cattle are fed silage which is high in potassium there can also be a risk of magnesium being less readily available so it is important to ensure correct mineral supplementation during this period.  Magnesium cannot be made or stored in the body so daily supplementation is vital.  By giving cattle access to a constant source of magnesium you can greatly reduce the risk of grass staggers, helping to reach their requirements of 30g/day.

Popular options of supplementing magnesium are molassed mineral buckets, powdered minerals or hi-mag rolls.  Mineral buckets although easy to feed, can be hard to regulate intake so ensuring good access and an adequate number of buckets to number of cows is important.  It is also beneficial to make sure the bucket fed has a high level of magnesium – ideally around 17% - and contains magnesium from more than one source.  This helps to improve availability for   absorption.  Powdered  minerals can be a benefit when feeding housed cattle.  These can be easily fed along with silage, although intakes are also hard to regulate.  Aiming for around 25% magnesium in a powdered mineral will help to ensure requirements are met.  Hi-mag rolls are also a great form of supplementation with 1kg per cow supplying the full daily magnesium requirement of 30g.  Rolls can be easily fed on the ground and feeding cattle daily means intakes can be monitored and any health issues highlighted.  Hi-mag rolls will additionally supply a good source of protein and energy which, if grass is in short supply, is essential to help meet a cow’s nutritional needs.  Our team of  nutritionists at ECV are happy to speak with you about the best and most cost-effective way to reduce staggers risk and supplement your cow’s requirements, to suit your system.

Joanne Hay, ECV Nutritionist

By ECV Nutritionist Calum Littlejohn

Lauren and Andrew Houstoun with baby Alasdair

Glenkilrie is a 2,500 acre estate situated south of     Glenshee in Highland Perthshire, on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. Bought over 60 years ago, Glenkilrie is owned and farmed by Andrew Houstoun, in partnership with his parents David and Morag. They   employ one full-time worker at Glenkilrie who has given over 20 years service. The majority of the land at Glenkilrie is heather hill with approximately 500 acres of in-bye grassland. In recent years the Houstouns began contract farming for a neighbouring grouse moor,  managing a flock of 400 pure blackface ewes across 10,000 acres of heather hill.

On the home farm Andrew runs a herd of 160 Limousin and Aberdeen Angus cross suckler cows, most of which are mated back to Aberdeen Angus bulls. Cows are all spring calving, beginning in the middle of March. All replacements are homebred with heifers calving at two years old. Bulls are now all bought privately on farm. The top draw of spring born calves are sold straight off their mothers at weaning time in early November. The remainder of the calves are housed and fed through the winter on ad-lib pit silage and supplemented with 3kgs of ECV’s Second Stage Calf Nut. Andrew said that the calves performed particularly well this year on the Second Stage Calf Nuts. The last group were sold privately from the farm and  averaged 36kgs per head heavier than they did last year.

Glenkilrie’s dry cow ration is formulated to meet the cows’ nutritional requirements and comprises of straw and a mixture of grass and red clover silage. After calving, cows move to ad-lib pit silage. Glenkilrie used to sell all calves store however a small number of cattle are now finished to support Glenkilrie Larder.

The farm carries 1,100 breeding ewes which are a mixture of blackface and cheviot. Whilst the majority of these are bred pure, some are crossed with the Aberfield to produce replacements for the crossbred ewe flock of approximately 400. Lambing begins in the middle of April. The majority lamb outdoors except for the  crossbred ewes expecting twins and triplets. All  replacements are home bred and tups bought privately from Innovis and Easyrams. All the lambs, with the exception of those for Glenkilrie Larder, are sold to Scotbeef.  Lambs sold to Scotbeef are destined for Marks and Spencer as Glenkilrie is an M&S select farm.

In recent years, more has been done at Glenkilrie with multi-species swards, in particular lambs have been finished on red clover aftermath. Mixtures for reseeding also include chicory and plantain. Lambs are then grazed on stubble turnips with late season lambs supplemented with ECV Glenesk Lamb Finisher Pellets.

Blackface and Cheviots with twins graze the in-bye ground at Glenkilrie during the summer. Those with singles are put out to the heather hill.   Seasonal grazing is rented on the outskirts of Blairgowrie for the crossbred ewes with twins to graze over the  summer months.

