28 November 1997

French blood does the trick for one Glamorgan rearer

Glamorgan producer Jeff Howells was so impressed with

suckled calves sired by his French Saler bull, hes retaining

some heifers as replacements

NEW breeds are being tried in the search for the ideal suckler cow to produce premium earning beef cattle under Welsh conditions.

None of the crossbreds entered in this years fair are likely to carry French Saler blood. However, they could appear in the future if others follow Glamorgan rearer Jeff Howells, who is replacing his traditional Hereford x Friesians with Saler crosses.

He originally bought the bull as a terminal sire to get easy calvings, and to improve the conformation and size of the suckled calves produced at Bryncynon Farm, near Maesteg. But he has been so impressed by the results that some heifers are being retained as replacements.

The 170ha (420-acre) less favoured area unit, which has land running from 150m to 300m (500 to 1000ft), carries 135 sucklers. These calve in April or in August and September and calves are sold as strong stores at about 16 months old, after one beef special premium payment has been claimed.

"Using a Saler blood on my Hereford cross cows produces calves with more scope for further finishing, which should bring a price premium," Mr Howells says. "It is a genuine foraging hill breed, but has very good conformation. The cattle seem to thrive on my low labour system so we are bulling some of Saler cross heifers."

The move dilutes the Holstein influence shown by many sucklers bred in dairy herds, and when the first of these calve Mr Howells is confident that they will throw very commercial calves. Some of the Saler x Saler x Hereford-Friesian heifer calves born will also be reared for breeding to try to find the ideal cross for the system.n

Jeff Howells with his Saler bull and traditional sucklers at Bryncynon Farm.