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Stackyard News Apr 09

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Sowerby Family Bitten by the Cattle Show Bug

A mix of Limousin and British Blue breeding is producing strong commercial beef cattle which gives the Sowerby family from Appleby the option of finishing or selling store - with some gaining recognition in the show ring.

The Terrys Farm team - from left, Ian, Kevin and Michael Sowerby with their Agri Expo cattle, both sired by stock bull Hillside Wallace.

The Terrys Farm team

In fact, Ian Sowerby, his brother Michael and Ian’s son Kevin of Terry’s Farm, Little Ormside, have been ‘bitten’ by the show bug and testament to their success so far is that they took on a strong steer class of 14 at Borderway’s Agri-Expo in Carlisle at the end of October, sponsored by The Farmers Mart – and won!

Another bullock calf by Wallace, born April 2008, was the second youngest at the Agri-Expo show and he was placed a creditable seventh in its class and the Sowerbys have hopes for its show potential.

Convinced that this first calf by their British Blue stock bull, Hillside Wallace, bred by Stephen Stoddart, of Wigton, was a winner, they invested £350 in a cattle hair drier as well as grooming equipment and also kitted themselves out with stock coats and sticks.

“When we re-stocked after foot and mouth with 130 three-quarter Limousin and British Blue cross Friesian heifers, we bought two Limousin bulls from Brian Jones’ Bailea herd at Sennybridge, Brecon and we still have them,” said Ian Sowerby.

The 18 month old steer which won the strong steer class of 14
at Borderway's Agri-Expo in Carlisle,
sponsored by The Farmers Mart.

18 month old steer

“Wallace was our first British Blue bull and at first we were a little dubious about calving which turned out to be unfounded. We bulled 12 and 11 held and the first that calved had twin steers which were both very small – the calf which won at Agri-Expo was one of the twins. The other sold at Wigton for £960 on October 14 at 18 months old,” he added.

The Sowerbys had a good start selling prime cattle at Wigton for the first time in early October for the Limousin cattle show when their heifer weighing 580kg was champion and sold for 212p per kg, only 2p short of the top price, to Great Orton butcher Jimmy Mulholland.

The following week they did top the market with the overall price of their bullock at £1,260 or 189p per kg. Both the heifer and the steer were by the Limousin bull Knockhill Tartan, a Cannon son bred by WW Powner, of Coldingham, Berwick, a good investment when bought for £850 as an 11 month old calf.

The following week they did top the market with the overall price of their bullock at £1,260 or 189p per kg. Both the heifer and the steer were by the Limousin bull Knockhill Tartan, a Cannon son bred by WW Powner, of Coldingham, Berwick, a good investment when bought for £850 as an 11 month old calf.

At Wigton Christmas primestock show in November another 18 month old Tartan-sired heifer was the first prize Limousin heifer, best home-bred animal and reserve champion overall, selling for £3.15 a kg to Haighs butchers.

Having won the Kirkby Stephen Christmas primestock show with regularity in the 1990s, the Sowerbys are getting back on winning form, showing the champion in 2007 which sold for 195p per kg, £1,118 in total, to Kirkby Stephen butcher Ivan Brown. With finished cattle they aim for a butcher’s beast, and regular buyers include Mr Brown, Mr Haigh, Gavin Little in the arcade, Jimmy Mulholland, of Great Orton and Steven Wilson of Great Corby, Carlisle.

Also at Kirkby Stephen’s September special store cattle sale the Sowerbys won the awards for best Limousin steer and best Limousin heifer.

Strong store cattle at Terrys Farm, Little Ormside.

Strong store cattle at Terrys Farm

Two thirds of the cattle are sold store with the finished animals targeted at special sales. Stores are sold from 12 to 18 months old and mostly go through Kirkby Stephen while finished cattle are sold at 18 months and sold through Wigton mart.

Farming for the Sowerbys is very much a family affair, particularly at certain times of the year, with Ian and Michael’s parents George and Evelyn and Ian’s wife Shirley involved on a regular basis. Ian and Shirley’s daughter Susan, who managed Appleby Bread Shop, and son John, a carpet fitter in the town, also lend a hand at lambing and clipping times.

They farm a total of 400 acres at Terrys Farm and land rented at Ormside Hall, all of which is down to grass. As well as the beef enterprise, they buy in an average 350 Mule gimmer lambs each year selling them the following spring with lambs at foot and there is a flock of 200 Mule ewes which are also lambed to the Suffolk.

Prior to 2001’s foot and mouth epidemic, the Sowerbys had milked 70 cows as well as running suckler cows. However, with the need to invest in new equipment they decided to concentrate on beef.

They had previously run a herd of 24 pedigree Limousin cows and decided against buying the two pedigree herds they looked at to re-stock and instead bought three cows with calves and two heifers and a cow in calf for their Terrys herd, with a view to breeding up from them. The herd now numbers eight breeding females.

Knockhill Tartan has been used on both the pedigree and commercial cows and Bailea Reggie Perrin is being used on the Blue females which have been retained.

Last year three Blue heifers were bought from near neighbours Robert and Diane Hayton at Asby as herd replacements.

“Limousin cross British Blue cattle are my preference although I’m not biased against any breed as long as they are good cattle,” said Ian Sowerby. “This particular cross appeals to the butchers in our area and they are prepared to pay good prices because they like the quality.”

The herd id mainly spring calving and there are 150 including heifers to calve in 2007 and now numbers are at their optimum, the family will concentrate on quality.

The cows are generally housed from the end of October but this year’s weather meant they had to be brought inside in September. The cows are housed in cubicles and are fed silage and a small amount of concentrate. Most of the cows calve inside.

Calves are not weaned until January to make the most of their dam’s milk. They are not fed until housing the following August when they get concentrate twice a day in preparation for sale from October onwards.

The ewes are lambed from March 28. The Mule hoggs with lambs at foot are sold at Carlisle, Kirkby Stephen and Penrith where they have taken the top prize for three years running, as well as taking prizes at the other centres.

This year’s Penrith champions sold to the judge Ivan Wetherill, of Skelton, for £74 a life. Some shearlings are sold in the autumn.

The Sowerbys take silage off 80 acres for first cut which is put into the clamp with a further 60 acres of first cut baled, followed by 40 acres of second cut which is all baled.

They also do local silage baling and wrapping on a contract basis and they work closely with their contracting neighbour Chris Atkinson, of Birks Farm.

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jennifer mackenzie
Article by
Jennifer MacKenzie

borderway agri expo