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Blonde Promotes Blonde
by Eilidh MacPherson
Scottish Blonde Secretary and a member of the Publicity and Promotion sub committee – Sheena Kennedy – who farms with her husband and two sons in Ayrshire, hopes to raise the profile and marketing of British Blonde Cattle in Scotland as well as attaining a ‘clean club’ high health status.
Batches of 40-60 Limousin or Belgian Blue first cross heifer calves out of dairy cows are bought in at Overton. “We isolate them as piece of mind and TB test as soon as they are old enough as they come from a four-year TB testing area,” explains Sheena.
“The last lot were bought in North Yorkshire as there aren’t the same number of calves sold in Ayr as a lot of the dairy herds are putting their cows back to a black & white bull,” added husband Robbie.
These calves are about a fortnight old when they arrive and are reared on Volac. The Kennedy’s aim to have them calving to by two and a half years old to Blonde bulls. “We sell half with calf at foot, when the calves are a couple of months old and keep the rest for the herd,” informed Robbie, who plans to increase the cattle numbers to 200 in the next year or so.
Two and a half decades ago, when Robbie was farming with his father, they had a Blonde, a Simmental and a Charolais bull on farm. Needless to say the Blonde out shone the others with ease of calving, get up and go of offspring, cows coming into season quicker and reduced vet bills.
There are now five pure Blonde cows at Overton and seven heifers along with son Sean’s (15) one cow and two pure heifers. They are slightly pampered being bedded in straw courts, while their contemporaries are all on slats.
Cattle on this Coylton based hill farm are dosed for fluke and are given a shot against Blackleg. “There is a strip across certain fields where they are susceptible to Blackleg, with a greater risk at their first year at grass. We have lost 2 in 19 years,” he said.
Crystalyx Easy Breather is used in the sheds and “works like tunes, keeping their airways clear and free from pneumonia and such like.” In the past Robbie used to work off farm in the summer months driving 8 wheel tippers and Sheena kept the home fires burning and worked on farm. This past year has seen a slight role reversal due to health issues and Sheena is out and about working off farm three days a week. She can be spotted at Craig Wilson Ltd, Ayr Market on sale days on the administration and passport side and at NWF feed merchant for a half day, weighing lorries, answering phones or using her computing skills.
Since recently purchasing a further 100 acres the policy has changed at Overton. All cattle were previously fattened and sold through Robbie’s brother John’s butcher shop.
“He loved the depth of cut, high Killing out percentages and cover of fat with no wastage. But as we have raised the numbers we now sell either suckled calves or store."
Sheena and son Sean bought a couple of calves and showed at the Winter Fair for the first time, thoroughly enjoying the experience. It will be added to their other show dates this year, including the RHS and Ayr, where she is a committee member. “I’d love to show homebred fat stock in the future.”
Other income at Overton is derived from the refurbished farm cottage, which is rented out through Welcome Cottages, with solid bookings from April to September. It is on a Friday-to-Friday basis so the cleaning doesn’t hamper Sheena’s summer showing diary! Allowing pets has seen an increase in the number of bookings. A family arrived at the cottage, which has panoramic views from Ben Lomond to The Merrick as I was tobogganing down the drive in my truck.
Sheena’s other passion is her horses. Funnily enough like a lot of other farmers I know, her sons and husband all rolled their eyes whenever the horses were mentioned!
Sheena was actually unloading at the Doncaster Bloodstock Sales when I first called her to discuss the Blonde Cattle Society. She sold a two-year old filly, Lucky Story, for 8000gns and a one-year old Thoroughbred colt Monsieur Bond for 6000gns so she can justifiably completely ignore all eye rolling! In the past she has raced Rhinefield Beauty, whose daughter Rossie Dancer has taken £96000 in winnings.
Farmers: Robbie & Sheena Kennedy
Farming: Overton Farm
520 acres – owned
Location: Coylton, Ayrshire
Cattle: 120 cows
5 Blonde cows, 7 heifers
buy in dairy calves
Sheep: 80 cross ewes
Labour: Robbie & Sheena and sons:
Ross (16) and Sean (15)
Other holiday cottage,
Income: sale days at Ayr market
a day at NWF