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Beef Shorthorn – The Functional Cow at Lee Meadow

Finding the ideal suckler cow capable of ticking all the boxes for hard-pressed farmers and discerning diners is far from easy, but Lanarkshire producer Dye Clark is confident he found the answer in the Beef Shorthorn and his crossed females.

Best known in Texel and in sheep shearing circles, Dye and his wife Elizabeth, their daughter Katie (21/2 years old) and their son James (1) farm some 295 acres of prairie in Lee Meadow, Braidwood, where the soil wet and rushes are more suited to traditional cattle breeds than some of the larger mainlanders.

Plus, their manageability, meat capacity, milt and good temper make them the ideal type of cattle to work with when Dye mostly runs the business on her own while Elizabeth alternates her talents between nursing. full time and farming.

“I want a good, functional, easy-to-flesh cow that will produce a good calf at a lower cost and the Beef Shorthorn is ideal here,” he said.

“Our Shorthorns and their cross females produce calves that sell as well as our Charolais crosses from continental cross cows and they have a fantastic temperament. I can tag the calves myself without fear of injury which is very important nowadays, when there are no people on the farm to help.

some of Leeburn’s young bulls showing future potential Ref: RH280121228 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer …

“Everyone is now looking at their lactating females in an attempt to find an easier and more cost effective system and the Beef Shorthorn with his calving ease, stuffiness and great temperament certainly fits the bill here,” said Dye.

Proof of the pudding is in the yields produced by these medium sized red and white females, and last year the 10-12 month old calves in the spring calving herd sold at 217-220p per kg, or per Lawrie and Symington in Lanark, or United Auctions, Stirling.

“There is a real premium for native cattle which, combined with the easy fleshing ability of the Shorthorn, means our Shorthorn beef calves are selling as well as Charolais crosses,” Dye commented, adding that his cows produced calves half the weight of their mothers at weaning, with slow feeding introduced from three months old.

In addition, with little or no calving problems, there are few sterile cows.

“At least 85% of them will calve themselves – the only ones I end up helping are the ones that are poorly represented. Last year we only had three cows that failed to hold the bull, but a lot of them were older cows than we had. continued when we are building numbers. ”

the herd is housed from October to mid-May, depending on the weather and with ease of management, fleshing capacity, milky character and good temperament make them the ideal type of cattle to work with Ref: RH280121223 Rob Haining / The S

the herd is housed from October to mid-May, depending on the weather and with ease of management, fleshing capacity, milky character and good temperament make them the ideal type of cattle to work with Ref: RH280121223 Rob Haining / The S

Dye has also discovered over the past two years that by feeding cows their silage at night, once he’s done, instead of in the morning, there are fewer calves at night.

Of Lee Meadow’s 90 purebred and commercial cows, 60 calve in the spring in straw bedded yards, with the rest calving in eight weeks in the fall indoors. The heifers join the herd at 2.5 years old, the herd being housed from October to mid-May, depending on the weather.

Having previously relied on cross suckler cows Salers and Limousin to breed with a Charolais bull, Dye is now focusing on the Salers Shorthorn cross, which he found easier to flesh out and of a better size.

“I like my Salers crossbreed cows, but they were too big for this farm when it is very wet. The Salers crossbreed Shorthorn cows are a bit easier to flesh and manage and they calve very well to a Charolais.

As a result, the best breeders are bulls with a Beef Shorthorn to produce females to be reintegrated into the herd or sold privately, the rest being crossed with a Charolais and sold as yearlings.

It was the calf yields and the quality of the crossbreeds that convinced Dye to invest in purebred Beef Shorthorns as well.

Kaite wants to help feed the cattle in the store Ref: RH280121245 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer ...

Kaite wants to help feed the cattle in the store Ref: RH280121245 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer …

The first Beef Shorthorn sire was purchased about six years ago from Lanarkshire-based Alistair Morton’s Stobilee herd, and the first base females for the company’s Leeburn herd were acquired in 2018.

