10 May 1996

Closed herd avoids buying trouble

By Jonathan Riley

A CLOSED herd policy and traceability are the keys to future profitability for Hertfordshire beef producers John and Paul Cherry.

Speaking at a Signet/MLC organised open day at its 810ha (2000-acre) arable and grass farm at Weston, Herts, Paul Cherry said: "We bought in Holstein Friesian cross heifers to lift milk performance but then suffered some cases of BSE in these cattle.

"As a result we plan to breed our own replacements from a Limousin and three Simmental bulls."

The Simmentals were selected from Paul and Judy Borlases Herts-based Sacombe herd, using estimated breeding values. The aim – to find a bull that would not produce a big calf and so limit calving difficulties.

The Cherrys run two herds on 141ha (350 acres) of grass – one autumn the other spring calving. This calving pattern spreads the use of bulls across the year and fits in with the silage and grazing policies for the farm. The two herds will allow them to take heifers born in the autumn herd, put them to the bull at 20 months and integrate them with the spring herd. Spring-born heifers will go to the bull at Christmas and join the autumn calving herd. John Cherry recognises that the main problem might be ensuring that they do not put a bull to its own daughter. Longer term, they will review the performance and management when the BSE crisis is over. They will look to buying-in replacements again and will reconsider dairy replacements when given the all-clear. "Our aim is to operate with a greater degree of traceability and though we have not joined a farm assurance scheme, we are considering joining FABBL," said Mr Cherry.

"Beef producers must inspire confidence by assuring consumers that we are not buying heifers with BSE and the proposed passport system will provide an excellent foundation for greater traceability."

Part of the Sacombe herd of Simmentals from which John and Paul Cherry selected bulls to breed replacements using EBVs.