Limousin blood is basis of home suckler policy

10 January 1997




Limousin blood is basis of home suckler policy

Home-bred suckler replacements are not an option for one Cumbrian unit. Jeremy Hunt reports

CUMBRIAN suckled calf producers Mike and Robert Scott are typical of many northern beef farmers who invested heavily in new Limousin bulls last autumn.

In theory the production of home-bred suckler replacements was expected to bolster the seasonal trade for Limousin sires, but that was not what the Scotts had in mind for their 7500gns investment.

They keep a herd of 300 Limousin x Holstein Friesian cows on land up to (183m) 600ft at Thirlwall Castle, Brampton, Carlisle. The farm switched from Galloway cows 14 years ago and has now established itself as one of the countys leading producers of three-quarter, and increasingly seven-eighths-bred, Limousin suckled calves.

That reputation has been hard won in a region which draws buyers from across the country to its major spring and autumn sales. Quality calves can command hefty premiums and the same buyers return year after year expecting to leave with calves as good if not better than before.

The Scotts are reluctant to jeopardise that reputation by anything which may switch their 100% emphasis away from producing top quality suckled calves.

Mike Scott acknowledges the experts opinion on the value of rearing home-bred heifer replacements. As well as being able to guarantee the health and breeding of these heifers, such a policy reduces the risk of buying-in BSE and makes good sense. But to change tack to such a degree would, for Mr Scott, undermine the ethic of his familys suckler enterprise.

Most of the herd calves in August with progeny sold at the big September sale of suckled calves at Carlisle. And it is at Carlisle that regular sales of up to 1000 head of beef breeding females of all ages have become established as a major source of herd replacements for northern suckler herds.

"The influence of the Holstein made us sit down and rethink our herd replacement policy long before the BSE crisis. But even then we did not believe the solution lay in breeding our own," says Mr Scott.

"Our primary function is to concentrate on breeding top quality suckled calves. Even more so following the current crisis. To do that we need bulls of outstanding conformation, bulls that have thickness and width. We do not need stock sires that are tall and lacking shape."

"Suckler men have shown what they want and proved it by the high prices they have paid," says Mr Scott.

Conformation is now uppermost in selection of female replacements and a private source of supply of three-quarter-bred heifers is overcoming the impact of the Holstein.

"Never has there been a more important time for suckled calf producers to concentrate on breeding the best stock they can to sell to our long-standing customers.

"If I was breeding my own heifers to retain on the farm I would be tempted to keep 30 of the best each year. That means I would have 30 fewer top class calves to sell. Buying-in replacements of the right type makes sense economically and enables us to concentrate on what we need to do best to overcome the current crisis."

REPLACEMENT POLICY

&#8226 Will buy in three-quarter-bred heifers.

&#8226 Enables use of top conformation bulls.

&#8226 Allows production best suckled calves.

Cumbrian producer Mike Scott is a leading producer of three-quarter, and increasingly, seven-eighths-bred, Limousin suckled calves.


REPLACEMENT POLICY


&#8226 Will buy in three-quarter-bred heifers.

&#8226 Enables use of top conformation bulls.

&#8226 Allows production of bestsuckled calves.


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