In 2018 the Houstouns began deer farming and currently have 55 hinds and 2 breeding stags. The main focus  behind this addition was to produce venison for Glenkilrie Larder, whilst effectively utilising the poorer quality in-bye grassland. The hinds have settled well and their production cycle suits Glenkilrie’s later growing   season. The first of the deer calves are not born until late May. The transition to deer farming was reasonably   simple with the biggest task

being the upgrading of stock fences to deer fences and building suitable handling pens. All of this work has been carried out in-house. The hinds are run as one group on the rougher grazing supplemented with silage and ECV Second Stage Calf Nut during the winter months. Their management cycle is fairly simple with one annual wormer, bolus and fluke dose - fluke is the biggest health concern with the deer and thankfully there has not been any issues with this at Glenkilrie so far.

Andrew weans the calves after the rut in December and houses them inside for their first winter. Whilst inside they are fed 1kg per head of ECV Second Stage Calf Nut and ad-lib red clover silage. Andrew has found that housing the deer for their first winter is a great way to tame them and therefore has been able to build a herd with very good temperament. Calves are turned back out in the spring, with the first of them reaching slaughter weight in the late summer.  Andrew has a  target carcass weight of 60kg which  has given him good carcass balance so far. To improve pasture quality for the young stock they reseeded a block of ground with a herbal mix including chicory, plantain, white clover, red clover, timothy, cocksfoot, ryegrass, sainfoin and sheeps parsley and are impressed with the result.

Some of the products available at Glenkilrie Larder

Diversification on the farm includes the farmhouse B&B and Glenkilrie Larder. Glenkilrie Farmhouse B&B has been run by Andrew’s mother Morag for over 30 years. She had always worked in the hospitality trade and started the venture in order to work from home when Andrew and his two sisters were growing up. Initially the business thrived with British guests and people spotting the B&B sign at the road end. Over the years technology has revolutionised the business with the  majority of bookings now made online and by international guests often heading to see Balmoral and other nearby attractions. The peaceful   location has also seen Morag secure guests who have returned year on year and become more like family friends.

Glenkilrie Larder was set up in December 2019 by Andrew and his wife Lauren. The business directly markets all three meats produced at Glenkilrie: venison, beef and lamb. Lauren and Andrew personally deliver fresh meat the first weekend of every month within   Angus, Perthshire and Aberdeenshire and have frozen stock available all year round. The meat can be couriered to customers throughout     mainland UK with packages regularly destined for    London. They also  supply three local hotels with meat, two of which have continued trading throughout Covid doing takeaways. Lauren is in the final stages of    building a website and continues to expand Glenkilrie Larder’s customer base. Glenkilrie Larder can be found online and have a Facebook and Instagram page. The end goal for the Houstouns is to open an onsite farm shop and grow their customer base even further. Family life is also busy as Lauren and Andrew have a 16 month old son, Alasdair and in February have just welcomed their second child, a baby girl, Ellen.

Calum Littlejohn, ECV Nutritionist

Feeding molasses is one of the easiest ways to supply a good source of fermentable energy and sugar. This is essential in any well-balanced diet. A molasses blend helps to maximise rumen function, stimulate fibre digestion and increase dry matter intake which can lead to improved flock health, performance and fertility.

Feeding high energy molasses blends to ewes in late pregnancy can have a big impact on lambing success, reducing the risk of twin lamb disease and boosting lamb vigour. With most ewes coming into the winter in good condition, the key is to keep them in good condition! It is important to prevent ewes getting overly fat or losing too much weight as either can lead to reduced performance and the increased chance of metabolic disorders. Ewes bearing twins and triplets have a particularly high demand for energy, especially glucose. As they get closer to lambing this demand increases greatly. If these energy and glucose demands aren’t met then ewes can suffer twin lamb disease/pregnancy toxaemia.

Around 70% of the lamb’s growth takes place in the last two months of pregnancy. It is therefore vital to ensure that the ewe’s nutritional requirements are met during this time. To meet the high energy demands of the growing lamb, ewes naturally metabolise body fat in the liver, producing ketones. If the dietary energy supply is inadequate, excessive body fat is metabolised, leading to an excessive build-up of ketones to toxic levels and body condition loss. The rule that prevention is better than cure is particularly true in this situation. Twin lamb disease can be prevented by feeding the ewe properly. This is in terms of both quantity and quality of feed supplied. Supplementary nutrients should be introduced six weeks pre-lambing with an amount based on ewe condition and where possible with predicted   scanning information.

