Purebreds best bet for premiums?
SUCKLED calf producers looking for replacement females this autumn should consider opting for purebred cows, rather than crossbreds.
Co Durham hill producer Carl Stephenson believes purebreds are the best way to ensure a cost-effective supply of replacement heifers and yield worthwhile premiums for suckled steer calves.
He farms 125ha (300 acres) at Pikestone, Woodland, Bishop Auckland, and runs 60 suckler cows, 40 of which are pure Limousin, and 450 Swaledale ewes.
"There are advantages in running purebred cows, as commercial sucklers and purebred Limousin cows do not have any less milk than crossbreds.
"The great thing about a pure Limousin is that she still has as much milk when you take the calf away as when she calved. And we can sell the best purebred steers at 10 months old for a £60-£70 premium over crossbred steers," he says.
Mr Stephenson, who farms with his wife, Julia, says pure and crossbred cows are managed as one herd on the unit.
"There is no magic about running purebreds. We have no additional farm labour and never have to calve a cow."
He has no doubts about longevity of purebreds either. "One of our cows produced a calf every year of her life until she was 18 years old and her last calf sold for £650.
"Producers planning restocking after foot-and-mouth have an ideal opportunity to secure purebred foundation cows to supply future replacements and to capitalise on higher value steer calves."
Breeding replacements on farm will also allow producers to close herds. His herd has been closed for seven years. "After the trauma of recent months, everyone is going to be more aware of herd health. It is something we now value highly." *