Beef Improvement Group conference
- Stabiliser and CAP 28/01/05
Almost 300 delegates, including farmers and other representatives
of the beef industry, attended a one-day conference at Askham Bryan
College, near York, on Thursday (Jan 27) looking at beef production
under the new Single Farm Payment Scheme. The conference was organised
by the Beef Improvement Group (BIG) which is developing its Stabiliser
programme in the UK. Speakers addressed supplying the consumer
with consistent high quality beef and the role the Stabiliser can
play in helping producers have a competitive edge. The sessions
were chaired by Sir Don Curry and Lord Haskins.
The new composite beef breed the Stabiliser has so far been successful
for the Lilburn Estates Farming Partnership near Wooler.
But Ray Field, farm manager of the large in-hand operation for
Duncan Davidson in North Northumberland, warned that CAP reforms
- the suckler cow without its subsidy and potential inconsistencies
in applying cross compliance - could threaten the sustainability
of the suckler industry.
Lilburn Estates initially began to use Stabiliser semen on its
suckler herd in 2000 and Mr Field outlined the beef enterprise
to the conference.
The conference attended by almost 300 delegates, including farmers
and other representatives of the beef industry, heard speakers
talk about supplying the consumer with consistent high quality
beef and the role the Stabiliser can play in helping producers
have a competitive edge.
Mr Field, who also summarised the topics covered by the speakers
at the end of the conference, explained the introduction of the
Stabiliser to the estate's in-hand farming operation which
has 5,450 acres of combinable crop, 5,285 acres of lowland grass,
155 acres of forage crops, 14,600 acres of hill and heather grouse
moor and 2,300 acres of woodland.
As well as a breeding and finishing sheep enterprise totalling
28,380 head, the unit's 3,068 cattle includes 1,134 suckler
cows, 1,536 finishing cattle, 370 Stabiliser bred replacements,
six continental stock bulls and 18 Stabiliser stock bulls.
Mr Field explained that the Stabiliser breeding programme was
established in 2000 with BIG, the initial programme starting with
AI on 90 Holstein cross Limousin heifers.
A 300 cow herd is now established grading up to pure with 200
F1 cows and heifers plus 70 F2 heifers.
Also 60 pure Stabiliser females have been produced from an embryo
The entire herd is screened for Leptospirosis, BVD and Johne's
disease and all breeding yearling bulls are semen tested.
Mr Field said: “In our beef finishing enterprise, males
are currently kept entire and are finished on grain beet diet.
“We have found Stabiliser bulls give an equal to or better
performance than continental bulls with an average carcase weight
of 320kg at 12-14 months.”
All cattle, including continental cross heifers finished on grass
and silage at 18-24 months, are sold deadweight.
“At Lilburn the change to Stabiliser has led to a home-bred
replacement policy which in turn improves herd bio-security and
health status, it reduces replacement costs by half,” he
“It also means that we have control of genetics and we can
ensure uniform animal populations.”
|Home-bred 10 month old
F1 Stabiliser heifers to be mated to Stabiliser bulls to calve
at two years old at Robert Robinson's Snipe House, Alnwick.
Management benefits at Lilburn with the introduction of Stabilisers
have been a low birth weight and improved fertility.
They are docile to handle with low maintenance costs and Mr Field
said they make more efficient use of grass, particularly the calving
heifers which only receive 15 to 20lb a head of concentrate before
calving at two years old.
“My concern post CAP reform is whether beef production is
sustainable. We can try to cut down costs but obtaining a fair
price for beef is very important. I sell to who pays the most money
after off-takes but that's more difficult to work to. Then
industry needs common standards,” said Mr Field.
He also said he had great concerns about the consistency of how
cross-compliance was applied across the country which may affect
the competitiveness of farms which out-winter cattle such as at
The BIG initiative was established by
JSR Farms' Richard
Fuller and three fellow Yorkshire based beef producers as a business
structure designed to accelerate the multiplication and marketing
of Stabiliser genetics, a composite of two British and two continental
Since the first Stabiliser embryos were imported by BIG from the
USA in 1998, the venture has extended to involve more than 13,000
commercial suckler cows in herds throughout the UK.
|Stabiliser cattle at JSR
Stabiliser™ Project – interest gaining momentum