Bush Farm

26th July 2019

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.

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