This year the National Beef Association has lined up three Yorkshire farms to showcase a collection of the region’s most interesting pedigree and commercial cattle enterprises. Farmers Guardian reports.
Spanning 607 hectares (1,500 acres) across five farms, this traditional Yorkshire family farm in Market Weighton supports three generations.
The main steading, Londesborough Wold Farm, makes up 202ha (500 acres), with 182ha (450 acres) contract farmed, 81ha (200 acres) owned and a further 121ha (300 acres) of licensed grazing. The remainder of the land is tenanted.
Home to a mixed beef and sheep enterprise, the farm is ran by brothers, Graeme and Patrick Stephenson and their 82-year old father Guy.
With Graeme looking after the day-to-day running of the farm and cattle purchases, Patrick manages the arable system and looks after the bed and breakfast pig unit. Graeme’s wife Katie looks after the accountancy and secretarial side of the business and three other members of staff are also employed.
The family-run 200-head suckler herd is made up of 75 Limousin cross, 50 Saler cross and 75 South Devon cross cows.
Cows are mated with privately purchased Charolais, Blonde or Salers bulls. Two of the most recent purchases include a pair of Charolais bulls from Michael Atkinson, Mowbray Park, and Messrs Turner, Kirby Malzeard, Ripon. Salers heifers and stock bulls are bought from Angus Gowthorpe, Approach Farm, Escrick, York.
The herd calves at Londesborough Wold and is summered at Dalton Park, a 121ha (300-acre) lot of permanent pasture owned by Lord Hotham.
At present, 60 cows calve in November through to December, with the remaining 140 calving in March and April. However, Graeme has recently decided to alter this calving pattern and have all cows calving down in spring to avoid problems with pneumonia and fertility.
More than 95 per cent of cattle are finished on-farm and sold as liveweight through York Auction Centre or Selby Market. Bulls are sold at 13 months old weighing 650kg and heifers leave the farm at 13 to 14 months old, weighing 500kg.
Stock is weighed regularly and growth rates are closely monitored, with bulls gaining about 1.6kg per day and heifers putting on 1.1-1.2kg. The Stephensons aim to send cattle to auction with a EUROP grade of U- or U+.
Feed intake is also regularly noted via the total mixed ration feeding system. Cows are fed silage, straw and urea, with finishing cattle receiving a straight barley mix. Some 90 per cent of the feed is home-grown, including silage, straw and feed grade urea, which is fed to cows with wheat straw and offered ad-lib. Molasses, protein and wheat distiller pellets are bought-in, with feed creep being home-mixed and fed to calves from July onwards.
In the future, the Stephensons aim to keep cow numbers in the region of 200, cut down calving losses and maximise the potential from every single cow.
Graeme says: “As a farming business, we are always looking for opportunities to evolve and expand, recently dipping our toes into on-farm energy by installing a biomass boiler.
“One of the biggest future challenges the family faces is volatility and unpredictable prices which make it difficult to budget.”
Owned by Bob Bousfield and family, Millington Grange Estate is home to the widely known Millington Limousin herd.
Set in the Yorkshire Wolds, the farming enterprise totals 344 hectares (850 acres) and includes three farms – Cold Skin Farm, High College Farm and The Grange.
Under the direction of Ian Nattress, herd manager of four years, a part-time freelance stockman Josh Wainwright completes the workforce.
Some 50 pedigree cows and 20 Limousin cross cows make up the herd, which has won many awards over the years, recently clinching the north east Limousin Club’s extra-large section of the herd competition.
The herd has had great show success, especially with Millington Highlight, a Wilodge Vantastic daughter out of Brockhurst Option. It took reserve female and overall reserve champion at the Great Yorkshire Show 2014 and inter-breed champion at the Lincolnshire Show 2014. Its full brother, Millington Hawk took the same title at the previous year’s show.
Another of the family’s successful females is Brockhurst Option. She is now 16 years old and produced the 28,000gns Millington Davina, which was supreme champion at the Royal Show as a maiden heifer in 2009.
The herd is performance recorded with the British Limousin Cattle Society for liveweight gain every 100 days until 500 days old. Bulls and heifers are scanned once per year for muscle and back fat at 13 months of age.
The cattle portfolio includes the Scoardale herd of pedigree Beef Shorthorns. They graze the dales over summer months and are an important component of the estate’s Higher Level Stewardship programme.
Nutrition is a key priority, with lucerne (which is fed to weaned calves), silage and straw all being home-grown.
From birth to sale, youngstock are fed silage and a 16 per cent protein nut, with heifers receiving a ration until yearling age and cows fed silage and straw.
Stock is sold through York Auction Centre and the pedigree sales at Carlisle, Newark and Skipton.
Looking to the future, Millington plan to increase herd size from 80 to 100 cows and improve herd quality through breeding.
Mr Nattress says: “Estimated breeding values are important in improving quality, but it is also about the stockman’s eye and experience, pedigree knowledge and overall appearance of the cattle. We take all of these into consideration when making decisions about which bulls to use on females.”
Farmed together as part of JSR Farms, Givendale and Wold Farms total 526 hectares (1,300 acres), with land tenanted from Halifax Estates.
Home to 245 spring-calving Stabiliser suckler cows, Givendale was the first farm in the UK to have Stabiliser cattle, with the herd being established in 1996.
Stock is marketed through the Stabiliser Cattle Company, which has a supply chain with Woodhead’s and Morrison’s. The company takes as many finishing cattle as the farm can provide, including entire female and male surplus. The top 20 per cent of bulls are sold for breeding and embryos are brought in from the US every year, introducing about 20 new animals in to the herd each year with new
A small local brand, Givendale Prime, is also used to market beef to local butchers and independent supermarket shops.
All animals are performance recorded and breeding stock is selected based on their estimated breeding values as well as sound production traits, says herd manager David Thirlwell.
The breed has proved its worth on the farms, with Mr Thirlwell seeing a reduction in costs of up to £250/cow, primarily due to savings on labour and feed. Vet bills have dropped and more calves per 100 cows are born alive, which is 10 more calves than previously.
Calving starts the last week of February and takes place in a nine-week calving block with stock-calving at Givendale.
Mr Thirlwell says: “The empty rate is currently at 3 per cent on a nine-week breeding period and the replacement rate is very low because cows are so fertile.
“Heifers are calving down a lot earlier than previously, even though bulls only run for six weeks with heifers.”
All calves are weaned at six to seven months old, with bulls then put through the Net Efficiency Unit and left entire and those not suitable for breeding finished and sold at 12 to 14 months old.
The Beef Improvement Group’s Net Efficiency Unit has been running on the farm for four years and aims to create a breeding value for feed efficiency for the Stabiliser breed. It is hoped this will help improve efficiency on farms and reduce feed costs and greenhouse gas emissions.
Every year, three batches of 80 animals from different herds across the UK are put through the system, using as many different sire lines as possible to create the estimated breeding values for feed efficiency within the breed.