Feeding a high energy liquid feed such as ED&F Man’s      Sheepmol will complement the East Coast Viners Ewe Feed Range, as well as maximising home-grown forages. Molasses products also have a low substitution rate which means more can be fed than would be the case with dry feed without reducing  forage intake.  ECV Ruminant Nutritionist, Steven Eddie,        comments that customers using Sheepmol have dramatically reduced twin lamb disease. Ewes have lambed in much better condition and critically have produced good quality colostrum and milk, leading to strong, thriving lambs.

Sheepmol is a high dry matter, high sugar blend of cane  molasses, glycerine and liquid co-products, formulated  specifically for sheep. The unique mix of energy sources promotes healthy lamb growth and maintains ewe health. The exceptional palatability drives intake when the overall dry matter intake is reduced in late pregnancy. Free access feeding via   liquid feeders reduces overall stress and the incidence of bullying or prolapse as well as saving time for the shepherd.

Sheep diets should be based around good quality forage supplemented with appropriate energy and protein sources, as well as good sources of vitamins and minerals. Farmers requiring extra supplementation in the flock should consider Sheepmol Plus. This product gives all the benefits of feeding Sheepmol but also includes a vitamin and mineral pack to aid ewe health and vitality.

The Sheepmol Range of products are available for delivery on farm from 1,000 litres in an IBC tank as well as bulk deliveries from 4,000 litres (5t) upwards. Alternatively, IBCs can be collected from our store at Drumlithie. For information on the range of molasses feeds and molasses storage solutions, please contact a member of our sales team.

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by Calum Littlejohn, ECV Beef & Sheep Nutritionist

With harvest well through and nights starting to draw in, many farmers will be starting to think about their plans for winter feeding. A handy tool that is often overlooked is getting silage analysed. This is a service that is offered by East Coast Viners. Silage can be analysed for lots of things including dry matter (DM), crude protein (CP), metabolisable energy (ME), pH and minerals and vitamins. Travelling around farms I often hear people say that the silage “it is what it is” and that “they’ll have to eat it whether it is good or bad” but the point is that you don’t know how good or how bad it is. By testing your silage, you can make informed decisions on your feeding plan for winter. Upon receiving your results our team of nutritionist can then formulate a bespoke ration that best compliments your home-grown feed.  

Grass silage can make up anywhere from 30-100% of a beef ration over the winter period therefore it is essential to know what you are feeding. In high forage content diets, silage quality is key to improving animal output, saving costs whilst increasing profitability over the winter months. Silage quality is also key to getting cows to the correct body condition score (BCS) of around 2.5+ before calving and throughout the production cycle. Cows should be conditioned scored 3 times a year, at weaning, 60-90 days pre calving and at calving. By scoring at weaning cows can be sorted into groups and turned onto appropriate grazing to either increase or maintain their BCS. By scoring cows again around 3 months pre calving this will allow appropriate time to alter diets if extra feeding is required. This is when silage analysis becomes extremely important. For example, a 650kg suckler cow needs between 75-85 MJ of energy for maintenance. If a suckler cow eats around 9-10kgs of DM then this energy requirement is easily achieved from an 8-9ME silage. Problems can arise when the silage is high in energy and is not rationed properly. For example, the same scenario but the silage is 11-12ME. This would mean that the cow would receive between 99 and 120 ME which would lead to the cows becoming too fat pre calving.

High quality silage must be rationed carefully. One way to reduce the amount of energy the cows receive would be to restrict the level of silage in the diet and mix in some straw. This should be done carefully though, to make sure that CP levels of the whole diet do not drop below 9% in the DM. Depending on the analysis of the silage, feeding additional protein may be required to achieve this. Care must also be taken when feeding a restricted silage diet that more dominant cows do not bully the shyer feeders leaving them with only straw.  We can reduce the risk of this by making sure there is plenty of feed space for all cows. Splitting cows into groups depending on their BCS means that leaner cows can be fed a higher quality diet to gain a bit of condition pre calving. Many farmers feed their heifers separately due to their nutritional demand being higher, as they are still growing, so leaner cows could be moved in with them to help gain condition.

