|Gerald Turton with
Gerald Turton is one of the Beef Shorthorn’s
greatest enthusiasts, having done much to promote the breed.
Beef Shorthorn breeding was in the blood for Gerald Turton - the
third generation of his family to run the North Yorkshire
based Upsall herd, which is the oldest in the country and
rapidly approaches its centenary.
The herd was established in 1909 by Gerald Turton’s
great uncle Sir Edmund Turton, at the farms at Upsall, near
Thirsk, when the Beef Shorthorn was in its hey day.
Gerald’s father, Robin Turton - Lord Tranmire - succeeded
in the herd’s management as well as in his uncle’s
footsteps as an MP for 45 years.
And since he took on the running of the 1,000-acre predominantly
arable estate and the herd in 1960 there was never any doubt
for Gerald Turton that he would continue with the breed - a
later brush with the new imported continental breeds further
strengthened his resolve.
Now, into the new millennium and another new era without
headage subsidies for Britain’s beef farmers with the
Single Farm Payment and lifting of the Over Thirty Month Scheme,
he remains more convinced that the Beef Shorthorn’s
attributes make it a breed for the future.
“Our aim has always been to produce the ideal suckler
cow with bulls suitable for breeding suckler cows from continental
females,” said Gerald.
“It’s very important to foresee the future and
to see what is wanted by the commercial producer. The way
farming is heading people will become more interested in quality.
“The Beef Shorthorn is a maternal breed which has unique
traits and those who want decent suckler cows would be well
advised to look to the Shorthorn to breed their own replacement
females if they don’t want to buy them in.
“They make very good mothers and because of their wide
pelvic bone they calve easily. They come to puberty earlier
than other breeds and they do extremely well on poorer grazing
“Beef Shorthorns are also quiet and easy to manage - which
are all traits which should be of particular importance now
when people have less time.”
Another trait of the Shorthorn is its superior meat eating
qualities and with an eye on the future and further marketing
opportunities for the breed, Gerald has been involved with
Merial’s Igenity L testing scheme.
From a few strands of hair, this identifies leptin protein
which is directly related to appetite, energy utilisation
- and marbling - in beef cattle with British breeds tending
to marble and continental breeds tending to be lean.
“If beef is of inferior quality and people buy it thinking
they will produce a lovely dinner and it doesn’t then
they will buy chicken next time. The Beef Shorthorn has been
identified as having particular tenderness qualities,” he
Currently, most of the herd’s surplus heifers and steers
are sold at a premium to Roy Scott, of Garstang, who is developing
substantial businesses in selling well matured, traditional
breed beef to a discerning customer base.
Bulls are sold at 480-500kg at 13 months old with heifers
finishing at 20 months to two years old.
Gerald has been involved with the development by Skipton-based
consultants the Erskine Corporation LLP of a strategic marketing
and action plan for traditional breed beef which have been
reared on environmentally sensitive areas found throughout
the north of England on behalf of the Yorkshire Dales National
Park Authority and North Yorkshire County Council.
This has also had the support of celebrity chef Sophie Grigson,
one of many leading cooks who are firmly behind the concept
of traditional breed beef.
The Upsall herd has been performance recorded since 1996
and Gerald has also taken advantage of the Breedplan cattle
recording system which was adopted last year by the Beef Shorthorn
Cattle Society, together with five other British Breed Societies,
The Aberdeen Angus, Belgian Blue, Hereford, Simmental and
Breedplan was originally developed in Australia and is now
in use by 80 breed societies covering eight species in 11
countries and the new initiative takes the dissemination of
information to a new level with a wide range of performance-related
figures and statistics instantly available on a dedicated
The Upsall herd achieved probably its greatest success at
the February 2005 Perth Bull Sales, when not only the supreme
championship but all the male trophies fell to bulls with
the Upsall prefix - and they had impressive performance
The intermediate and supreme champion was the roan
bull Wyvis of Upsall by Uppermill Recto and has a terminal
sire index of +16, selling for 7,500gns, 500gns short of the
top price to Shetland Island farmer E Graham.
The senior champion
was Warwick of Upsall (P), who with Wyvis won the best pair
of bulls and with Warrior of Upsall the best group of three
bulls. With Warlock of Upsall (P) another strong roan bull
which was not shown, the bull team averaged £3,968.75.
Upsall team, brought out by David Cormack, consisted of four
bulls, three of which were shown, however, Chesterhall Farms
who had bought Alexander of Upsall (P) a son of Loch Awe Lysander
as a calf at the Upsall sale in 2003, won the reserve supreme,
junior and polled championships with the bull.
weight figures, Wyvis was in the top 1 per cent for 200 and
600 days, Warwick was top 15 per cent for 200DW and 400DW,
Warlock tops 1 per cent for 600 and 400DW and Warrior top
1 per cent for 600DW.
Bulls bred at Upsall are treated commercially
with the aim of producing strong, active sires which are ready
to go on and work on commercial suckler herds on terrain ranging
from low ground to the high hills.
The herd run by stockman
Laurence Fenton now numbers 80 down calvers with followers
and females are calved at two years of age.
The polled herd
was started in 1960 and is now 90 per cent polled, reducing
the risk of needing to dehorn which is an extra chore.
and Australian Shorthorn bloodlines have been used on the
herd as well as some Maine Anjou to give size and cleanness
in the early days after Gerald took over the herd’s
The herd is also in the SAC health scheme.
Twenty years ago Gerald Turton was instrumental in forming
the North of England Beef Shorthorn Association to encourage
local breeders who mainly had small numbers as a forum for
An annual autumn sale has also been established by the club
at Thirsk, in conjunction with Thirsk Auction Mart
with this year’s sale held on Saturday October 29,
following on from the autumn Perth sale on Monday October
© Copyright 2005 Jennifer
MacKenzie All Rights