Influencing market price is out of the majority of beef producers’ reach;
however they do have tools to hand to improve their unit’s
efficiency and ultimately its sustainability in the run up to
2012. Alan Medd is among those who are already implementing them.
A combination of selected genetics and better nutrition is enabling
Alan Medd to maximise his suckler enterprise’s potential
and subsequent gross output at West Whorley Hill, Winston, near
That was reflected in an entry of 17, 11 month old Charolais
cross bulls averaging 505 kgs, sold through Barnard Castle mart
store ring last month to average £621 and feature within
the day’s top 5pc, a trend consistent with his previous
trade at the centre.
“We pride ourselves in producing quality stock and nowadays
we’re finding that our calves are flying. We’ve reintroduced
Charolais to use over our 100 cow suckler herd, and more recently
started to feed a specific total mixed ration (TMR) mix to weaned
seven month old calves through to sale, 12 weeks later.”
During that three month housed period Charolais cross bulls
are achieving a daily liveweight gain (DLG) of 1.64kg to average
505kgs liveweight at 11 month old point of sale, and same age
heifers an average 387kgs liveweight.
Alan says performance has improved by 15pc since swapping a
traditional ration for the TMR diet formulated by Keenan and
designed to encourage growth potential while feed conversion
efficiency (FCE) is at its greatest. It comprises home grown
grass silage, whole crop wheat (WCW) and rolled grains plus a
“We use another continental bull over the herd’s
heifer replacements and their same age calves, compared with
the Charolais crosses, have consistently averaged 50kg less,” he
said. “Since introducing the TMR diet, the differential
between these calves is now even greater – in the order
of 75kg at 11 months point of sale.”
Alan farms in partnership with his father Brian, a 442 acre
mainly grassland holding carrying a 100 cow suckler herd, a 250
bull beef finishing enterprise and 600 ewes. His mother, Kathleen
manages the office work, while his wife, Alison is responsible
for the calf rearing.
A member of the Red Meat Industry Forum’s local group,
Alan says the venture is offering real positives. “The
group has helped to open our eyes, share new ideas and keep our
ears to the ground. The farming sector is a fast moving world
in which technical and management advances are continually being
made, and we’ve got to be ready to respond,” he says.
“For example, 10 years back we went with the fashion and
jumped to another continental terminal sire to use over the herd
however, since then, the store market has dictated it wants cattle
that will grow more quickly to slaughter weight, so we’ve
returned to using Charolais,” he said.
“In fact, I don’t think there is any other breed
that will leave calves that will match Charolais crosses’ weight
for age, and conformation. They’ll never be beaten, and
at the end of the day, we’re all paid on weight.
“There’s also temperament and other factors to be
taken into account particularly when we’ve pared labour
to the bone – there’s just me and Dad to manage the
farm,” Alan said.
“Apart from being quiet, our Charolais cross calves are
easy to calve, the calves are lively, they’re soon up suckling
and looking after themselves, and their muscle development is
soon very apparent.”
He added: “We’re aware of the importance of selecting
the correct bull - he is after all half the herd. While frame
on which to hang the muscle is among our key criteria, we will
in future be looking at Estimated Breeding Values to help us
evaluate our choice and his potential to leave even higher performance
Introducing the TMR feeding system was a natural progression
having witnessed its ability to help exploit growth potential
on other beef units, Alan says. Furthermore, he has found the
system is also helping to improve efficiency within the unit’s
Holstein bull finishing enterprise which turns over an annual
200 head reared from two week olds through to 280kg to 300kg
deadweight from 12 months.
“The new diet is knocking two to three weeks off time
taken through to finishing, and it’s subsequently speeding
up the cash flow.”
The Medds are next planning to review sward management at West
Whorley Hill. “We’re aware of new grass varieties
available including high sugar ones which could to contribute
towards better grazing as well as conserved forage.
“We currently finish all our lambs off milk and grass
from 16 weeks, and if we could reduce the number of days to finishing
then that would be another contributing factor towards improving
efficiency and output.”
He adds: “Where we go next, I really don’t know.
We’ve already pared our fixed costs to the bone – we
employ no staff, we are as self sufficient as possible in forage,
vet and med is minimal, we have the genetics and we believe they’re
being exploited cost effectively by our new feeding regime.
“While we’ll be keeping our ears to the ground for
new technical advances, one move I’m certain the industry
would welcome is nominal a rise in finished beef price.”
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