27th August 2020 - Page 22

NOVEMBER 23 2017
Quality stock
well able to
thrive at Upper
Buckna include
these smart
looking in calf
third calver
cow in the
Upper Buckna
Galloway Herd
in Co Antrim
was imported
from Canada
as an embryo.
Galloways bring profit to the hill
Rodney Magowan visits a Galloway Herd grazing
the hills beside Slemish Mountain to hear how this
traditional breed is thriving on our uplands and
even finding favour as a terminal beef sire crossed
with Holsteins.

ARM to suit the land you
farm’ sums up the thinking
of Joe Smith when it comes
to making a living from
marginal land running to
290m above sea level and mostly
over 220m.
For Joe that means running
Galloways, the beef breed that
thrives on these exposed open hills
at Upper Buckna near Broughshane
in Co Antrim. An Environmentally
Sensitive Area where shortage of
rainfall is certainly never an issue
any month of the year.
Though Galloway cattle have been
popular on the uplands of Northern
Ireland for generations the current
Upper Buckna pure bred Galloway
herd was founded in 1958.
As Joe explained: “We Smiths
have farmed here since the mid
1700s with Galloway and Galloway
type stock always about the place,
initially as dual purpose cows.
“Later on Galloway bulls were
often put to my father’s Shorthorn
and Ayrshire dairy cows to produce
beef cattle. However the current
Upper Buckna Galloway Pedigree
Herd was only founded when, as a
school boy, I was bought a cow in
“Kristy 3rd of Racavan came from
local breeder the late J B Graham
and her breeding goes back to
Kristy of Auchengassel brought
from Scotland in 1914.”
Today the Galloway enterprise
at Upper Buckna is based on
producing both pedigree and
commercial cattle. Each year at
least four bulls are selected and
kept to sell on for breeding with the
rest finished for beef. No heifers
are finished for beef as demand for
this sevenyear-old
Upper Buckna
cow, in calf
with her 6th
calf weighed
820kgs. No
wonder meat
plants praise
the ability of
the breed to
produce beef
with taste at a
profit from hill
TYPICAL: These In calf heifers on
the hills close to Slemish Mountain
are typical of the Upper Buckna
Galloway Herd founded by Joe Smith
when still at school.
ARRIVED: Apache, the Upper Buckna
stock bull, arrived from Canada as an
embryo 10 years ago.
Galloway cows for breeding always
far outstrips supply.
According to Joe the joy of running
Galloways is that they can be run
at low cost on marginal land to
produce carcasses that please meat
plants and consumers. A recent
batch of 10 steers supplied to
Linden Foods averaged 359kg with
all grading R or O with no excess
fat. All were finished and away by 30
Interestingly Joe sees more
milk producers finding a role for
Galloway bulls in producing decent
beef bullocks out of Holstein cows.
Typically one steer by a Galloway
bull out of a Holstein cow produced
a 460kg O grade carcass.
Heifers from Holsteins put to
Galloway bulls are likewise finding
a very ready market as replacement
suckler cows in lowland herds.
That the Galloway produce beef
at a profit from marginal land is
well demonstrated by Joe at Upper
“We keep stock well fed, but not
expensively fed. The cows are
LEFT: A Galloway second calver with
her latest calf on Joe Smith’s family farm,
home to the Upper Buckna Galloway
spring calvers with calves fed on
silage and 1.5kg of meal a day after
weaning until they go out to the
mountain in May. We have easy
access to common grazing on 500
acres of moorland adjacent to
Slemish Mountain.
“The steers see no meal again
until their final six weeks before
going to the plant. Instead they only
get silage the following winter and
until recent times all our Galloways
were out wintered. Now civil service
interpretation of EU cross
compliance rules means
cattle come in for the
worst of the winter
to protect the
“In their final
summer steers
being finished off
grass to go away
in October are
on 3kg to 3.5kg of
meal a day from
August onwards.”
Though Galloways
are a traditional
breed Joe has long taken a
progressive approach to breeding
cattle with embryos purchased
from Canada to increase size. The
current eye catching stock bull,
Apache of Upper Buckna, arrived
10 years ago as an embryo from
the famous Diamond B ranch
in Saskatchewan. A herd since
“Visits to Canada, including to the
amazing Western Agrbition show
in Regina, proved very worthwhile,”
recalled Joe. “At first live bulls
were bought, but as the technology
moved on using Canadian embryos
has become much more cost
“In Canada traditional breeds still
dominate and are being constantly
improved to suit the often
tough farming conditions
on large ranches.
Galloway, Hereford
and Aberdeen
Angus have all
been bred with
more size.
“By using
some Canadian
genetics at
Upper Buckna
larger carcasses
are produced
without loosing
shape or the innate
Galloway ability to thrive
off high rainfall, marginal land.
Cows acquired from leading
breeders in Ulster and Scotland
helped found our key Kate, Gail and
Gay families.
“My very first cow Kristy 3rd of
milk producers
are finding a role
for Galloway bulls in
producing decent
beef bullocks out of
Holstein cows.”
Racavan was especially successful
when put to the Scottish bull
Plascow Alliance we bought in
1969. He was a grandson of record
priced Plascow Norseman and
produced Kate of Upper Buckna.
The foundation of the Kate family
that has been our key cow family
this 40 years.
“Gail and Gay are the other
main families in our herd and can
be traced back to the heifer Gay
of Cairnsmore bought at Castle
Douglas breed sale in 1995 from
Matt Brown. Both families are now
matching the success of Kate stock.”
Looking back Joe also noted
the input of a handful of other
Galloways bought in over this past
60 years. Not least Rusko Standfast,
who was 1060kg in his prime and
acquired at Castle Douglas from the
late T H Gardener.
According to Joe this bull really
put the Upper Buckna Galloways
on the map especially when his
daughters were put to Grange
Covenanter and Norman of Lochurr
by AI.
Locally Joe says the heifer Bellona
4th of Bogstown bred by the now
deceased John Bell of Broughshane
had a great impact, especially as
regards breeding topping bulls.
“Over the years very few cattle
were bought in and those that
came here had to suit our system of
running Galloways commercially.
That means we are able to produce
cattle that either kill out well at
the plant or go on to breed quality
stock. Stock that suit a low cost
farming system, calve easily and are
a pleasure to work with.”


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