Since feeding the bespoke nut, Solway View RCP nut, not only has embryo transfer rates improved but also embryo productivity and conception rates are much higher for the well known British Blue herd, Solway View, belonging to Kevin Watret of Maulcastle, Cummertrees, Annan.
After going through a difficult time on the three stage embryo program – getting the donor steady rise for purpose, ensuring the egg is fertilised and implanting the embryo – Kevin and full time stockman, Ali Jackson knew they had to change something up to improve their success.
With no other factors changing, Kevin went to Davidsons Animal Feeds with a bespoke meal plan to maximise the embryo success creating the ultimate formulation with a high specification raw material and mineral package.
“We are feeding this product for a balancer, the recipient needs to have steady energy yet needs to be on the rise at all times. Since feeding the Solway View RCP nut we have stabilised embryo productivity and the conception rate is much higher,” commented Kevin, with the last batch of heifers to be AI’d resulted in 11 out of the 13 heifers holding.
Having now fed the product for around a year, the improvements have saved the Solway View herd, maximising the calves on the ground.
“Admittingly we were wasting a lot of embryos, but we didn’t know how to overcome our problem, thankfully down to this bespoke product it has answered all our prayers,” said Ali, who feeds the
recipients six weeks before and after implantation, whilst donors are fed six weeks prior to the flush and then fed continually if they are being flushed regularly.
Kevin added: “I have a huge relationship with Davidsons Animal Feeds, being a major part of their business since 1999 due to the electrical side at their mill in Shotts. The fully computerised mill
means what goes in the feed is what you get, and it will be the most developed and best feed mill in the UK, the management is the state of the art.”
Already after the success of this new flushing product the Solway View team are keen to do a similar bespoke product for their pedigree sheep. Running 100 Blue Texels and 200 Dutch Spotted sheep, the up incoming breeds have already paid their way at Maulcastle, with the Dutch Spotteds being an equal share with Ali. “The Dutch Spotted have been an unbelievable trade for us, with the majority of our sales averaging £2000 or above. They are genuine good sheep that are good for crossing and the commercial men are beginning to see that,” said Ali, who took the inter-breed at the Great Yorkshire in 2019 with,
Tiptop Hannah, which really put the breed on the map. Ali has also been the Vice Chairman for the Dutch Spotted Society for the past year and is heavily involved in the strong future in front of the breed.
An electrician by day and owner of KW Electrical Services, Kevin relies heavily on his stockman, Ali, to help run the 250 cattle – 120 recipients and 130 pedigree females mainly British Blues with around 20 Limousins – all along with the sheep. Running 172 acres at Maulscastle farm, which was purchased in November 2017, having been tenanted by the family for several years prior to that. The next generation are already beginning to shine, with Kevin’s son, Connor, undertaking the majority of the tractor work.
“The British Blues started as a bit of a hobby for me, I had a bit of a passion for them as they are easy to manage, very docile by nature and show tremendous muscle and growth throughout to cross well with any other breed,” said Kevin, who purchased his first heifer, Broomfield Vivien, in 2003 at Carlisle. Not only was she a show winner herself, taking the Royal Highland Show championship in 2008, but
her progeny have also bagged the same award in 2009, 2010,2013, 2017 and 2019 as well as selling well throughout the various sales.
“When I first started my herd, we would be competing at 16 local shows annually as well as the national shows, but the workload was getting too much to handle every week. The show circuit is a fantastic shop window, which is why we make sure and always take a strong team to the Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh shows, along with Ayr or Lesmahagow shows just to get the cattle out prior to the big events,” added Kevin, who will still attend a lot of local shows now with the sheep as there is not as much preparation required prior to the shows.
A daughter of Vivien, Solway View Elegance did the treble in the show circuit in 2013 – the Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh. With the team having bagged the breed champion eight times at the Highland, three times at the Welsh and the Yorkshire twice. “Showing is a great atmosphere for all and we enjoy the craic throughout, but it is also the best shop window for allowing potential customers to see what livestock you have on offer, and through time it definitely sells your animals,” said Ali.
Excelling in the show ring has already done the team wonders which needs no justification when you take a look into their sale rings. Most recently at the breed sale at Carlisle the team sold five bulls and nine heifers to average a whopping £12,679 and £7390 respectively, a testament to the quality on offer from the Solway View herd. The team also bagged their top price to date this year at Carlisle in May when selling the 26-month- old bull, Solway View Odin for 27,000gns. He took the reserve overall champion in the pre-sale show being by the AI sire, Bedgebury Flat Out, and out of Solway View Kesha.
Approximately 20 bulls will be sold annually at 17-18 months of age with the majority going to Carlisle, whilst the 15 heifers sold each year can be aged from 8 months old upwards, with the prime
age being 12-14 months old, again to Carlisle. Having done so well in the sale and shows ring, the team can also sell some cattle privately as well as taking to their social media which has been a flyer, especially during the pandemic.
To ensure they always have something to sell all year round the team calve all year round, with the main sales from January through to May. Getting the quality calves on the ground relies heavily on the ET breeding programme. “We have gone down this route purely for the consistent breeding, we very rarely get a poor calf. We are looking to breed big powerful females with a bit of flesh and flash about them, as we believe it is what both the pedigree and commercial men want,” said Kevin, who buys in Holstein cross British Blues privately for recipients that are from two hi-health dairy farms, currently running 120
recipients. Kevin and Ali will be calving around 40/50 embryos annually, although are always looking for more to keep their herd numbers up. Flushing the 10 best cows in the herd all from the two main families – Broomfield Vivian and Bringlee Evadine – including Solway View Kesha, which bred their top price to date so far.“Breeding from the best of females ensures the quality of calves comes through for both pedigree and commercial uses.
“The future is bright for the commercial job. Although the Limousin breed will register around 18,000 calves annually and the British Blues only around 2000 calves, the smaller quantity available
makes the breed sell well. “The Limousin cross Blue works well for the short gestation and their calving abilities, you just need to take one look into the show ring and see the quality they provide.
“And although we are breeding in the pedigree world, it is essential that the commercial market backs the breed, and the Blue is the no.1 terminal sire in the dairy herds. The only beef breed to add value on a dairy calf so we need to make sure we look after that, as without the commercial buyers there is no future for the breed,” said Kevin.
With a long year and a half with no shows, the duo are desperate to hit the show circuit again, and with restrictions beginning to ease this year they have a small team of cattle for the Highland and Yorkshire show but 2022 is looking to be the year to get back to normal. “Long may we get back to competing against like-minded breeders at various shows, sales and events across the country with a bit of craic,” concluded Kevin.
Photo credit to The Scottish Farmer and MacGregor Photography