Winner of the Morrisons Beef Shorthorn Suckler Herd of the Year Award is Antrim Estate, Glenarm, Ballymena, managed by Bryan Wilson, who was praised for his attention to detail management and maximising the marketing of Beef Shorthorn produce from the unit’s 100 cow organic herd.
Beef Shorthorn Society’s vice chairman, Mark Holmes, winner Bryan Wilson and SAC beef specialist Ian Pritchard
The runners up are Iain Malcolm, Coilechat, Callander; Robert and Lesley Mitchell, Denholm, Hawick and N B Taylor and Son, Milburn, Penrith.
The finalists were judged according to technical and financial management, genetics, herd health, marketing and particularly on the performance and impact of Beef Shorthorn within the suckler herd. The winner received £500 cash, while each of the four finalists were awarded a £250 voucher towards the purchase of a Beef Shorthorn bull at a society sale.
Judge, SAC beef specialist Ian Pritchard, commented: “Costings from the devolved levy bodies continue to show suckler herds struggling to make money, therefore my judging criteria had to demonstrate that herds were adopting policies which were likely to realise profit.
“Each of the finalists herds recorded calf rearing percentages that were well above national figures, they exhibited good fertility with cows being easy fleshed, hardy, kind in nature and they were long lived – the traits needed in a modern suckler cow. However Antrim Estate just had the edge. Its enthusiastic herd manager, Bryan Wilson was paying close attention to detail to achieve both high physical and financial performance – the herd is within the top 10% of CAFRE Beef Benchmarking costings. The estate has also developed a flourishing beef marketing enterprise which exclusively features Beef Shorthorn. To meet with increasing demand, additional cattle were being sourced from local farms.”
Beef Shorthorn Society president, Charles Horrell commented: “Once again thanks to Morrisons for sponsoring this award which has received even more entries this year, a trend which reflects the enthusiasm for Beef Shorthorn among commercial beef producers with modern suckler herds. We are aware that an increasing number of producers are exploiting the breed’s key traits including foraging ability, hardiness, fertility, milkiness, longevity and docility and blending the genetics to produce cattle that complement their environment and make for functional suckler cow replacements, the bedrock of a sustainable and profitable enterprise.”
Antrim Estate, Glenarm, Ballymena
100 cows, 300ha, upland grassland unit
The split calving herd comprising a mix of Beef Shorthorn cross and Continental cross cows all of which are put to the Beef Shorthorn bull. The herd records a tight calving pattern and 93% of calves reared. Target DLG to weaning,1kg. All cattle, apart from heifer replacements, are finished on homegrown forages to target weight at an average 24 months – steers at 370kg to 400kg and heifers, 300kg to 340kg. Branded Glenarm Beef Shorthorn beef is retailed direct to top end hotels and restaurants throughout NI and beyond including London.
Iain Malcolm, Coilechat, Callander
140 cows, 1,000 ewes, 1,100 ha hill unit
Iain is focused on maximising output from a low input extensive unit. Beef Shorthorn is used across 20% of the herd to produce herd replacements which are put to a terminal sire and calves sold through the store ring. The bulling period is kept to a tight eight week period and the herd is achieving 94% calves reared. Target DLG to weaning,1.2kg. The entire herd is outwintered. Health is high on the agenda with the whole herd tested for BVD and Johne’s.
Robert and Lesley Mitchell, Denholm, Hawick
145 cows, 1,100 ewes, 440 ha mixed upland unit
The Mitchells are introducing the Beef Shorthorn to their native bred suckler herd to breed their replacements – 20 heifers are introduced to the herd annually, with the remaining progeny finished on homegrown cereals to target weight at 20 to 22 months – steers to an average 600kg and heifers 525kg. The herd is achieving a compact calving with 94% calving within six weeks, the couple say there is minimal intervention at calving and the herd is achieving 93.4% reared. Target DLG to weaning,1.2kg. A portion of the herd is outwintered on kale. Their herd health plan is updated annually and features a comprehensive vaccination programme.
NB Taylor, Low Howgill, Milburn, Penrith
110 cows, 200 ewes, 280ha mixed lowland/upland unit
Post 2001, John and Jane Taylor eventually restocked and developed a closed suckler herd swapping a continental cross herd with Beef Shorthorn crosses. Beef Shorthorn bulls selected with high performance EBVs, are now used across the herd with all cattle finished on farm. The herd is achieving 94% of cows calving within six weeks and 96.5% calves reared. Actual DLG to weaning,1.24kg. Steers are reaching 650kg at 16 to 18 months and heifers 600kgs at 18 to 20 months. The cattle are processed in the family’s on-farm butchery which supplies a boxed scheme, regional retail outlets and farmers’ markets. Surplus cattle are supplied to Morrisons native breeds scheme.
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