9 February 1996

UKs first black pedigree Sim calves born – and look good

By Jeremy Hunt

THE UKs first pedigree black Simmental calves have been born. They were imported from Canada as embryos by Brian Filby, Grove Farm, Felbrigg, Cromer.

In March the first pedigree black Simmental bull, bought in Canada last year, will arrive to start as a stock bull in Mr Filbys 350-strong suckler herd. "The imported embryos have produced two heifers and a bull calf. They were very easy to calve and have impressed us with their keenness to stand up and suck," says Mr Filby, who sells all his home-produced beef through the familys two but-chers shops. Another 30 embryos are being imported, both purebred black Simmentals and traditional red-and-white Simmentals.

Mr Filby is a member of Progressive Simmental Breeders, a small group of UK herd owners set up last year. "I cant get the right type of suckler cow replacements for my existing Hereford x Friesian-based herd. I want uniformity and intend to use the black Simmental on the Hereford-cross cows to produce black replacement heifers," says Mr Filby.

The bull arriving next month, Equity, is a double-polled black purebred produced from six generations of pedigree Simmentals. He has a post-weaning weight gain of 1.12kg a day. But members of PSB have been impressed with the quality and growth of red-and-white polled Simmentals in Canada and have secured flushings from several top-rated cows. "The polled Canadian Simmentals are as good as the best horned Simmentals in the UK and can match them on growth rate. We were all impressed with the walking ability of these cattle and their hardiness.

"Polling has always been something of a hot potato in the UK but I believe it is something that all beef farmers will have to look at more seriously. It may well become a welfare issue and the industry needs to be ready with the type of cattle that will perform as well as horned stock," says Mr Filby.

He reckons an infusion of red-and-white Canadian breeding could "pep up" British Simmentals.

"But the black Simmentals will have a strong commercial attraction. Bulls have all the qualities the British Simmental is noted for with the added advantage of being able to produce black colour-marked calves that are naturally polled." &#42

James Filby with the first pedigree black UK-born Simmental calves.