Beef producers throughout the North West are pledging unprecedented
support for the Northwest Stabiliser Project.
Cows with embryo Stabiliser calves
Within two years of its launch, 12 new multiplier Stabiliser herds
have been establised in Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire which
will subsequently contribute to increasing the pool of breeding
More than 200 farmers have registered an interest in the project
of which around 35 have ordered either Stabiliser semen or bulls
to use over their existing suckler cows and breed grading up replacement
“The Northwest Stabiliser Project which has a projected
return of £10.8m to the industry over 10 years, is proving
to be a dynamic new venture offering opportunities for all farmers
located in Cheshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and
Merseyside,” said project officer, Lowri Williams.
“Interest and take up has been beyond expectations. The
farmers who have expressed interest so far have one thing in common,
they are all seeking the opportunity to reduce production costs
and improve the output value of their suckler enterprises.
“The Stabiliser is providing them with a solution at a time
when their suckler enterprises are faced with two new sources of
pressure out side their control – higher modulation rates
and a more competitive global beef market.”
She added: “The Stabliser is a composite damline imported
nine years ago by the Beef Improvement Group from the USA where
it was developed to deliver consistent high quality beef produced
for least cost per kilo in subsidy free systems.” More than
9,300 suckler cows throughout the UK were mated to Stabiliser bulls
in 2006, decisions which will deliver forecast cost savings of £67
per cow per year in physical performance compared with the EBLEX
top third recorded performance suckler herds for 2005/06.
Left to right, farmer James Dixon of Kitcrag, Lowri Williams,
project officer, Paul Capstick chairman of the North West
Stabiliser project, and Donna Lowis of Food North West
(Formerly North West Food Alliance).
Food Northwest’s Fiona England commented: “We are
delighted by the level of progress made by the Northwest Stabiliser
Project. All the farmers involved should be congratulated for their
progressive view of innovative techniques. This venture will go
some way towards making the region’s beef producers more
competitive and to improving the quality of its beef.”
James Dixon, who farms with his brothers, Andrew and Richard at
Kitcrag, Selside, near Kendal is among the Northwest Stabiliser
Project’s members and is hosting an open day
for the region’s beef producers on Saturday 22 September
2007. Visitors will have the opportunity to discuss with the Dixon
brothers, James, Andrew and Richard how the Stabiliser is playing
a key role within their suckler herd to improve overall performance
and reduce production costs..
“We were convinced right from the start that the Stabiliser
concept would not only help us, but all beef producers in the region
to work towards a sustainable future,” he explained. “Since
we introduced the Stabiliser to our suckler herd, we’re finding
that it is ticking all the right boxes.
“For example, last season we put a 14 month old Stabiliser
bull to a group of 40 Continental cross heifers and 100 pc calved
within a period of two cycles, performance which demonstrates the
Stabiliser’s early maturity,” he said.
“Furthermore, there were no problems when it came to calving
- they were an absolute dream. These Stabiliser cross calves seem
to have a will to live, they are alert and inquisitive, equally,
they have a quiet temperament. They also have the added benefit
of being polled.
“In addition, the Stabliser is providing us with a welcome
opportunity to reduce production costs. This coming winter we plan
to feed pure forage diets to the calves and make considerable savings
on creep of approximately 70p per head per day.”
Eventually the Stabiliser is destined to generate added value
at Kitcrag. “We’re confident that the Stabiliser has
a real future as a damline and we’ve decided to retain all
the F1 heifers for grading up to purebred status and to establish
a multiplier herd.”
Lowri added: “Stabilisers are not only contributing towards
improved output in UK herds, but they are also making savings of
up to 20 pc on labour and building depreciation, and a similar
level on wear and tear of machinery and power requirements simply
because of improvement in feed efficiency from grass thereby reducing
winter silage requirements.
“Their hardiness is also lending them to being housed later.
We are confident that the cattle at Kitcrag will go on and make
a similar reduction in production costs and increase the output
value of the unit’s beef enterprise.”
Kitcrag Farm, an 180 hectare unit, lies at 600 feet above sea
level in the hamlet of Selside, near Kendal. Land is all in the
less favoured area with 80 pc of it severely disadvantaged, rising
to 1,300 ft above sea level.
An adjoining 175 hectare farm, Yoad Pot, is also part of the family
business run by brothers James, Andrew and Richard Dixon. James’ son
Stephen also works on the farm.
The farm carries 300 Swale dale and 250 Mule ewes, with a small
flock of Leicester sheep. A new 12,000 bird free range poultry
unit has been established at the farm after ceasing milk production
Following visits to Givendale, Yorkshire, and the Lilburn Estate
near Wooler by Dixon family members, it was felt that the Stabiliser
breed offered them the way ahead by enabling them to run a low
cost, easy care suckler enterprise, breeding their own replacements
into a closed herd. The aim is to build up cow numbers to
120-plus Stabilisers, which the family is well on its way to doing.
Grading up process
Grading up since 2004, when their first Stabiliser bull was bought
from the Geldard family in April of that year. Bought in 40 Limousin
cross heifers in 2004 to put to this bull also bought in around
65 young calves, mainly Limousin cross with some Saler cross.
Continued with grading up process with bought in heifers, also
put in 10 Stabiliser embryos in the remaining original dairy
Four pure bred Stabiliser bull calves and one pure bred heifer
born from embryo transfer, and more embryo transfer work done
in order to create a foundation herd of pure bred Stabiliser.
Eight embryo calves born, seven heifers and one bull. Present stocking
numbers have reached over 100 sucklers, of which 50 will be heifers
calved this summer. 15 Stabiliser embryos have been put in this
The Stabiliser: the modern functional suckler cow
Winter Oilseed Rape Margins Stack Up
Rare Breed Meats Direct From Herding Hill Farm