Having trailed my interest in cattle a few days ago, I’m looking forward to making a start on a year-long college course at the SRUC’s barony campus near Dumfries on Monday. Having made some in-depth enquiries round and about the area, I’ve managed to home in on some heifer calves I hope to get hold of later in the autumn, and I’ll be keeping an eye open for suitable beasts as the winter comes on. If nothing else, the galloway sale beckons in Castle Douglas towards the end of October, and there is a big sale in March.
The course (with the broad and pleasantly broad-brushed title of “agriculture”) should give some technical backing to the project, but I hope that most of what I do in the next few months will be picked up in the field at first hand.
As much as this seems like a diversion from this blog’s original remit of grouse and blackgame, I’m convinced that cattle are a really logical step in the wider scope of things, and there are a number of reasons why I’m really excited that I’ll be working with livestock over the next few months and years.
- The extremely positive link between cattle and the management of heather moorland is well established. Where you have cows on moorland, you are far more likely to have blackgame, red grouse and all manner of wild game and waders. The practical applications of this are thrilling.
- I have been admiring native breeds of cattle for several years, but never quite had the opportunity to get in amongst them. A galloway cow is a lovely thing, particularly when she is in her native hills. I am particularly drawn to white galloways and riggits, largely because they often represent the most traditional and “unimproved” strains, which not only makes them more suitable for the kind of conservation grazing that appeals to me, but it also gives them a piggy, barrel-bellied appeal.
- Galloway cattle have a powerful cultural value around these parts, and coming from a long, long line of galloway cattle breeders in the Southern Uplands, I feel them breathing down my neck at a genetic level.
- I spend a great deal of my time and money trying to source British produce, and I am increasingly picky about quality local food – it’s about time I had a go at producing some of the best meat money can buy.
- Despite having been born and brought up in the countryside, my knowledge is very limited to wildlife and nature. I can grasp the principles of agriculture, but I fervently believe in integrated land management and having tended towards the things that interest me most (blackgame in particular), my understanding of the uplands is becoming rather imbalanced. Historically, geographically and scientifically, black grouse and galloway cattle have long been part of the same picture, and the distribution of one has often mirrored that of the other. I could take the easy route and read about it in a book, but I’d always much prefer to get hands-on and see it at the business end.
It feels like a career change, but it’s not – for all the above reasons and so many more, a project involving native cattle should compliment my work and this blog, and business will continue as usual. Just with a few more pictures of cows.