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Brute returns to Builth's baby beef ring

Laura Bowyer visits Dai Brute to see the system behind his Royal Welsh Winter Fair successes.

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Known across Wales and further afield for producing high quality show calves, the Brute family has been cementing its position in show and sale rings in recent times.

Farm facts

  • Gwndwnwal Farm is 40.5 hectares (100 acres), plus 61ha (150 acres) of rented arable ground and 40.5ha (100 acres) of grazing
  • 60 cows including eight pedigree Limousins
  • 550 mainly Texel cross ewes
  • 100 ewe lambs are kept each year for breeding
  • Silage is baled and wrapped, with 600 bales made each year
  • Dai Brute is also a representative for the French-manufactured Jourdain cattle handling equipment

Making history at last year’s Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Dai Brute, Gwndwnwal Farm, Llanfihangel Talyllyn, Brecon, is the only person to have won champion baby steer and baby heifer at the same show since the classes started in 2003. He did this leading Brutus Cheeky Girl to the top spot while herd-mate Brutus Swagger Jagger stood champion steer.


Home-bred heifer Cheeky Girl is a daughter of Cwmlimo Hercules, a bull which has consistently bred champions for Mr Brute, and out of a Brutus Cracker-sired heifer. It went on to command £4,000 in a packed sale ring at the show, selling to Mike Rowlands, Llanidloes.

 

The following May, Mr Brute showed the animal on-behalf of Mr Rowlands at Beef Expo, where the heifer went on to win reserve overall before going to the Royal Three Counties Show and being named reserve commercial champion.

Known across Wales and further afield for producing high quality show calves, the Brute family has been cementing its position in show and sale rings in recent times.

stood pic

Brutus Cheeky Girl won the baby beef championship at last year's Welsh Winter Fair

Although still under ownership of Mr Rowlands, Cheeky Girl has now returned to her Mid Wales birthplace, Gwndwnwal Farm, lodging with Mr Brute who describes her as one in a million, being ‘so correct’. This heifer is eight generations away from the first calf his father bought for him in 1970, a black and white Hereford calf.


For Mr Brute, 2012 saw his biggest success when one of his home-bred heifers won supreme champion at Ruthin’s show potential sale, selling to Victoria Bowring, Mansfield, for £5,000 – his highest price to date. After being named Olympic Dream by Ms Bowring, it went on to be first in its class at Borderway Agri-Expo and overall champion at the Smithfield Festival.


Making the short journey north to Builth with Mr Brute this year will be two Brutus Cracker-sired steers – Brutus Cracker-Jack and Brutus Tank – both entering the baby beef classes. Mr Rowlands has also been entered Cheeky Girl in the show.


However, Mr Brute has not always been a show calf producer, although he has always been a regular vendor at Brecon store cattle sales. It was not until he had a particularly eye-catching calf some 25 years ago that he decided to venture further afield with his cattle, visiting Chelford’s British Blue-sired calf sale.


It was around this time another showman persuaded him to sell at Ruthin’s show potential sale and, having taken four calves, he went on to win the Limousin classes at the pre-sale show, taking the overall
reserve and the top price of £3,200.

 

fsmily pic

L-R: Paul, Sid and Dai Brute

Mr Brute says: “You should never go expecting too much as then you will always be happy with what you get. I was not expecting to win the championship at the Winter Fair last year. You just do not know until you see what you are up against.”


Mr Brute farms with his wife Dulcie, who is largely responsible for the paperwork and also plays a big role at lambing time with daughter-in-law Delyth; son Paul, who takes the lead in their contracting business; and grandson Sid.


“We have not had three generations of Brutes on this farm for almost 30 years and I am so pleased to have a grandchild,” says Mr Brute.


The family moved to the 40.5-hectare (100-acre) farm in 1957, which was rented until 2001 when they bought the farm. The family also rent 61ha (150 acres) of arable ground and a further 40.5ha (100 acres) of grazing.


He says: “I did not start with much. My father told me I had to work away when I was young, so I worked on a local farm for £1.50 per day and he bought me a little Fergie for £80, which was the start of the contracting business. I never expected to own ground and I never thought I would own this farm.”


The herd comprises 60 mainly Limousin cross British Blue females under the Brutus prefix, including eight pedigree Limousin cows. The herd calves year round, although a group of 35 are usually calved in spring.

 

cow and calf pic

Royal Welsh Winter Fair successes

  • 2007: Reserve baby beef champion overall (heifer) and champion baby beef steer
  • 2009: Reserve baby steer
  • 2012: Reserve baby steer
  • 2014: Reserve British Blue heifer
  • 2016: Champion baby beef steer, heifer and overall champion

Limousin bull Brutus Cracker is responsible for a good deal of Mr Brute’s best cows and calves. Born in December 2007, it is by Bailea Umber, a bull he describes as the best he ever had. Bred by M.T. Jones, Sennybridge, it was sired by the French bull Requin, which is a son of the famed Jacot, which Mr Brute says many high-end commercial cattle go back to.


