Healthy food from healthy animals

Raymond McCullough shows some of the prime steaks available in his butcher's shop at Rathfriland. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Raymond McCullough shows some of the prime steaks available in his butcher's shop at Rathfriland. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
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Rearing cattle to supply your own shop gives you better control of the end product and enables you to supply exactly what the customer requires.

This is the philosophy behind Raymond McCullough’s farming enterprise at Dromara and his butcher’s shop in Rathfriland.

Raymond McCullough chats to Aurelie Morallis, Zoetis in front of a pen of newly bought weanlings on his farm at Dromara. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Raymond McCullough chats to Aurelie Morallis, Zoetis in front of a pen of newly bought weanlings on his farm at Dromara. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

He explained: “Firstly, I need heathy animals that grow well and put on flesh so that my farming enterprise will be profitable; secondly I want to take as much growth from grass as possible so that the animals are naturally reared and thirdly I try to achieve very high welfare standards.”

Of course all of this impacts on his second business – his butcher’s shop. He added: “My customers want tender meat with excellent flavour; therefore I need to reduce stress on the animals as much as possible, by ensuring natural, healthy growth.”

Each year Raymond buys one year old Charolais x Limousin heifers at an average weight of 380kg in late autumn. These are housed from November until February and then turned out to grass. At housing the animals are vaccinated with Rispoval IntraNasal and Tracherine protecting them against the main respiratory viruses BRSv and PI3v for three months and IBR for six months.

He emphasises that nothing stunts growth or stresses the animal as much as pneumonia and its effects stay with the animal for the rest of its life.

It was advice from his vet, Kenny Henry from Rathfriland Veterinary Clinic, that encouraged Raymond to introduce this vaccination protocol. Using products that are administered intranasally produces a rapid onset of immunity ensuring the animals are protected within four to 10 days after vaccination.

“Disease brings stress and both impact on performance and add to the cost of veterinary treatment. A high standard of welfare not only has an economic benefit but also reflects on the quality of meat sold to the consumer,” Raymond maintains.

A further example of his efforts to maintain a high welfare standard is the use of rubberised slats in the cattle shed in order to reduce lameness.

At turnout Raymond uses Cydectin® 10% LA for Cattle protecting them against gut worms for 150 days and against lungworm for 120 days and reports excellent growth rates.

He said: “For the past two years I have not spent money on treating sick animals – the vaccination at housing has ensured good health while the season long protection of Cydectin® 10% LA for Cattle at turnout has resulted in excellent growth rates, with cattle slaughtered at 280 to 320 kgs deadweight at 18 to 19 months.”

Raymond likes to have full control of every step of the business so that he can reassure his customers. The cattle are killed locally – a dry kill procedure at Lakeview Farm Meats which is just 20 miles away. Carcases are then hung for 21 days to further ensure flavour and tenderness.

Commenting on Raymond’s farming and butchery business, Aurelie Moralis, Veterinary Surgeon with Zoetis said: “Healthy food comes from healthy animals. Safeguarding the respiratory health of calves through vaccination against the main respiratory viruses BRSv, PI3v and IBR will help to ensure a better lifetime performance and carcass grades. Total savings to be made by protecting respiratory health can mount up to £263 for a severe case of pneumonia.”