The Hillview herd owned by Amanda Hamley, of Liskeard, Cornwall, has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most Improved Herd for the Stabiliser breed for 2008/09.
Hillview herd’s first stock bull – Bainton Envoy.
The award is presented by the EBLEX Beef Better Returns Programme (Beef BRP), to the recorded herd that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial traits over a 12-month period. There is a separate award for each of ten UK breeds.
Mrs Hamley farms 65ha (160 acres) of mainly permanent pasture on which she runs the herd of 60 Stabiliser cows, including 17 pure-bred animals, and a flock of 70 commercial ewes which are tupped to recorded Meatlinc rams.
From 1999 to 2004, Mrs Hamley ran a commercial suckler herd of Friesian crossed cows served with either Simmental or Charolais bulls. However, after hearing Stabiliser pioneer Richard Fuller talk at a local event, she decided this was the breed for her.
She felt the cattle would be well suited to her system, which includes out-wintering, and liked the fact the cows are good natured and calve easily, and that the calves show good hybrid vigour.
She bought a Stabiliser bull, Bainton Envoy, and became a multiplier herd using embryos implanted into her commercial cows. The first calves were born in 2005 and one young bull was kept for breeding. She sold Bainton Envoy after two seasons and bought another stock bull from Richard Fuller in 2007.
The bulls run with the cows for 12 weeks in June – one serves the commercial cows, while another serves the pure-bred cattle. The cows are pregnancy scanned in October and in the very few cases where the cow is barren it is culled.
The cows are out wintered and are not fed any concentrate as they have a natural ability to survive on a forage-only diet.
All multiplier herds are obliged to record the performance of their stock. Mrs Hamley feels this also provides useful information on which to base future decisions for the herd. A key requirement for most commercial producers who buy her youngstock is good growth rate, and this is a trait she is concentrating on.
This year Mrs Hamley will be using artificial insemination to access some of the top genetics in the breed and to introduce some new bloodlines. She will be using tools such as Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to match specific bulls to individual cows. For example, if a particular cow has a low 400-day growth rate but good figures for milk yield and calving ease, she will be matched to a bull which has excellent growth rates, but who may not score as highly for maternal traits.
“It is a great advantage that the entire national herd is recorded, which means all bulls have figures behind them,” says Mrs Hamley. “This helps me select the best bulls for my system.”
Sales are made privately off the farm, mainly to commercial farmers who are buying bulls to serve their cows. The steers also finish well and have good flavour. Some sales are also made to other Stabiliser herds.
Asked how she felt about winning the award, Mrs Hamley says it has really boosted her confidence.
“I want to continually improve the herd and it is good to know that we are going in the right direction.” she admits. “My long-term objective is to own the top 60 cows in the country. Having clear breeding objectives, and using tools such as EBVs will help me to achieve this.”
EBLEX breeding specialist Samuel Boon agrees.
“EBVs are measurements of genetic potential and provide a reliable insight into the effect a bull can have on a herd,” he says. “It means producers can make informed purchasing decisions rather than leaving it to chance, and hoping the chosen animal will deliver on the commercially important traits.
“All the winners of the Improved Herd Awards record the performance of their herds. All are providing valuable information that can help customers produce animals that make them money because they meet producer, processor, retailer and consumer demand, and do so as efficiently as possible.
“I congratulate Amanda Hamley on the excellent job she is doing with the Hillview herd.”
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