But he says it is not all down to bulls, as cows are the basis of his show calf production.


He says: “Only certain families will breed show calves and it is not always the best cows which breed the best calves. The best calves I have bred have been out of heifers.


“A quick, easy way to breed a well-conformed cow is to put a pedigree Blue on a pedigree Limousin and then you can ensure there has been no Holstein genes involved in breeding the female. If a cow has Holstein in, it might just give one good calf. The Blue will give width and also a good temperament.”


Although many of Mr Brute’s females are home-bred, he adds to his herd via an annual trip to Ruthin market to buy show-type females.


He says: “Some people think a show heifer will not breed a show calf, but I personally think they are wrong.”

Mr Brute says the hardest thing to breed into an animal is width and tail set. He also favours a ‘short and blocky’ head and says a longer, less desired head is one of the hardest things to breed out as it can skip generations.

 

Baby beef classes, for cattle under 425kg, require a wider animal than the older classes and, because of their age, will not be able to be shown the following year.

 

He says: “I like baby beef animals which are short from the second thigh to the hock. I like them low and wide.”

 

He sells at the Talybont-on-Usk weaned calf sale and Brecon stores, and takes equal numbers to Brecon and Ruthin’s show potential sales, where he has won the champion title three times.

 

Mr Brute sold 12 show potential calves last year and he says these make a significant contribution to his income.


Show preparations start a month before the winter fair and calves are trained to keep calm on a halter.

ewe pic

He says: “There are three things you can do by night: go to the pub, watch the telly or train show calves – so that is what I do.”


He puts the radio on to help them get used to loud noises and he uses a chain halter rather than rope so it is not so tight on the calf’s head.


He adds: “When calves are born I go and stroke them under the chin and down the brisket and it helps keep them calm through their lives. It seems to put trust in them.”


Although Mr Brute has only eight pedigree Limousin cows, Brutus Hashtag, a Cracker son, is on Cogent’s books and semen is available. Additionally, Mr Brute has semen of Brutus Cracker and Bailea Umber available for private purchase and he also sells cross-bred bulls.


Most lambs from his 550-head Texel cross Mule flock go through Brecon market, where he has repeatedly topped the lamb trade this year and he praises auctioneer Shae Price for his work. The rest are sold at Talybont-on-Usk and Talgarth markets.

 

ewe pic

A number of Mr Brute’s lambs have been sold to the well-known Celtic Manor Resort, Newport, through the buyers at Brecon, with his lambs reported to be particularly well fleshed over the shoulder.


In 2015, Mr Brute won Talgarth, Brecon and Talybont’s fatstock shows with a pen of five butchers’ lambs – a success which had not been achieved in local living memory.


He lambs inside and, due to space restrictions, three batches of 200 are taken in at a time. Mr Brute says he absolutely loves lambing time.


“Lambing ewes is the easy bit. Keeping them alive takes skill and Dulcie and Delyth have a good eye for spotting lambs with problems.”


Beltex cross Texel tups are used on ewes, and pure Beltex on ewe lambs.


Mr Brute says: “This is the first year our lambs have averaged more than £90 per head, all going in the 40kg bracket.”


He emphasises the need to keep livestock systems as safe and efficient as possible and adds if it was not for his calving gate and barriers or his mobile sheep handling system he said he would not run either species.


Plantain and chicory leys have been grazed for the past three years and are reseeded between four to 10 years. Mr Brute says when lambs are on these leys and sucking on the ewe, they could gain 2-3kg per week.


Barley, wheat and oats are grown, with Mr Brute believing the latter is the most underestimated feed. He feeds a high protein blend of oats, barley, wheat, flaked maize, peas, beans and minerals to cattle and lambs.


“Arable production is a lot harder than many livestock farmers may think. So much hinges on the weather and you cannot vaccinate against that,” he says.


“There are three important things in farming. You have to love it and the animals you work with. You have to keep breeding stock young so they are cheaper to run and regularly reseed leys.”

corn pic

Contracting

The Brute family also operates a general contracting business, taking on work from Crickhowell in the south and Builth Wells in the north.
They have five men working for them at peak times, with five balers, two combines, and a self-propelled sprayer among other offerings. They cover 2,430-2,830 hectares (6,000-7,000 acres) of spraying each year and Dai Brute says this makes up a large section of their work.

Encouraging youngsters

Dai Brute is a strong believer in encouraging the next generation. He says he will offer semen from Brutus Cracker and Bailea Umber to any youngsters who want
to get into producing show calves at a reduced rate.

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