First to join was six-year-old cow Stonehills Thrashers Gem, a Cairnsmore Thrasher daughter bought in Carlisle in May 2018 from Geoff Riby, with bull heifers privately purchased from Kelso’s Tofts herd of James Playfair-Hannay.

A year later the Clarks bought their first stockbull from Castlemount Masterpiece during the October bull sales in Stirling and last year Dunsyre Lily from the Carey Coombs herd reduction sale in Stirling was acquired.

Nonetheless, it was the Gem cow that stood out the most to date when the AI ​​turned to Poynington himself, breeding the first stockbull bred at Leeburn Navigator.

“I’m aiming for a herd of well-balanced cows that will produce good calves that leave room, so I’m looking for cows that aren’t too big, but have a lot of frame and are on their feet. They also need to be meaty and this is where Shorthorn beef stands out from other breeds.

some of the heifers, calving at 2.5 years old Ref: RH280121258 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer ...

some of the heifers, calving at 2.5 years old Ref: RH280121258 Rob Haining / The Scottish Farmer …

“Cattle need a bit of muscle to get into shape, but we have to be careful that the breed does not introduce too much of the myostatin gene, otherwise the breed will lose its calving ease and ability characteristics. fleshing.

“At the end of the day, cattle of any breed or cross have to be commercial, and if they don’t pay, there’s little point in having them,” said Dye who was raised to buy a sire or a tup to meet the needs of his herd or his herd, hence the reason why he bought a bull carrying the myostatin gene when all his cows are free of the trait.

With or without the gene, it is the growing demand for the Beef Shorthorn as a commercial female and the improved quality of the meat produced from this native red and white that should ensure a positive future for the breed.

“Most people are looking to change the type of lactating females they have for an easier management system that relies on less expensive feed and can be wintered if necessary and native breeds fit that bill. Morrisons pay one. good premium for Shorthorn beef which also ensures high demand for calves and makes the job interesting Everyone is looking for cows that are more manageable, functional and leave a margin at the end of the day.

Leeburn Potcheen, first calf by Castlemount Masterpiece, born unassisted mid-September 2020

Leeburn Potcheen, first calf by Castlemount Masterpiece, born unassisted mid-September 2020

With the herd in its infancy and a few bulls already sold privately, Dye unfortunately does not have listings for the breed sale in Stirling, although he does have a few bulls for October sales from his Hi-Health herd which boasts a level 1 for Johnes and is BVD accredited.

February is also a busy time for the family, as many of their highly prized Texels and Clarks pedigree ewes will lamb before the main batch of commercial females begins in March.

There is no doubt that the Beef Shorthorn is a completely different animal from modern mainlanders, but with Dye having made a huge success of the family’s Blondes pedigree in the past, just watch his herd of Leeburn grow stronger in the years to come. to come. ..

FARM facts:

Farm: Lee Meadow, Braidwood, purchased April 1, 2010, includes 295 acres of meadow and lots of rashes!

Number of herds: 30 purebred Beef Shorthorn females and 60 commercial Beef Shorthorn crossbred Salers cows

Calving: All calve indoors on short mulches with 70% in the spring and the rest in the fall. Heifers calve at 2.5 years

Sheep Flock: Clarks herd of nine purebred Texels with 250 other Bluefaced Leicester cross Texel crosses used as recipients and for the production of commercial grade lambs. The couple also run a small group of MV-accredited “real” Bluefaced Leicesters.

Diversification: shearing sheep, even if he feels he is too old to shear now and comments instead!

ON THE SPOT :

Best investment? “Texel ram, Procters Chumba Wumba and Beef Shorthorn bull, Castlemount Masterpiece.”

Best advice? “Follow your first impressions.”

The greatest success? “Being invited to comment at three World Shearing Championships.

Who inspires you the most? “My late father, Jim Clark.”

Where do you want to be in 2030? “I hope to be back showing our traditional Texels, Shorthorns and Blues at shows.”

What do you miss the most during lockdown? “The Royal Highland Show and sitting around Beachy’s kist during its legendary evenings” …


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