Iain Aitken in Canada

End of an Era

By Iain Aitken

Fall 2009 heralded the end of an era in our Luing herd as we shipped the last of our "granny cows". Back in 2001 Dr Church allowed me the pick of the Lochend mature cows to form the nucleus of my new herd. I selected four good looking cows that demonstrated the characteristics I was looking for and was surprised when we got the pedigrees transferred to discover that two were 14 and two 15 years old! With no preferential treatment these four old cows went on to rear twenty three natural calves between them as well as another six by embryo transfer out of my favorite "223U". Two of the cows were sold for failing to get pregnant at 16 and 22 years old respectively. The other two were sold for finally turning in substandard calves at 21 and 23 years old respectively. Looking back over the years to various groups of much younger dispersal cows I've bought I doubt if any of them have given me as many calves on average as these old cows did. I think this is a remarkable testament to the Canadian Luings inherent longevity and fertility. I'll miss my granny cows but hopefully I will be able to perpetuate their characteristics through the offspring they have left us.

Canadian Luing Cattle Association Report

By Iain Aitken

As I write this in mid September, 2010 is proving to be another year of weather extremes on the Prairies. Most of Alberta was record dry last year but most has bounced back with at least average precipitation this year. Eastern Saskatchewan and Manitoba have been excessively wet with an estimated 12 million acres of grain land un-seeded this spring. Unfortunately the situation has got worse with many crops drowned out, deteriorating quality and little prospect of some being harvested due to waterlogged soils. In my area of Alberta the crops are still very immature and a predicted killing frost this week will cause further problems. It strengthens my belief that this area should be growing grass not grain. The extra moisture has produced plenty grass but it has been so cool the grass is still lush and of lower feed value than normal.

Feeder cattle markets are just starting to turn the corner from the dreadful prices of the last two years. It remains to be seen if that is a result of the lowest cattle numbers across North America for decades or over eager feedlots banking on fat cattle prices rising. Prospects for cow/calf producers are looking better but the national herd reduction continues. The margins have just been too small for too long and many producers are still choosing to exit the cow business.

On the Luing front things are moving ahead slowly but steadily. Members sold bulls from British Columbia right through to Manitoba, a number of them to new customers including one who grew up near Dumfries! It's pleasing to see 300 cow commercial herds being bred to Luing bulls - surely proof that we have the fundamentals right and are producing cattle that can compete commercially with the more popular breeds. It's pleasing also that we have achieved this by sticking to a true Luing type whereas many other breeds have achieved popularity by changing their cattle to mirror the fashion of the day.