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Stackyard News Feb 2010

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New Event Puts Spotlight on Show Potential Cattle

A new event in Cumbria next month will showcase potential commercial cattle champions.

Harrison & Hetherington is incorporating a spring show with its annual sale of store cattle at Kirkby Stephen on Monday March 8, drawing from the wealth of quality beef herds in the region and giving showmen an opportunity to purchase primestock stars of the future.

“We felt there was a void in the calendar and we’re looking to attract halter-trained, quality cattle produced in the Kirkby Stephen catchment area extending from south and east Cumbria into County Durham and North Yorkshire,” said Kirkby Stephen mart manager Robert Addison.

“It’s an event we would like to develop and it would be good to see cattle purchased at Kirkby Stephen go on to be exhibited at H&H’s Borderway Agri Expo event on Friday October 29 as well as at other summer and winter shows,” he added.

Cattle purchased between October 1, 2009 and September 30, 2010 at Kirkby Stephen or any of Harrison & Hetherington’s other seven centres which go on to pick up the cattle supreme championship at Borderway Agri Expo or any of the other four other winter fairs - Scottish Winter Fair, English Winter Fair, Royal Smithfield and the Welsh Winter Fair - are eligible for a special prize of £1,000, provided the exhibitor was the purchaser of the animal.

The Kirkby Stephen show, which will be judged by noted show person Louise Todd, of Lincoln, has attracted a sponsorship package providing in excess of £2,500 in prize money from Novartis, Jobsons Farm Health, Caltech, Carrs Billington, Graham Edwards Trailors, B&B Dairy Group, Out of Eden and the British Blue and Limousin cattle societies.

Sue & Chris Robinson

Sue & Chris Robinson

The Kirkby Stephen show and sale has attracted relative newcomers to breeding show potential cattle - JW Watson, of Whygill Head Little Asby - to enter some calves.

Since Chris Robinson left Appleby Grammar School armed with A levels and other qualifications three years ago to work for the family business JW Watson run by his mum, Sue, in partnership with her mother, Lydia Watson, the emphasis has been on producing quality continental cross store cattle.

The business changed direction after 2001’s foot and mouth epidemic with the milking herd of British Friesians being replaced by Angus cross cows until Chris completed his education and started to work on the farm.

“We decided to breed Limousin cross British Blue cattle because of their value in the auction, because we can sell them sooner and because they are what the market wants,” said Sue, the third generation of the family to farm at Whygill Head.

The foundation of the herd of Blue and Limousin cross cows was bought at Kirkby Stephen and Carlisle.

The herd now numbers 42 cows, including in-calf heifers, and they are crossed with either the Limousin or the Blue bull, both of which are pedigree. They were bought from local breeders privately - the Limousin, Noble Arrogant, from Andrew Harrison’s Noble herd at Grange Hall Farm, Great Asby, and the purchase last May of the British Blue, Valley Clown, from Richard Carruthers’ Valley herd at Rawfoot Farm, Bampton, Penrith.

“We intend to breed our own replacements and we like to buy a bull locally because good temperament is important to us and we can see its parents and what the family is producing before we buy,” said Chris.

potential show cattle

Sue and Chris were encouraged to consider presenting some of their calves as potential show cattle after achieving good prices at sales including a 14 month old heifer which sold at Kirkby Stephen for £1,000 and another batch of four bullocks sold at another centre last spring at 12 to 13 months old averaged £905 - all by the Limousin bull. The first time they had shown cattle, one of the bullocks took a first prize and sold for £1,070.

They have chosen three bullocks and two heifers by him from which they will select a couple of entries for the new Kirkby Stephen show which is only five miles from the farm.

The aim is to have the majority of the cows calving in the spring with a first batch of up to 20 calving inside at the end of February to produce some earlier calves and the rest calving outside in May. A small number calve in the autumn.

While the cows are hardy, the 207 acre all-grass Whygill Head runs to 1,000ft above sea level, albeit on good, dry land over limestone, so the cows are housed from October to the end of April, depending on the weather, and fed on big bale silage mixed with straw.

Calves are weaned at seven to eight months old and are fed some creep feed with the aim of presenting them store from 10 months to 18 months old.

Two pedigree Limousin heifers were purchased at a recent Carlisle suckled calf sale with the intention of establishing a pedigree Limousin herd.

Sue and Chris, who are helped at busy times on the farm by Sue’s husband Colin, a police sergeant, and Chris’s brother Jonathan, aged 18, have adopted the same philosophy with their sheep flock - to breed for quality - and it is paying off.

Traditionally a Rough Fell farm, Whygill Head was re-stocked with Cheviots, Scotch Mules and pedigree Texels.

The farm has grazing rights on Little Asby common which entered Higher Level Stewardship last summer and since then the farming partnership has decided not to run sheep on it.

Burtree pedigree Texel flock
Burtree pedigree Texel flock

Their 359 sheep include the Burtree pedigree Texel flock numbering 56 sheep, pure Cheviots and the remainder are now three quarter Texel and Beltex crosses with pedigree Texel and Beltex cross rams used across the flock, paying up to 1,000gns for them in Carlisle.

All the 2009 lamb crop was finished off the farm, regularly topping the prime sales in Kirkby Stephen averaged £70.65 for 300 lambs at an average weight per lamb of 43.84kg.

Highlight was at the Kirkby Stephen Christmas sale when their pen of lambs sold for the top price of £134 a head, £2.82p per kg, to local butcher Ivan Brown.

Lambing begins in mid March with the Beltex and Texel crosses and pedigree Texels. Their lambs are finished off grass and creep, selling from the end of June.

The remainder of the ewes lamb in April. Later finishing lambs are fed creep fed from late summer and they are housed at the end of October with all being sold by early the following year.

The closing date for entries for the new Kirkby Stephen show is Monday February 22 with entries for the sale only accepted up to March 1.

For further information please contact Rebecca Dickens or Mark Richardson from Harrison & Hetherington’s Kirkby Stephen team on 017683 72269.

link Haltcliffe DJ Top of Carlisle Limousin Charts
link Aberdeen Angus Bulls to 4000gns at Dungannon
link Cumberland Show Hosts Biggest Display of Cattle

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