Another scenario where silage analysis is very important is feeding store calves over the winter months. If the silage is of high quality, then savings can be made by reducing the amount of bought in/home grown concentrates that need to be fed without reducing performance of the cattle (see table 1.). On the other hand, if silage quality is not as good as in previous years and the ration has not been altered to take this into account then DLWG (daily liveweight gain) will be reduced therefore days on farm will increase, and the efficiency of the enterprise will decrease. By getting silage tested farmers can plan for the winter by getting rations formulated, selecting the right concentrate to balance their silage and can then start to create more accurate costings for the year. East Coast Viners provide a silage sampling service and our team of nutritionists are always available to create rations to balance home grown feeds/forage. Get in touch today with your East Coast Viners specialist or call us on 01569 740251 to find out more.

 Table 1. Silage quality impact on the amount of concentrates required to achieve a 1kg liveweight gain per day from a 400kg continental steer 

Costings = Silage £35 per tonne fresh weight, Concentrates £200/tonne (AHDB, 2019)

Current Offer 10% off on Full Tonne Orders - until the end of October 2020

With a promising flush of grass for September, the risk of grass staggers caused by a magnesium deficiency is high.  The lush grass can often be low in this essential major mineral.  Low fibre grasses pass through the rumen very  quickly, resulting in a decreased uptake of magnesium through absorption.  Cattle being grazed on fields where fertiliser has been applied have an increased risk of deficiency as both nitrogen and potassium inhibit the uptake of magnesium in the plant.  In turn, this reduces the level of magnesium available to the cattle, it is important to remember that magnesium cannot be made or stored in the body so daily supplementation is vital.  Figure 1 shows the risk of staggers dependant on time of year, with cows being most at risk in the months of May and October.  By giving  cattle access to a constant source of magnesium you can greatly reduce the risk of grass staggers, helping to reach their requirements of 30g/day.

Multi-Mag buckets are always a very popular option. With high energy and mineral contents they are successful on most farms. Another option to supplement magnesium is ECV High Mag Rolls.  Not only is this a good way to check that every cow is receiving their daily intake of magnesium but the added energy and minerals can help satisfy her nutritional needs and  gain body condition lost at weaning, and be source of energy, helping improve conception.  1kg of high mag rolls equates to the recommended 30 grams of magnesium per head per day. Mag rolls are highly palatable and contain a full mineral package.  The rolls are 16mm in diameter so are well suited to feeding on the ground via a snacker – no need for troughs. By feeding cows daily they will become used to human contact which can help with temperament whilst handling in the future, along with highlighting any health issues with cows that are not coming in to eat.

Figure 1: Number of staggers cases by month.

ECV High Mag Rolls are available in bulk, tote bags and in 25kg bags. ECV Multi-Mag buckets are highly palatable with 17% magnesium from 3 different sources and are available in 20kg and 80kg buckets.  Both rolls and buckets benefit from high mag levels and increased availability to ensure cattle absorb enough magnesium to meet requirements and reduce grass  staggers.  Speak with an ECV nutritionist about the best and most cost-effective way to supplement your cow’s  requirements and discuss what suits your system. 

In recent years, the changes and challenges that has faced the livestock sector, in particular the beef industry, has meant farmers have had to become more efficient.  Looking at new ways to get the most out of their livestock, the beef sector has increased the push for efficiency and improving performance.  This all starts with the calves.  With the current ever-changing Scottish weather, there’s never been a better time to start introducing calves to creep feed.  Calves are most economically productive pre-weaning, with the feed efficiency of spring born calves being higher just now than at any other stage of their life.  Their feed conversion ratio (FCR) can be as good as 4:1 at this stage, meaning that 1kg of creep feed could achieve as much as 250g of live weight gain.  Therefore, creep feeding at the pre-weaning stage not only provides calves with all their nutritional requirements, but proves far more cost effective by gaining you a better return.

There is an array of other benefits to creep feeding calves; starch present in creep feed, when converted to fatty acids, helps to stimulate good rumen development.  This allows calves the best opportunity to reach their genetic potential.  Increased weaning weights can be achieved through creep feeding, as well as reducing stress during this period.  This results in less of a growth check along with a reduced risk of pneumonia when being housed.  Feeding creep can reduce the number of days the animal is on farm and provide calves with a better bloom at the time of selling.  These animals will also go on to be finished far easier. 

In addition to this, supplementing calves can have benefits for the cow too.  It can help reduce the pressure in challenging weather, allowing her to recover condition and ensuring optimum fertility for going back to the bull.  All of these benefits can have a big impact on margins and creep feeding can provide one of the best returns on investment.  Figure 1 below shows the nutritional demand of a calf pre-weaning, along with the gap that needs supplemented during this stage to ensure optimum growth and performance. 

