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Stackyard News Aug 06

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    The Stabiliser: the modern functional suckler cow

Suckler cow strategies will come under the microscope later this month when the Greenshields family open their gate at South Mains, Sanquhar on 29 August and discuss the benefits of introducing the Stabiliser to their 180 cow herd.
Douglas and Lorna Greenshsields with John, Robert and Andrew and some of their purebred Stabiliser cows.

Douglas and Lorna Greenshsields with John, Robert and Andrew and some of their purebred Stabiliser cows

Introducing the Stabiliser as a modern functional suckler cow to South Mains is beginning to make a significant contribution to cost savings as well as improving overall output. “Better health and fertility, reduced calving problems, and lower labour requirements are among the benefits together with the opportunity to work with cattle with a quiet temperament,” explains Mr Greenshields who is currently up grading a commercial suckler herd to pure Stabiliser status on the 1,700 acre LFA unit which he farms in partnership with his wife, Lorna and also carries a 2,100 ewe sheep enterprise.

Five years ago, Douglas and Lorna Greenshields were among the first producers to introduce the Stabiliser as a damline to Scotland. “We became aware of the Stabiliser is a composite damline which had been originally imported from the USA eight years ago where it was developed to deliver consistent high quality beef produced for least cost per kilo in subsidy free systems which reflect those in the UK post CAP reform.

“I investgated further the science that had gone in to developing the Stabiliser concept, visited the research centre in Nebraska and I concluded it did stack up. The US scientists had taken a leaf out of the British pig industry’s books and had selected certain beef breeds for particular traits, and at the same time they had maintained hybrid vigour,” he explained. “We concluded that the Stabiliser offered the solution.”

At the time, the Greenshields had depended on beef bred suckler cow replacements from the dairy herd. “The Holstein influence was becoming so strong in these cattle. They were lasting for an average of six calves by which stage a large percentage were milking off one or two teats, furthermore the herd was suffering from impaired fertility and a barren rate of 12%. We also had to contend with the fact these cattle were being sourced from the bottom 25% of the dairy herd.”

While the couple have carried out ET work and now have a small purebred herd of Stabilisers, their main focus is on grading up their 180 cow commercial herd. Five purebred Stabiliser bulls run with the herd and so far all the heifers have been retained.

“We’ve found these Stabiliser crosses, the F1s are reaching sufficnt body weight to calve at two years. Calving problems are now minimal, and consequently the workload has been reduced, and new born calves tend to be more lively. The number of barrens has been halved during the past two years to 6%, and overall fertility has improved to the extent the calving pattern has tightened enabling 90% of the herd to calve over three cycles.

“Since we closed the herd two years ago, we’ve been able to take control over health issues and started to notice the benefits. We’ve had less pneumonia problems, scours have been eliminated. So far we haven’t had udder problems in the stabs. We appreciate the Stabiliser’s quiet temperament and we are confident they will last however we will have to wait see. My gut feeling is these cattle have got what it takes. Admitedly, longevity slows down the opportunity for faster genetic progress, however our target should be for a cow that will match the Luing’s lifespan of at least 15 years.”

He adds: “Suckler cow producers are under pressure to make essential cost savings if they are to create a sustainable profitable system that will embrace the full imapct of the new regime in the run up to 2012. We are confident that the Stabiliser will make a significant contribution towards that goal, sufficient to ensure a future for suckler beef at South Mains which we believe is essential to complement a thriving sheep enterprise.”

Further details on the South Mains open day can be obtained from the Stabiliser Cattle Company’s Richard Fuller on 07970 097519.

link Support for the Northwest Stabiliser Project
link Northwest Stabiliser Project - interest gaining momentum
link Beef from the Dairy Herd at Dairy Event 2006
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