Farming near Chulmleigh, North Devon, Grania and Simon Phillips established their Colleton herd of pedigree Red Ruby Devons over 25 years ago after moving to the area from London; they started with a flock of commercial sheep.
The grass quality on the 160-hectare farm made it ideally suited to supporting a cattle herd. Grania and Simon chose Red Ruby Devons because they could be finished off grass.
When they first started out with 20 cattle they noticed several calves not doing so well.
Together with their local vet, they started testing and implementing disease control using the CHECS licensed HiHealth cattle scheme.
The herd is now at the lowest risk for Johne’s Disease, Level 1, although the couple occasionally get an animal testing positive on blood samples. Faecal tests from those animals have always proved negative, however, and if any cows have a repeat positive blood test, they’re culled.
The Phillips now run an 80-head herd plus followers and finishers, which are kept until 30-36-months. The finishers go as box beef and the couple also sell pedigree breeding stock. Grania believes that accrediting for disease not only ensures the utmost level of disease control is maintained but that it also helps improve pedigree sales. She adds that their breed society now requires disease certification as default.
While she claims this is a reminder of the value of controlling the disease, she says it can be easy to forget the other struggles, like slow growing animals or abortions.