Figure 1. Milk yield of a typical beef cow vs nutrient requirement of a nursing calf.

East Coast Viners Second Stage Calf Nut + Xtract is a high spec compound feed ideal for creep feeding.  It features an optimum protein of 17% and high energy at 12.5ME.  Formulated to be high in starch for greater rumen development, it also includes high quality protein sources such as soya for increased levels of DUP.  This creep feed supports high frame growth rates while ensuring rumen efficiency.  This complementary feed is fully mineralised to promote a healthy immune system.   ECV’s Second Stage Nuts are also formulated to include Xtract, an additive proven to enhance animal performance.  This is achieved by improving feed conversion efficiency by up to 7.5%, boosting rumen function and increasing daily live weight gain (DLWG) by as much as 8%.  Methane production can also be reduced by up to 6%. 

By providing calves with a high-quality creep feed to supplement their diet pre-weaning, you are giving them the best opportunity to maximise their potential. Through supporting their development, you are ensuring an economically efficient way to improve performance and boost returns.

By Joanne Hay, ECV Ruminant Nutritionist.

Featured products:

2nd Stage Calf Nuts + Xtract

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By reducing cow size, introducing a new breed and careful nutrition management, Angus farmer, Robin Norrie has increased herd size and improved efficiency in his suckler unit from the same acreage of grass.

Robin is the fifth generation at Denhead of Arbirlot and Glentyrie and runs the productive beef and arable units in partnership with his father Frank and his uncle Douglas.

The farms are spread over around 300 acres ranging from 300 to 600 feet above sea level, with the soil type ranging from some light loamy land to some more heavy clay soils. The Norries grow some 150 acres of malting spring barley and this year have grown around 15 acres of winter barley. The idea behind the winter barley is to get some early barley for feeding along with getting early entry for a hybrid rape mix to graze over the winter. There is also 116 acres of grass and some land is rented out for potatoes and vegetables.

The cattle breed of choice is Stabiliser and the herd consists of 140 cows and 31 heifers which run on the grass. Robin is in the process of implementing a rotational grazing system, which helps him to graze more cattle on a smaller acreage of grass. As well as grazing, 800 bales of silage are made which is often from paddocks that have been taken out of the rotational system due to increased grass growth. Robin also treats around 400 bales of straw with ammonia for feeding over the winter.

Over the past 10 years the Norries cows have reduced in size by around 100kgs to an average last year of 640kgs at winter, and this, combined with changing to the Stabiliser has allowed Robin to keep another 40 cows on the same amount of forage.

Stabiliser bulls are put in with the cows around the start of June and run for 10 weeks. Due to the Stabilisers having a slightly shorter gestation period, calving begins the first week of March. Robin said, “Over the past four years we have achieved a 93% weaning rate from cows put to the bull.”

Cows that have calved are turned out to grass around the end of March depending on the weather. ECV Second Stage creep feed is offered to the calves from July/August onwards. This has increased calf weaning weights along with reducing stress and health issues due to calves being adapted to a different diet before weaning at around 190 days old. Last year at weaning the cows averaged 624kgs at a body condition score of 3.5.

All replacements are home-bred apart from some heifers that were bought in 2019 and heifers are vet checked, pelvic measured and calved at two-year-old. They also sell some heifers, which are proving to be highly sought after, regularly being spoken for before weaning.

Male calves are left entire and finished using as much home-grown feed as possible. In 2019 Robin made use of East Coast Viners’ grain processing mill for bruising his barley while treating it with Home n’ Dry. Over 100 tonnes of grain was treated in a process that took around four hours. The barley was bruised at around 17% moisture with Home n’ Dry applied at the same time. The treated grain was then covered and stored for two to three weeks to allow the pellets to release ammonia throughout the grain before feeding to the bulls.

Although Home n’ Dry increases protein, Robin wanted even more protein for growth and turned to ECV for help. ECV nutritionist Calum Littlejohn said, “We formulated a 20% protein concentrate which contained our Alka beef mineral + Xtract + Biosprint at a high enough level to be fed at five parts alka grain to one part concentrate. The balancer added different sources of protein to the ration along with molasses which helped increase palatability and DMI.”

Robin weighs his bulls monthly throughout the winter to make sure none go out of spec and was delighted to see that his bulls averaged 1.8kgs DLWG from weaning until the end of February. Once the Alkagrain ran out the bulls moved onto ECVs Alka Intensive Beef Blend however for another year Robin plans to keep more of his own barley therebye reducing bought-in feed.

