PCHS Member Profile: David & Annabel

David and Annabel are first generation farmers who started their herd of Luing cattle at Knowsley Estate in Merseyside.  Having previously worked as stock managers for Knowsley, the estate’s decision to no longer own cattle themselves lead to David and Annabel becoming contract farmers on the estate so that they could keep their own herd.  Breeding pedigree Luings, they became members of PCHS in 2013 in order to gain accreditation for BVD and Johne’s Disease, allowing them to sell cattle at the breed society sales.  Until February 2019, David was also the chairman of the Luing Cattle Society for two years.

While BVD accreditation was achieved easily through check tests, two positive results for Johne’s Disease over the years mean that the herd is currently Risk Level 2, but hopes to achieve Risk Level 1 at the next herd test.

In order to progress their business, David and Annabel began to search for a farm of their own, looking at land as far south as Derbyshire to as far north as Aberdeen, but by chance eventually settling on a property in their native Northumberland.  Relocating to the farm at West Woodburn in October 2016, they now farm a total of 600 acres, 200 of which is fell, 300 of rough ground or pasture and 100 acres that can be mowed, running a herd of 80 cows, as well as a flock of 700 ewes.

Dr Grove-White of the University of Liverpool put together a health plan for the herd’s move to Northumberland.  As the herd had never had neighbouring cattle at Knowsley, the plan recommended vaccinating for BVD, to avoid the naïve herd being introduced to the disease in their new home, as well as advice for IBR, ticks, liver fluke and more. 



The farm’s vet, Lee-Anne Oliver of Scott Mitchell Associates in Hexham, believes that as well as the good management practices in place, the herd’s freedom from BVD is a major contributing factor to the remarkably low antibiotic usage on the farm, with no calf pneumonia present.  Other performance data shows that the management practices and husbandry on the farm have certainly paid off:

  • Heifers are calved at two years old with excellent fertility rates (97% of cows to the bull weaned a calf in 2016)
  • A tight calving pattern allowing them all to be weaned at the same time (up to 66% of calves being born in the first 3 weeks of the calving period)
  • Very low mortality rates for calves under one month of age (0 – 1%)
  • Low mortality rates from one month old to weaning (2% in 2014, 0% in 2016 and 1% in 2017)

The herd is closed, with the only exception being purchased bulls.  Accredited bulls are always sourced, with the majority coming from Johne’s Disease Risk Level 1 herds.  Any heifers that are not retained in the herd are sold for breeding stock at the Luing society sales, while bullocks are currently sold as stores either privately or at the native breed sales at Hexham, although David hopes to sell some as bulls at the society sales in the near future.

Looking ahead, the Stanners have considered the IBR scheme; however several of their cows have been vaccinated with non-marker vaccines by previous owners, meaning accreditation could not be achieved while these animals remain.  Instead, gaining accreditation for Neospora is the next goal for the herd.

David and Annabel have also set up a farm shop earlier this year, to sell their own beef and lamb as well as pork from a small number of pigs reared especially for the shop.  Visit their Facebook Page for more information.

Posted by SRUC Veterinary Services on 29/05/2020

Tags: PCHS