Commercial beef herds in Caithness and the Borders have claimed
the top two places in the annual Bank of Scotland Aberdeen-Angus
Suckler Herd of the Year awards.
Michael Pottinger (left) and David (right) with some of their Aberdeen-Angus cross cattle at Greenland Mains, Thurso.
Overall winner is Hamish Pottinger, and sons, Michael and David,
who run a 210-cow breeding and finishing enterprise at Greenland
Mains, Thurso, Caithness, and runner-up – for the second time
- Douglas Tweedie, whose 130-cow breeding and finishing enterprise
is based at Middlethird, Gordon, Berwickshire.
The judge, John Taylor, Bank of Scotland Corporate’s Director
of Agriculture Scotland, said there was little to separate the two
finalists. Both enterprises were good examples of the ongoing development
potential of the Aberdeen-Angus breed for commercial producers.
“Unfortunately, there can be only one winner and Michael just
shaded it with a very good grasp of the financial and technical performance
of his herd,” said Mr Taylor, who visited the farms on consecutive
days at the beginning of January, with Ron McHattie, chief executive
of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society.
“It was a case of two extremes with 80mph gales and lashing
rain in Caithness and a sunny, almost balmy, spring-like day in the
Borders,” said Mr Taylor. “Both farmers are to be congratulated
on the quality of their businesses and livestock in quite contrasting
parts of Scotland. Both are alive to the importance of delivering
the spec required by their customers and are continuing to drive
out further efficiencies in their businesses.”
Mr Taylor added that the ever-increasing influence of the Aberdeen-Angus
breed in both commercial herds had reaped a financial and technical
improvement in performance.
“There is an ever-increasing demand for Aberdeen-Angus beef
at the quality end of the market and this can only be of benefit
to the breed society and its members,” said Mr Taylor. “The
recent well-publicised agreement with Burger King has the benefit
of producing a premium market for that part of the animal which is
of lower value.”
The Pottinger family have switched 100% to Aberdeen-Angus bulls
for crossing on their Aberdeen-Angus, Lincoln Red and Simmental cross
cows because of the ease of calving, easy management advantages and
longevity of the Aberdeen-Angus breed. They now run seven Aberdeen-Angus
bulls, all Newcairnie-bred, and plan to maintain a closed herd with
high health status.
“The Aberdeen-Angus eat half as much as Continental crosses
and are so easily calved,” says Michael Pottinger. “The
calves are easily fleshed and grow into prime cattle which command
a premium price per kg in the market place.”
Cows are inwintered in straw bedded courts on a Total Mixed Ration
of silage, home-grown barley, straw and minerals which is available
ad lib from a bunker. Liveweight gain and grading has improved
dramatically since the introduction of TMR compared with feeding
silage and barley twice-a-day. Rapemeal is fed as the only protein
to heifers and finishing cattle to grow the frame over the first
Summer grazing includes access to sandy links on a Site of Special
Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Dunnet where grazing is restricted
to three months of the year from mid-August until housing in November.
Grazing has been greatly improved as a result of ploughing and reseeding
over the past 10 years.
Cows are calved in May/June and graze on rotational grass until
safely in calf when they move to the sandy links. Heifers are calved
at two years of age which the Pottinger’s view as an important
economic advantage. This year 98% of the cows have been pregnancy
diagnosed in calf. Cows not in calf are culled.
All calves are finished on the farm – except heifers being
retained as replacements – and are marketed to A K Stoddart
Ltd, exclusive suppliers of Aberdeen-Angus beef to Costco.
Most recent figures show steers averaging 363kg deadweight at 629
days (1.16kg DLWG) and grading R4L and 4H to gross £835 and
heifers – after selecting the best as replacements - 285kg
at 603 days (1.03kg DLWG) with similar grades to gross £640.
“The profitability of our beef enterprise has increased each
year with increased sales and has allowed substantial investment
in buildings and grassland improvement,” says Michael.
Mr Tweedie, who was runner-up in the competition two years ago,
runs 130 Aberdeen-Angus cross cows, all put to Aberdeen-Angus bulls,
on his 1000-acre lowland farm in the Borders. All calves are finished
on the farm and sold to meat processors, Dovecote Park Ltd, exclusive
suppliers of Aberdeen-Angus beef to Waitrose.
Mr Tweedie has opted for Aberdeen-Angus because of their easy keep
advantages and premium prices, averaging 225p/kg deadweight over
the past year.
Awards – including the Bank of Scotland Trophy and cash prize
of £1000 to the winner – will be presented at the annual
dinner of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society at Perth on Monday (February
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