The first of the bulls were finished at just over 12 months and Robin hopes to have them all away by the time they are 14 months old at R and U grades.

Along with selling finished bulls Robin has taken the decision to start selling Stabiliser bulls for breeding. The bulls are low birthweights with great temperaments and have not been pushed. They have been grown slowly on a ration of silage and no more concentrates than 4kgs/head/day.

Moving forward Robin is looking for ways to increase his efficiency and therefore profitability. He commented, “Beef production cost in the UK is too high and we are striving to find not only cheaper but more efficient ways to produce beef. We cannot alter the beef price so we must focus on the things we can change such as nutrition, genetics and health to get the most things we can change such as nutrition, genetics and health to get the most out of our cattle.”

In a time where home haircuts and home schooling have become commonplace, the nation has never been so receptive to the importance of where their food comes from.  When the nation filled trollies in a panic, our customers pulled on their wellies and worked hard to meet demand and fill shelves.  The general public have since realised the great importance of locally produced food and retailers.  Butchers, bakers, and farm shops are all helping to meet demand with fresh, local produce and many offering home deliveries, especially important to high risk customers.    

At East Coast Viners we are exceptionally proud to have been part of an industry that helps keep families fed.  When some people turned to binge watching Netflix, dairy cows still needed milked, ewes continued to lamb, cows still needed fed, potatoes planted, and cereals sown.

At the mill we quickly adapted, like many other businesses to follow guidelines and keep our customers safe.  Social distancing took a bit more adjusting to for a company so traditionally hands on.  We had feed advisors on loaders at 11pm filling much needed orders and nutritionists taking to video calls to allow them to give informed advice. All members of staff have had to become flexible in their roles, including the road sales team helping to bag and load feed when needed.

Dairy nutritionist Lauren Frew has been taking advantage of Microsoft Teams to assess body condition score, rumen fill, lameness, and general health of the cow. These video calls have also allowed Lauren to look at ration consistency and dung formation.  Lauren is a great believer in the value of assessing dung to tell us more about digestive health and feed efficiency.  The software has also allowed our nutritionists to share and discuss silage results with customers, just like we would on a farm visit, just socially distanced and safe.

The management of ewes prior to tupping and all the way through pregnancy has a major effect on the number of lambs born and hence profitability of the sheep enterprise.

This was the message which came out of a series of two sheep nutrition meetings hosted by East Coast Viners Animal Nutrition recently. Both meetings, at Inverurie, and Perth were attended by over 60 farmers keen to maximise the outputs from their flocks.

Calum Littlejohn, part of the beef and sheep nutrition team with ECV explained that body condition scoring (BCS) was critical to monitoring the condition of ewes but pointed out that once the ewes are pregnant, it is very difficult to change the BCS.

He advised minimal stress during early pregnancy and maintain the plane of nutrition. He said, “In mid-pregnancy, the ewe should not gain or lose more than half a condition score of body weight, in an average size ewe, that is three to four kg.”

Most farmers know that late pregnancy is the critical time with 70 per cent of foetal development in the final eight weeks of pregnancy, however rumen space is a challenge at this time and if a ewe has a poor BCS, it is too late to change it.

He said, “A ewe carrying twins will have an energy requirement of about 11.4MJ/day seven weeks before lambing; by one week pre-lambing this has risen to 18.3MJ/day with very little rumen space, so it is important to feed high energy and protein at this time.”

ECV Animal Nutrition have a range of ewe feeds suitable for attaining the correct BCS at tupping and feeding throughout pregnancy to maintain BCS and optimise lamb numbers and survival.

The Rolls Royce of the range are the XL Ewe 18% nuts and rolls, which not only have Megalac, a rumen protected fat, to promote milk production, but also Amino Green, a rumen protected protein, which is beneficial to the health of both ewe and lambs.

The whole range contains quality ingredients, vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin E and Selenium, which promote ease of birth and lamb vigour.

Calum, said, “It is very important to look for value when buying feed for pregnant ewes, always read the label and look for quality raw materials such as fibre and protein.”

Euan Hart, regional manager with Scotmin Nutrition, which produce the Megastart Ewe and Lamb mineral tubs sold by ECV, focused on feeding ewes for colostrum quality and milk supply. He said, “Unlike cattle, when sheep lamb their milk production is pre-determined and there is not a lot you can do about it with feeding, so the critical period of nutrition is the last four weeks pre-lambing when colostrum is being produced.”

