In this week’s Suckler Focus, That’s Farming, profiles Andrew McKelvey of Derg Highlands, a part-time farmer and full-time lorry driver, from Northern Ireland.
Andrew McKelvey, 11 Shannaghy Road, Castlederg, County Tyrone, is one of a few Highland cattle breeders.
He embarked on a new venture in May 2020, during the global Covid-19 pandemic, by establishing Derg Highlands with an initial two foundation females.
He has since expanded his pedigree registered fold with the acquisition of two in-calf cows and two weanlings, which also came from Scotland. Furthermore, he purchased a cow and calf in County Longford, Ireland and a stockbull from Larne.
“I have always been quite interested in the Highland cattle. So, we welcomed two Highland cattle to our farm in May 2020,” he told That’s Farming.
“Our first two Highlands came from Scotland from a fold called Killochries, and A Ewing transported these across.”
“Now, we currently have nine in total and would like to expand over the next few years, hopefully to about 20 Highland cattle.”
“We own 25-acres plus of hilly ground, which was ideal for Highland cattle to graze as they are a low maintenance breed. They do not need to come in during the winter months. They suit us because of the land we have for them.”
Suckler and sheep enterprise
Ease of management is essential for Andrew, who farms on a part-time basis and works full-time driving a transport lorry across England.
Together with his father, David and brothers, Aaron, and Ryan, they farm 100 head of cattle of a mixed pedigree and commercial alongside a sheep flock.
“We are third-generation farmers. My father took over the farm from my granny, Lilly. My father has always been a pedigree Beef Shorthorn farmer.”
“He breeds pedigree Border and Bluefaced Leicester sheep. My brother, Aaron, keeps Limousin-cross-Simmental cattle. We put our bull to run the cows at the beginning of May as that it would leave them calving at the beginning of next year.”
But for Andrew, his newly established pedigree Highland fold, a new addition to the 250-acre farm, is his pride and joy.
“I prefer Highland cattle that do not have wide pointy horns. Furthermore, Highland calves are genetically born to wean themself of their mother. We plan to sell off any Highland calves privately as they are becoming more popular here in Northern Ireland,” the Highland Society member added.
“I enjoy being able to work with the livestock and machinery. Our Highlands are all pets; they will stand to be petted and brushed.”
“I find it challenging being away during the week. Any work that needs to be completed has to be done at the weekend, and sometimes it can be challenging. It also adds more pressure on my father to check my stock as well as his own.”
Local attraction and expanding their reach
“We are currently happy with how things are going on our farm. Besides, we hope to increase the number of Highlands over the next few years, so we will be producing more pedigree calves, which we will then sell on. It would be nice to have our bloodlines on other farms.”
“It is nice being able to have cattle which are very uncommon in our part of Northern Ireland. When we first got our two Highlands, we kept them in the field in front of the house; you would often see people getting out of the car to look at them. They are beautiful animals and are very friendly.”
“It was a new adventure to our farm, and we had to buy some new equipment to work with them, such as a special crush for them due to their horns.”