2020 winners follow up: Stevie Rolfe, Contractor Innovator of the Year

A passion for delivering a quality, cost effective service has seen Stevie Rolfe grow his business substantially in recent years, gaining him recognition by customers and through winning the Contractor Innovator of the Year at the British Farming Awards. Alex Heath finds out more about the business and the man behind it.

Since starting his business 17 years ago, Stevie Rolfe has developed Stevie Rolfe Cattle Service into a cattle fertility and husbandry provider, catering for farmers the length and breadth of Scotland.

From small, niche beginnings, freeze branding and pregnancy scanning cattle, his portfolio of tasks carried out and services provided has swelled.

While the quantity and type of work has grown, a focus on a personal and tailored service remains a constant since the business’ inception in 2004. The business now carries out a wide range of cattle husbandry tasks including synchronised artificial insemination and pelvic scoring, in addition to the tasks the company was founded on.

However, the company now has a strong retail side to it as well, sourcing and selling semen, topping up on-farm nitrogen flasks and selling all manner of  associated husbandry products, from tail paint to calving jacks.

Currently with one full-time member of staff, Stevie says emphasis is placed on maintaining an open dialogue with farmers to understand what they want to  achieve with their herds, with a more personal touch than vets can achieve.

“I have been scanning cattle since 1996, but went on my own in 2004,” he says.

“It became apparent a flexible and dedicated approach to work was what farmers wanted, without expensive call out fees to pregnancy diagnose a handful of cows. Working as an independent scanner has also seen us take on insurance work and disputes over sold cattle being in calf or a bull’s ability to work.

“As I took on more work, freeze branding and scanning, farmers started asking if I could do more tasks and the business has grown from there. We now cover the whole of Scotland, including the islands.

“As a natural progression, I started using artificial insemination (AI) on cattle, and now specialise in synchronised AI, condensing the calving period, making the lives of farmers easier and hopefully more profitable.”


The business now has Scotland’s only registered semen store, with semen distributed for seven different companies, in addition to semen traded by Stevie. It has become a major part of the business and one that now takes significant amounts of his time, as many farmers now entrust him to buy and inseminate cows on
their behalf.

“We will sit down with the farmer and ask what they want to achieve, where the direction of the herd is going and look at what we have got to work with. I’ll then pick a bull or a few bulls that will be suitable to use. This is now done on a number of farms, including Scotland’s Rural College, with a focus on quality of genetics and performance.”

Some 7-8,000 cattle are AI’d by the company and 40,000 straws of semen distributed in flasks across the country. Close relationships with customers have  identified the increase in native genetics being introduced into commercial suckler herds, as a result the company has expanded its range of Luing semen and is the only company to offer the breed.

In addition, 28,000 cattle are freeze branded each year, 40,000 cattle pregnancy scanned and up to 4,000 pelvic measurements carried out.

A point of difference for the business and underpinning Stevie’s dedication to perfection means the freeze branding ice is renewed twice per week, giving crisp and clean brands.

Demand for pelvic scoring, which is carried out by hand, rather than with callipers, is increasing, especially within commercial beef herds as farmers realise the value of knowing whether or not a heifer is suitable for breeding. This is further combined with reducing the cost and stress of difficult calvings, especially those
that require a cesarean.

“I want farms to be profitable. While I can sell semen off harder calving bulls and a calving jack, it is no good for man nor beast.

“Pelvic scoring is a good way of cutting costs as farmers are forewarned if a heifer is going to be too narrow to calve easily and require an emergency C-section, with the possibility of loosing the cow, calf and having a hefty bill for the operation.

Prevention is always better than cure.

“I think that is part of the reason native genetics are coming back into fashion. Not only are the calves generally easier calving, they convert grass well, have better legs and feet and are hardier.

“Heifers kept from native blood typically have better milk and can be kept outside longer, reducing the cost of keeping the heifer, by saving on silage, straw and hard feed.

“Going forwards, the eat-ability of meat is going to be a massive issue. I think this past year has highlighted this, as people have not been going to restaurants, and instead using the local butcher, where the taste and texture is paramount. I think people have now seen what real meat should be like, with marbling throughout and a good amount of cover.

“Continental breeds will always have a place, adding size and confirmation, but the native blood is needed for the quality of meat. Herds with a large percentage of continental genetics will have to be careful when it comes to tightening specifications from the processors, with carcases getting too big and harder to fatten. The genetic pool within some breeds is also shrinking, especially within pedigree herds who are using a handful of fashionable bulls.

“I also think polled genetics will play a bigger part in the future. It means less work for the farmer and less stress for the calf.

“On the continent, there are already some penalties for calves that have been dehorned, whereas polled cattle are not subjected to them. You can already see in the past few years the quality of polled stock, especially bull is really improving and becoming more widely available for farmers to take advantage of,” he adds.


The company does little in the way of advertising. Some adverts are placed in local papers, however, the majority of work comes from word-of-mouth recommendations. Stevie is confident the quality of work carried out, a personal approach and being flexible have, and will, continue to underpin the company’s success.

He also believes in taking time to have a coffee and a chat with the farmers that rely on his services.

“Some of the farmers only see me or one of my lads each week, so it is important to be personable and have a good sense of humour. It can really make a difference to their week if we do a good job and leave them with a smile on their face.”

On winning the award Stevie says due to his specialist services he would not have been considered.

“My wife, Sarah, nominated me for the award and at the beginning of the whole process I never thought I would win it, being a small and very specialised business. However, the judges were interested in the way I am developing the business and providing niche services to farmers and I am delighted to receive this recognition.

“Contractors are there to provide services to farmers and help them progress their businesses. It helps when you love your job, like I do, and build that  relationship with farmers, so trust and quality of work are a given. We want farmers to be profitable and we are providing services to help them better their business in an economical way.”

“The business would not be where is now without the tireless work of Sarah, who is in the background, managing all the invoicing and admin that goes with our line of work, she is our anchor and I am very grateful for all that she does. My employee, Iain, also deserves credit for driving the business forward and constantly going that extra mile for customers.

“While we were one of the first to start pregnancy scanning in Scotland and one of the only businesses that pelvic scores by hand, attention to detail and fitting farms in as and when they need the various services we offer, has done us well and will continue to play a massive role in the business going forward.”

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