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No 1…

9 March 2001

Three-quarters is

No 1…

Three-quarter-bred beef

cross cows are producing

top quality suckled calves

on a Cumbria hill farm, but

the combination of beef

breeds is critical.

Jeremy Hunt reports

THERE is a tremendous crop of suckled calves on a farm near Carlisle and they owe much of their superior growth and conformation to the farms suckler cow policy.

Martin Graham and his son Stephens 290ha (700-acre) Miller Hill Farm, Gilsland, carries 175 suckler cows and 800 ewes.

They base their beef herd on Limousin and Belgian Blue breeding. But the exact combination of these two breeds – plus a little dairy cow influence – is critical, says Stephen.

"Our ideal cow is sired by a Belgian Blue and out of a Limousin x Holstein-Friesian which is then put back to Limousin to produce a calf. That is our preferred choice, rather than a cow by a Limousin and out of a Belgian Blue x Holstein-Friesian put back to Limousin.

"But we dont want to go any further than three-quarter-bred beef cows. If we go to a seven-eighths beef-cross cows lose milk and become thick-skinned. The calves look a good shape, but they can lack size and length."

An ideal cow has a good frame, is thick – but not too thick – with plenty of length, especially up on the leg, has good depth through the heart, a stretchy neck and weighs 600-750kg. And since switching to more beefier bred suckler cows there have been improvements in performance.

"The problems started when the black-and-white side of the equation became more Holstein. Cows were soon turning into hat-racks. Calves looked good by three-months-old but when we came to sell them at 12-14-months-old there were too many poorer sorts," says Mr Graham.

"A first-cross out of the Holstein-Friesian would have four calves and then you were looking for trouble. Fertility and feet were the big headaches, but these cows would often give so much milk that their udders wouldnt last either.

"When youre investing in expensive bulls and trying to buy the best suckler replacements but

Three-quarter-bred beef

cross cows are producing

top quality suckled calves

on a Cumbria hill farm, but

the combination of beef

breeds is critical.

Jeremy Hunt reports

THERE is a tremendous crop of suckled calves on a farm near Carlisle and they owe much of their superior growth and conformation to the farms suckler cow policy.

Martin Graham and his son Stephens 290ha (700-acre) Miller Hill Farm, Gilsland, carries 175 suckler cows and 800 ewes.

They base their beef herd on Limousin and Belgian Blue breeding. But the exact combination of these two breeds – plus a little dairy cow influence – is critical, says Stephen.

"Our ideal cow is sired by a Belgian Blue and out of a Limousin x Holstein-Friesian which is then put back to Limousin to produce a calf. That is our preferred choice, rather than a cow by a Limousin and out of a Belgian Blue x Holstein-Friesian put back to Limousin.

"But we dont want to go any further than three-quarter-bred beef cows. If we go to a seven-eighths beef-cross cows lose milk and become thick-skinned. The calves look a good shape, but they can lack size and length."

An ideal cow has a good frame, is thick – but not too thick – with plenty of length, especially up on the leg, has good depth through the heart, a stretchy neck and weighs 600-750kg. And since switching to more beefier bred suckler cows there have been improvements in performance.

"The problems started when the black-and-white side of the equation became more Holstein. Cows were soon turning into hat-racks. Calves looked good by three-months-old but when we came to sell them at 12-14-months-old there were too many poorer sorts," says Mr Graham.

"A first-cross out of the Holstein-Friesian would have four calves and then you were looking for trouble. Fertility and feet were the big headaches, but these cows would often give so much milk that their udders wouldnt last either.

"When youre investing in expensive bulls and trying to buy the best suckler replacements but calf quality is deteriorating, something has to be done."

The family tackled the problem by retaining home-bred beef-cross heifers to minimise the Holstein effect. There are now about 70 Belgian Blue x Limousin-Holstein-Friesian, 70 three-quarter-bred Limousin and 25-30 Limousin x Holstein-Friesian.

"Three-quarter-bred cows are a thicker skinned type and although they may not give as much milk, they still have plenty to rear their calves. Most of these last for at least six calvings.

"We are now breeding 90% of our own replacements which gives us greater uniformity in the herd and the type of calves produced. We can now retain females bred from cows of proven performance."

But the economics of retaining home-bred heifers are a point for debate. The Grahams typically have 20-25 coming into the herd annually as replacements. Their bulling heifers have a prime slaughter value of about £550. It costs £300/year to keep them until they produce a calf, taking account of all costs plus the one in 10 heifers that doesnt hold to service, thats £850.

