A mission to find a particular type of duck led to the foundation
of a successful pedigree beef herd in north Yorkshire 20 years
Michael Abrahams, left, and farm manager Ray Sanderson, with stock
Michael Abrahams and his farm manager Ray Sanderson had until
1986 been buying in and finishing continental store cattle at Newfield,
Mickley, near Ripon.
However, the difficulties in managing the flighty store cattle
led to the decision to set up a pedigree herd of cows with a quiet
It was by accident that Ray spotted the Beef Shorthorn herd run
by The Hon Gerald Turton at Upsall
Castle, near Thirsk – while
he was out trying to buy some ducks.
While the ducks never arrived at Newfield, the Beef Shorthorns
did, starting two decades of breeding which has resulted in numerous
show wins and has commanded leading prices at breed sales in Perth.
“It was just by accident that I came across these cattle
when I was at a neighbouring farm in search of the ducks,” said
“At the time we were considering starting a pedigree beef
herd and these cattle took me back to the days of my grandfather
and they reflected the history of farming in this region,” he
“We had been considering starting a continental herd but
because of their popularity I thought why not breed something that
no one else wants to breed and eventually they will become interested.
The Shorthorns generated a lot of interest from our neighbours.
The size of the financial investment was a lot less than in continentals.
“And while we had never bred cattle here before, it was
amazing how placid the Shorthorn cows were and how easy they were
to work with.
“The Abrahams get a lot of visitors to the farm through
their equestrian interests and strangers can walk among the cows
and even those with newborn calves without any problem.”
In 1986 the Newfield herd was established with seven females from
The following year Mr Abrahams visited Scotland and additions
to the herd were made from the Chapelton, Fingask, Glenisla and
Further investment was made in 1990 in 60 breeding cows from the
dispersal of Miss Mary Furness’s Otterington herd. Since
then all herd females have been home-bred with only stock bulls
It was the private purchase of stock bull Chapelton Eclipse which
helped set the herd on the road to success, marrying with the various
Mr Sanderson spotted his potential at as early an age as one month
and he was eventually bought at 16 months old after being exhibited
at the Royal Highland Show.
In particular, the small, square, old fashioned Otterington cows
bred well with the big Chapel ton sire which weighed one and a
half tonnes and sold as a six year old to Shetland breeder Derek
Black for his Toab herd.
A three times Great Yorkshire Show breed champion, his progeny
went on to take the leading prizes and prices at Perth’s
October bull sales.
In 1994, Newfield Gambler the show champion sold for 5,800gns
at two years old. His bloodlines continue to sell well with the
Perth champion in 2004 Newfield Torque selling for 4,800gns to
Andy Ryder’s herd at Muffed.
Two on farm sales have depleted herd numbers now to a dozen breeding
cows with most of Newfield’s 168 acres rented out for sheep
While herd numbers have been reduced, the enthusiasm for the breed
shown by both Mr Abrahams and Mr Sanderson has not diminished.
Mr Abrahams is the current president of the Yorkshire Agricultural
Society and he has high hopes for his stock bulls at this year’s
event from July 10-12 at Harrogate – senior bull Cairns more
Thrasher bred by Jane and John Landers, of Newton Stewart, and
homebred three-year-old Newfield Xerxes which are entered for this
year’s show at Harrogate in July.
Newfield Beef Shorthorn cows and a one month old bull calf by stock
The cows, which calve from mid March, are in calf to Thrasher
while five herd replacement heifers are in calf to Newfield Xerxes.
One of the herd’s most successful show cows was an Eclipse
daughter, Newfield Harmony Ruby that Ray describes as ‘an
exceptional animal’. In seven years of showing at the Yorkshire
in the early 1990s from a yearling heifer she was never beaten.
And Mr Sanderson, a past Royal Show judge, judged a strong line-up
of Beef Shorthorns at the Royal Highland Show on Thursday (June
21), an event he has not attended for some years.
He applied the criteria he has used with Mr Abrahams to select
cattle for the Newfield herd, generally favouring the roan coloured
animals and placing importance on wide muzzles for foraging ability,
bright eyes indicating temperament and well set ears to show there
is ‘something in between them’!
He also selects for a good coat and feet, round boned animals
which are preferably naturally polled. He places great emphasis
on the breed’s maternal traits.
For the Newfield herd, he has been keen to maintain certain families
mainly from more dairy lines with proven milking ability to keep
this important trait – the Tanzy family has been noted for
He is also keen to source bloodlines from the UK rather than from
“I think the breed has a good future. We have set up a group
in north Yorkshire to promote and sell the breed to both commercial
and pedigree breeders and we have a successful sale at .Thirsk
“With less labour on farms, their placid nature and being
easily handled means they are ideal. They are also suitable for
organic systems. The meat is very good and nicely marbled with
Bull calves are earmarked as potential breeding bulls and the
reminder are wintered on haylage and finished at 18 to 20 months
old, selling to Otley butcher Gillams.
The breeding bulls readily sell to both commercial and suckler
The Newfield herd, although not registered organic, is run on
organic and traditional lines with no artificial fertiliser used.
The cattle’s main diet is grass and haylage, which is also
produced for the Newfield horses.
Concentrate is only fed to show teams and to bulls a month prior
to sale. The farm is renowned as a good stock rearing unit with its
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