By Hannah McNelis,
CAFRE Beef and Sheep Adviser, Coleraine
CURRYFREE Hill Farm, in Newbuildings is managed by Irwin and Olive Dougherty along with their son David.
On Tuesday, August 20, they welcomed along their local CAFRE Business Development Group mem-bers to see their alternative breed and low cost suckler system.
The Dougherty family farm is predominately made up of uplands, with a large heather hill making up a large proportion of the land parcel.
With a significant North Country Cheviot flock making up the sheep enterprise, the decision was made a number of years ago to introduce a traditional cattle breed to compliment the uplands.
The cattle enterprise began with a few Blue Grey cows and has since expanded into a small herd of black Galloway suckler cows running with a Galloway bull.
Galloway was the breed of choice for the Doughertys due to their hardy nature, ability to live outdoors all year round and their maternal traits for quality milk production and ease of calving. The Doughertys have found the Galloway cows to require significantly less input costs when compared to previous cows with no housing or wintering costs, no veterinary intervention required and little to no concentrate feeding.
Whilst ease of management is a great selling point of the breed, for Irwin the greatest advantage of the Galloway is the significant improvement they have made to their upland hill ground. The cattle have significantly reduced the presence of woody type heather on the hill and have greatly improved the quality of the grazing available both for themselves and also the sheep flock.
The opportunity to take advantage of the Galloway’s good hybrid vigour was discussed within the group, with the possibility of crossing the Galloway cow to Limousin, Aberdeen Angus or Simmental to improve the carcase quality and conformation of the calves.
The Business Development Gr-oups Scheme is part of the NI Rural Development Programme and is
part funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.