Only use best cows to produce replacements

SCORING COWS one to five when they calve ensures a Borders beef producer retains the best maternal genetics in his pure Luing suckler herd.

Whether using natives or Continentals, breeders often select on extreme muscle or use estimated breeding values as a tool to help make their choice of maternal sire, believes FW Farmer Focus contributor Wilbert Girvan.

“Many suggest they have bulls to produce suckler cows for the future, when reality suggests they have selected for terminal sires,” he told the conference.

He advised selecting for fertility, calving ability, sound feet and temperament, particularly as less labour will be available on farm.

At Buckholm Farm, Mr Girvan scores every cow on the farm, with five being the best down to one. “Only on the day the cow calves, or soon after calving, can the udder and teats be judged accurately.

“The best 10% will get a five. Cows with a four or five will be bred pure. Those given a three or two will be crossed with a Simmental to prevent inferior genes coming through into the pure herd. Those given one are culled.

Only bulls out of cows scored five are considered for breeding, whether at home or for sale. “We are reluctant to keep bulls out of younger cows, as they have yet to demonstrate a track record.

“Additional merit is given to bulls out of older cows as they have the genetic merit in fertility, calving ability, feet, teats and temperament as well as longevity,” he said.