17 November 2000

Breeding strategy produces quality

UNABLE to source quality dairy bred suckler cows, one Bucks producer turned to Simmentals and is now producing bulls which achieve top conformation grades and a growth rate of 1.29kg a day.

Henry Bonner finishes all progeny from his 200-cow commercial herd based at Tyrellcote Farm, Thornton, Milton Keynes, Bucks. "I used to use Friesian cross suckler cows but conformation of cattle was suffering as dairy cows became more extreme."

Initially, Mr Bonner tried a three-quarter Limousin suckler dam in an attempt to improve progeny conformation. "Limousin didnt have the growth and size that I was looking for and cows tended to be rather small and fat.

"Simmental introduced size and now I have Simmental cross Welsh Black suckler cows, as well as three quarter bred and pedigree Simmental cows."

The herd calves in January, with calves weaned and housed in late October. Cattle are finished over winter on an ad-lib home-grown cereal diet. "I do not have the shed space to keep them for a two-year period and believe shipping cattle as stores adds cost into the system through transport and commission charges," says Mr Bonner. Last year he finished 97 bulls at an average liveweight of 606kg, aged 13-14 months old. "Cattle graded either U or R and averaged 96p/kg liveweight."

Heifers were finished on a cereal/ silage-based diet and gained 0.81kg a day, finishing at 520kg lwt. &#42

A new breed strategy means suckler producer Henry Bonner (left) and Simmental secretary, Roger Trewhella, are looking forward with confidence.