John and Amanda Paterson sought to improve lambing percentages at Hartbush Farm, the 605-acre farm they run with their children, Stephen and Louise, in Dumfries.
“An empty animal is non-profit making,” says John. “The most costly time is when you are rearing a cow to produce calves so, if you can reduce the number of replacements you need, you will reduce costs.”
The Patersons run a flock of 620 sheep, plus cheviot mules and a herd of 260 Limousin and Simmental crosses. These calve in two blocks, in the spring and summer and they breed their own replacements.
Store cattle are sold through Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers’ Mart and bull beef go to Dawn Meats. “We sold our 13 month old cattle this week and they averaged 384kg deadweight,” says John.
The Tracesure Cattle with Copper bolus has been used at Hartbush Farm for ten years, ever since the man who pregnancy scans their cows recommended they try it. “He had been on farms where it was used and said it made a difference,” explained John.
Cows are bolused six weeks before calving. “We are getting less empty cows and calves have got plenty of get up and go, they aren’t lethargic,” says John.
Cows no longer retain their cleansings and, last year, 68% of the herd got in calf in the first three weeks.
“We don’t have issues with retained placentas at all. We know of farmers who need the vet every week to deal with retained cleansings but, even with our numbers, we don’t have a problem. This is important because it means we can get the cows cycling better and get them back in calf again,” John explains.
Impressed by the results in their suckler herd, the Patersons used the Animax boluses on their sheep flock too.
Before bolusing with Tracesure, there would be quite a few empty ewes each year. However, the year before last, all but 12 of the 447 Scotch half-bred ewes were in lamb. “Reducing the number of empty sheep has made a huge difference to us. Halfbreds are not the most prolific but last year we still scanned at 201%,” says John.
Ewes and tups are bolused pre-tupping. “The first year of using Tracesure we only had 7 empty sheep from 375 ewes. This last year there were just 11 empties out of 382 ewes,” says John and the flock lambed from 24 February with 360 ewes lambed in the first 17 days. Wethers are sold through Cumberland and Dumfriesshire Farmers’ Mart and the females as breeding lambs through Border Livestock.
Herd and flock wellbeing is a priority at Hartbush Farm and, when it comes to vigour, John believes the Animax boluses have played an important role. He urges other farmers to give them a go. “If you haven’t used the bolus you think it is quite a cost, but it is a cost worth bearing because of the improvements you get. Try even a batch of cattle or sheep just to see what the difference is. I am convinced that you will be very impressed with the boluses.”