The Kersey Herd owned by R Partridge & Son Ltd of Ipswich, Suffolk has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most Improved Herd of British Blue cattle for 2011.
Chris Partridge with ‘Kersey Domino’ by Mountjoy Utopia.
Domino has a Carcass Yield Index of 23 and a Pedigree Breeding Index of 23.
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.
Chris Partridge and his brother Robert are fifth generation farmers at West Sampsons Hall, Kersey, which is situated in rolling ‘Constable’ country. Whilst Robert manages the arable business, Chris looks after the livestock.
The farm has a mix of enterprises on 300ha (750 acres); two-thirds is arable and the rest permanent pasture. The pedigree herd currently consists of 20 breeding females of different ages. There are also 60 commercial sucklers and a long-established flock of 100 high index pedigree Suffolk sheep.
The cattle are fed arable by-products such as straw, as well as home-grown cereals and fodder beet, with just some protein and minerals bought-in. Farmyard manure is applied to the arable fields.
Chris Partridge started the Kersey British Blue herd in 1986 after leaving college, and his herd is one of the oldest in the country. Attracted by the muscling and high killing out percentage, he started with two pedigree heifers from the Park Herd. He believes the breed has great potential for dairy and suckler farms looking for bulls to produce fast growing, high quality slaughter progeny.
Mr Partridge uses Blue bulls on his own Simmental cross cows. The progeny are finished indoors and sold through Colchester Market at 15-16 months of age; heifers achieve up to 550 liveweight and steers up to 650kg.
Mr Partridge has been performance recording for eight years, first with Signet and now with Breedplan.
When selecting cows to breed from, he takes account of growth and other performance traits, but says they must also have good legs and feet. Some of the best cows have been flushed and their embryos transferred to some of the cross-bred cows. Any animal that does not make the grade for breeding goes to market. The pedigree cows are served by AI to incorporate new genetics from bulls with top beef values.
“Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) are very important tools in my business,” says Mr Partridge.
“The key one is 400-day growth, followed by muscle and backfat depths, and carcase yield index. All animals are scanned and weight recorded which helps confirm I’ve made the right breeding choices.
“We seem to be making good progress. Growth rate and carcase yield EBVs are improving due to three or four good bulls. In particular, Ridgedean Physical and Mountjoy Utopia have been very influential over the past five to ten years.”
Bulls are sold mainly privately off farm, mostly to local East Anglian suckler herds. A few have been taken to pedigree sales at Chelford and Carlisle.
Gerald Ketley runs a commercial suckler herd near Colchester with pure Limousins, Limousin crosses and British Blue crosses. He has purchased a number of bulls from Chris Partridge.
“Chris knows my herd well and carefully selects bulls to suit my cows and my system,” says Mr Ketley.
“We use the British Blue bulls with the pure Limousin and Limousin crosses and have no calving difficulties in either, despite achieving high birth-weights. Our Blue X Limousin cows produce a lot of milk and can outwinter – which is essential on this farm.”
Youngstock is pushed hard after weaning and finished from 12 months of age. Heifers achieve 460-520kg, and steers around 520-600kg, achieving good weights whilst remaining lean. The cattle consistently finish at R and U grades.
Mr. Ketley supplies local butchers, as well as selling through the local auction market and supplying Morrison’s supermarket.
“I trust Chris as a breeder and have been very satisfied with the bulls which I have bought from him,” says Mr Ketley. “I shall definitely keep on buying breeding stock from him in the future!”
“Chris Partridge has done an excellent job with the Kersey Herd and the British Blue breed as a whole over the past 25 years,” says EBLEX breeding specialist Samuel Boon.
“His focus on providing top quality breeding stock that produces commercially desirable progeny is commendable. His use of records and information to make sure the herd is progressing in the right direction is certainly reaping dividends.”
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