He emphasised the importance of colostrum with the optimum for a lamb being 50ml/kg of liveweight within six hours of birth. He said, “Colostrum is gone in 24 hours, as has the lambs ability to absorb it, so the most important aspect of lambing is to have vigorous lambs, up on their feet quickly and receiving good quality colostrum; that is what we feed for.”

A recent study of dead lambs under a week old in Wales showed that 28% were related to lack of colostrum and, just to put it in perspective for the assembled group, Euan said, “One litre of colostrum has the same energy as five mars bars!”

He advised that Megastart tubs should be available for four to six weeks before lambing. They provide ewes with, not only an excellent source of energy and a high quality rumen bypass protein combined with minerals and vitamins, but also a unique MOS designed to activate the animals’ immune system and improve colostrum quality.

Steven Eddie, ECV Beef and Sheep nutritionist rounded the evening off by discussing molasses-based liquids for ewes as a source of energy during pregnancy.

He said, “Molasses is a source of sucrose, a 6-carbon sugar which helps with the digestion of fibre and the production of microbial protein in the rumen. It is ideal for giving ewes an energy boost during late pregnancy when their rumens are space restricted.”

The Sheepmol brand produced by ED and F Man is sold by ECV and is a high dry-matter, high sugar blend of cane molasses, glycerine and liquid co-products formulated specifically to feed sheep. There is also a Sheepmol Plus which has added vitamins and minerals.

Bush Farm at Crathie, Ballater, is home to Ron and Margaret Finnie, who with son Gavin and grandson Graeme run 3000 ha at Crathie near Ballater. Margaret keeps the books and records.

The Finnies take seasonal grazing close by from Glentanar Estate, Mar Lodge Estate, Mar Estate, Abergeldie Estate, Banteith Midmar, Tamnagorm Midmar and Hillhead of Kintocher, as well as contract farming at Glen Muick.

The Bush is a mix of upland and hill and rises from 1200 ft above sea level. Most of the land is used for grazing. 20 acres of a long-term clover and rye mixture is reseeded using a direct drill every year to keep clean fresh pasture. The Finnies also contract drill for neighbouring farms.

200 acres is cut once for silage each year and they also cut silage for Balmoral Estate. All the silage is baled. Aftermaths are grazed by weaned lambs. Sometimes the Finnies make hay, but not this year as there is plenty left over from last year.

The herd is comprised of 135 limousin cows and heifers. Ron bought his first limousine in 1985. All the replacements are home bred.  Limousin cattle are easy calved. We stopped buying in cows about 10 years ago, the cows would be pure limousin, but they are not registered,” said Ron, “The breed produces calves with great conformation”. Limousin bulls are used at the Bush, these are bought from the spring show at Thainstone and Stirling mart.

There are 30 back end calvers and the rest of the cows are calved in the spring. All the cows are calved outside with a pre-calving ration of big bale silage and easy calving minerals. The heifers are bulled between 15-18 months and are taken inside to calve to keep a close eye on them. After calving the cows get additional draff and ECV Suckler Booster Rolls added to the ration. “ The cows milk very well with the rolls. Milk production is key for a healthy calf” Gavin added. Calves are weaned from the spring calving herd the following January. The calves are fed ECV 17% Stock Nut from day one. Gavin sometimes mixes sugar beet pulp through the ration.

The spring calves are sold in April at Thainstone Mart and UA Huntly at an average weight of 380-400kg. ECV’s Rebecca Stuart added, “Creep feeding from day one makes the most of the calves’ feed conversion efficiency.” Hoppers go out in the back end and creep feeding starts then, before the calves are housed in mid-October, when they are taken inside prior to sale in the middle of January. “Feeding the calves a good creep all winter gets them looking their best for the spring sales,” said Rebecca.

Spring is an extremely busy time at the Bush; as well as calving, the Finnies have a flock of 2500 breeding ewes to lamb, with help from a team of 8 working dogs that help gather off the hills. The flock is made up of Blackfaces, Greyfaces and cheviots. The past few years the Finnies have used New Zealand Suffolks on the greyfaced ewes, this has produced excellent quality lambs that are easy lambed. Blackface tups are bought from Stirling, Border Leicester tups from Kelso and cheviot tups from Dingwall. The flock are tupped as gimmers, “lambing kicks off on the 20th of April with the next batch lambing at the beginning of May”. Everything is lambed outside with pens inside for ewes that need extra assistance.