"On prices over the last couple of years we could buy replacements between £600 and £900 and probably all with bull calves."

Cashflow has, therefore, forced a compromise. The aim now is to buy-in a proportion of replacements as three-quarter-bred beef cows suckling bull calves. A few first-crosses out of dairy cows and suckling heifer calves will also be bought to retain the herds small foundation for its own three-quarter-bred replacement policy.

"We are fussy about the type of cow we want because we like uniformity in our calves. We dont sell calves at one sale anymore. Now were selling in small batches over a longer period its important to offer them well matched for growth and type."

The five bulls – four Limousin and one Belgian Blue – run by the Grahams are selected on appearance, not figures. "We want really strong, powerful bulls not ballet dancers," says Stephen.

The Graham family is well known for producing show quality calves. A Limousin-sired heifer sold at Carlisle for £1150, at almost nine-months-old, finished up with the supreme lightweight heifer and overall supreme heifer championship at the last Smithfield Show.

Over the last year five calves from the herd have realised over £1000 each.

Attention to suckler cow breeding makes for top-quality uniform calves, says Stephen Graham.

THREE-QUARTERBREEDS

&#8226 Better than Holstein cross.

&#8226 Improve calf uniformity.

&#8226 Breed own replacements?

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No 1…

26 January 1996

UStop bulls

No 1…

By Sue Rider

HIGHEST ranked sire available in the UK on the latest US type and production (TPI) lists is the Blackstar son End-Road Blackstar Magic.

This newcomer to the list is Americas top milk bull and is also the second highest ranking US sire on the UK profit index (PIN).

His UK conversion at 65% reliability is 1359kg milk, 38kg (-0.17%) fat, 31kg (-0.11%) protein with a PIN of £108. This breeder proven bull, out of a Ned Boy dam, has a predicted transmitting ability for type (PTAT) of 2.10.

The January proofs published in the US AI industry bible, the Holstein Association Sire Summary (red book) see former number one TPI sire Maizefield Bellwood knocked into third place.

His UK conversion is 1334kg milk, 37kg (-0.16%) fat, 33kg (-0.08%) protein, with £113 PIN – making him the top US bull on PIN.

Number one US TPI sire is the breeder proven Chief Mark son Queens-Manor Marksman but he fails to qualify for the UK.

Third highest ranked sire on TPI available in the UK is the Blackstar son Brabant Star Patron. This newcomer boasts 944kg milk, 26kg (-0.15%) fat, 27kg (-0.01%) protein with £94 PIN. He is in the US top 10 on udders and has a PTAT of 1.95.

Five newcomers

Despite the addition of five newcomers to the top 10, and an extra 3000 daughters to his own proof, Mascot who was second on TPI in July and is the top UK proven bull, is ranked ninth. His combined UK proof at 91% reliability is 1116kg milk, 29kg (-0.25%) fat, 35kg (-0.03%) protein and £123 PIN. Next comes the Chief Mark son Maine-Acre Chief Force with £85 PIN. Also performing well on TPI are Ked Juror (£80 PIN) and Southwind LB Zack (£94 PIN).

Newcomers include the new high type Blackstar son Rosalund-View Black Starboy. Out of a Chief Mark dam, this bull is ranked fourth on udders and eleventh on type in the USwith a PTAT of 2.70. His UK PIN is £77.

Another exciting newcomer is the Southwind son Sharistibos SW Mo. His UK conversion at 64% reliability is 1033kg milk, 34kg (-0.05%) fat, 28kg (-0.03%) protein and PIN £103.

The Leadman son Dream-On Herod improves on his July 95 TPI figure and boasts £87 PIN. His PTAT is 1.96. Just outside the top 20 is the new Southwind son Paulo-Bro Debonair with £93 PIN, the high milk Blackstar son Glen-Toctin Johnson (£86), and the Bell Gene son Shallet (£97).

Highest US type bull available in the UK is Highlight Mr Mark Cinder and top US bull for legs and feet is Norrielake Cleitus Luke.

Other US bulls performing well on PIN are the Melwood son Zebo (£106 PIN); Geoffrey (£105); Hardtac (£100); Lingo (£99); Ingot (£95); Mountain (£95); Aristides (£95); Ohio (£93); Hunter (£92); Top Gun (£92); and Cubby (£91).

Barroy Mason Wendynise, daughter of number one Canadian LPIsire, Shoremar Mason.

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