Quietly pleased to hear that the neighbouring farmer has decided to bring his cows into the sheds for the winter after two or three days of hammering, miserable rain. He had noticed that they were beginning to lose condition over the past fortnight, and the foul weather compounded the situation and introduced an element of stress. His beasts are continental cross breed cattle which form the driving force of the British beef industry, and there are so many reasons why these animals are the go-to choice for farmers across the country.
But at the same time, these animals are not invincible. For all their strengths, they also have weaknesses. If they are going to breed commercially, they need a good deal of TLC and depend upon a roof over their heads in the winter months. As the poor beasts stand with their shoulders hunched against the battering rain, they are wasting energy – and energy is money. By contrast, galloways were specifically designed for this environment. Not only are they almost waterproof beneath their shaggy coats, but they also have the street-wise ability to keep their heads down. It’s almost pointless going out to check on my cows when the weather is foul – they often can’t be found. While the commercial animals shiver in the wind, the galloways are buried deep in the gorse bushes, lying contentedly out of the wind and chewing their cud like smiling little Buddahs.
I don’t have access to sheds or cattle housing and my animals will now stay out all winter – they like it that way, and I love their stubborn resilience, which has a good deal of cross-over with the spirit of Galloway as a county. Lots of commercial farmers have gently sneered at my interest in galloways over the past three years, arguing that the little beasts will never turn a penny. Galloways are on the front foot at times like this, and their duck-like imperviousness to grim weather conditions is just one of many points in their favour.
My cows may not be able to match a charolais on productivity, weight gain and financial viability, but when the going gets tough, the riggits get going…