The blackfaces and cheviots are given high energy and protein tubs. Greyfaces get ECV 18% Ewe Rolls. All ewes get neeps at lambing time to boost milk production. Gavin keeps his own ewe lambs for replacement, the remainder get fattened with the wedder lambs. Greyface lambs are weaned in September, Blackfaces in October and turned out to the silage aftermath. They are then moved onto a stubble turnip and rape mix. The Suffolk cross lambs usually fatten off of this alone and are killed at Portlethen. The blackface and cheviot lambs get a hopper along with the forage mix of ECV Lamb Finisher pellets. “Lambs finish quick and kill out at 20kg DW” said Gavin.

At East Coast Viners we recently held our annual Family Fun day.  Staff and their families, from both our mill and the Forbes farms, enjoyed a variety of fun activities including a climbing wall, bouncy castle and clay pigeon shooting while the kids also got to meet calves from the farm.  This was all topped off with a delicious BBQ where over 250 burgers and sausages were devoured!

The Booth family, Graham, Kathleen, Kyle (11) and Emma (4), farm at Lower Cushieston, Inverurie. They have sown 115 acres of spring barley this year, Sassay and Lorriet.

They try to get most away for malting, but need 80T for their own use. Combining is done by a contractor. The Booths grow pea silage undersown with grass. This is usually cut in July, and made into bales. Graham said, “I decided to use this to get more bulk of silage, and think that the cows are more satisfied with the pea silage, which analyses out well.”

Grass is in a rotation and it is ploughed down every four or five years. This year there is 24 acres of grass silage. “We usually take two cuts, and got a second cut of grass silage after the peas last year.” Graham makes all the silage into bales, and gets a contractor in to wrap it. “We don’t usually make hay but might make some this year off of set aside parks, because we usually buy hay in for additional feeding for the cows.”  

There are 32 Simmy and Limmy cross cows, and 80 store stirks (Charolais, Simmies, Limmies) are bought in from Thainstone or Huntly in the spring. They are bought at 350-400 kg. They are housed until there is sufficient grass growth in the spring, and then put out to grass. 30-40 of these stores are sold off the grass at Thainstone as conditioned stores about 550 kg. The remainder, and Graham’s own calves, are brought in around September/October. They are sold at Thainstone at the end of February around 550-650 kg.

Graham uses a Hereford bull, “The cows calve easily and the calves have a lot of vigour. The Hereford cross fleshes very well, putting on weight at grass.” Cows calve in the spring, from March until the end of May. Some of the heifers are put back out to grass with next year’s stores and grazed over the summer, then sold at 17 months, “Some of these are bought for bulling heifers”.

The cows are housed in November and get ad lib silage, pea silage, and straw pre-calving. This is mixed in a tub feeder. Alkagrain is added to the ration post-calving. ”I find that the pea silage keeps the cows’ condition good.”

At grass, the stores get a grazing mineral and Himalayan rock salt. “Before housing, they get a little Alkagrain fed through the feed cart.” Once housed they get the same forage mixture as the cows, and Alkagrain ad lib in a hopper. “I used to treat the barley with propcorn and buy a protein mineral, but when I read that the Milnes were treating barley with Home n’ Dry, I thought I would try it, and have been delighted with the results. Robbie has been bruising barley here for ten years and adds the Home n’ Dry to our barley, which we then cover for two weeks while the Home n’ Dry raises the protein of the grain and turns it into Alkagrain.” Graham is very pleased with the results, “The treated grain is rocket fuel and folk at the mart comment on how well the cattle are looking.” ECV Nutritionist Rebecca Stuart said, “Graham has saved money on the cost of treating his barley, and no longer needs to buy expensive protein concentrates. Customers feeding Alkagrain regularly achieve DLWGs of 1.8kg or better. The alkaline nature of Alkagrain makes it a very safe feed.” Graham added, “I have no problems with laminitis or acidosis on the ad lib Alkagrain.”

“We were 150 bales of straw short last year, but the DLWG of the cattle is much better with the Alklagrain, so we got the cattle away quicker, which was a big saving. Feeding more of my home- grown cereals is much better.”  Graham treated 80T last year. “The barley was treated at 18-20% moisture which was much better than in 2017, when it was coming off the combine at 27%!! I’m planning on using Home n’ Dry again this year. Robbie and James are very efficient, and do a tidy job.”

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