Beautiful belties adapt to most conditions
Thursday, 18 February 2010
By Crispin Caldicott
Amber Wood has been involved with farming all her life. “My family farmed this valley from my grandfather’s time, and my father carried on with dairying until a few years back.
“From the age of eleven I thought that Belted Galloway cattle were just the most beautiful animals and I tried to persuade my father to get some. However he thought they were very inferior beasts, so it wasn’t until much later that I was able to get one of my own.”
| Belted Galloway cattle come in shaggy and less shaggy varieties of black and white with the odd dun. Photos Wayne Martin. |
In only three years Amber has built up a herd of 54 animals, from her original fifteen, and whether by choice or not has ended up specialising in bulls.
“The majority of my calves have been bulls for some reason, but the local dairy farmers like them and there is a perfectly good market for pedigree or commercial. As you can see Belted Galloways, or ‘belties’ don’t throw calves with consistent shaped belts.
“There seems to be no hard and fast rule and in fact the cow with the broadest belt actually produced a calf with the narrowest this year. The dairy industry likes the bulls because they will throw a small calf. So for a young heifer having her first calf it will be pretty trouble-free and you will end up with a good-quality beef animal.”
Even with a week old calf among them, the herd at Tui Belted Galloway Stud, were quite placid, and as Amber demonstrated so used to human company that many of the ‘cuddlier’ ones would tolerate a certain amount of petting. “They will usually come when I call them, and I’ve certainly never needed a cattle dog.”
“Belties have a great deal of advantages for the small farmer or lifestyler,” Amber continued.
“They have these calm, quiet natures, are easy to manage and produce wonderful marbled beef, with a very good carcass weight ratio. They are very robust animals and calve easily which is probably important for less experienced farmers.
“They are excellent foragers and will do well on poor pasture. So for some smaller blocks the quality of available feed would not be a problem as generally they will thrive on any pasture conditions. Being of Scottish descent, they are, like the Highland cattle, hardy. Perhaps the big advantage they have over Highlanders is that they are naturally polled.”
Belties have been in New Zealand for a long time, but given their hardiness the majority of herds today are in the South Island. They don’t seem to mind the warmer damper conditions of Northland, and perhaps their natural resistance to harsh conditions extends both sides of the temperature scale.
“Animals adapt to their conditions, and I’ve noticed the animals up here have less thick coats in comparison to the South Island herds. With a larger herd, like mine it would be quite time-consuming to manage them organically, so I drench, but they only need it twice a year.
“For a lifestyler with only a couple of animals I believe just putting cider vinegar in their drinking water regularly is very effective.”
Amber bought her prized Belties from the Okiwa stud in Wanganui. “Pat and Graham Clinton bought animals in during the ‘60s and were among the first to import.
“They became interested in them because their farm was very steep, and they had had a lot of animals roll down the hills with obvious consequences.
“They found the Belties were far more sure-footed, so provided a partial solution at least! We certainly have some steep farms in Northland, but even if you are lucky enough to have a flat paddock, a good Belted Galloway sure looks handsome anywhere!”