The Farm has recently established two quality beef suckler herds of some 100 cows and heifers using Pedigree Stabiliser and continental British Blue breeds.
The Stabiliser is a top genetic cow developed in America by crossing the maternal and terminal traits of native and continental breeds such as the Aberdeen Angus, Hereford, Simmental and Gelbvieh. The breed produces highly efficient cows that optimise costs of production against output due to their low maintenance requirement, and calves with superior feed efficiency and growth rates. Their genetic performance is the most researched of all suckler breeds in the UK, with a healthy demand for breeding heifers. Whilst Morrisons supermarket offers a premium for 12-14 month bull-beef, finished steers also perform well due to inherent growth efficiencies.
Running alongside but managed separately is the continental dairy cross British Blue (i.e. Belgium Blue) herd as a teaching and commercial comparison to the Stabiliser. Finished beef calves are sold at a live market with the option to sell as stores depending on market conditions.
Hence, the direction of the beef enterprise is to compare the commercial and genetic qualities of the Stabiliser against the less efficient but better quality carcass of the British Blue continental. This allows students to decide for themselves the relative performance of the two systems for successful beef production.
Husbandry management includes weaning calves off their mothers at housing in the autumn and over-wintering in purposely designed straw yards, with modern handling facilities for calving and husbandry tasks. Over the winter, cows receive a maintenance diet of grass silage and straw, with the aim of optimizing forage intake and keeping feed costs to a minimum. Calving is from late January through to March and last spring Stabiliser heifers achieved a fertility success rate of 90%. Cows, heifers and calves are turned out to graze in the spring alongside Stabiliser and Limousin bulls (British Blue herd) with the aim of maintaining a strict serving period of 9-10 weeks. The commercial focus of both herds is to optimise nutrition and fertility management.
The farm also has 20 dairy cross beef calves, purchased in autumn 2016, being reared as heifer replacements or as finished beef cattle this autumn.