Barlows Reap Rewards from their Farming and Agribusiness by Jennifer Mackenzie

by | Feb 13, 2013


Hard work, commitment and enthusiasm have paid off for Lancashire farming and agribusiness family, the Barlows.
In the 1970s the family was the first in the UK to establish a pedigree milking herd of dual purpose MRI cattle, a pedigree Simmental herd and a trailer manufacturing business at Denizes Farm, Ulnes Walton, near Leyland.

Denizes Cadette 29 with from left to right, Matt, John and Sam

Now the MRI cattle are in demand from dairy and beef breeders across the UK, the Simmentals are commanding top prices at pedigree sales and the trailer business, which is now a distributor for Ifor Williams, is the brand’s biggest distributor in the UK and has the country’s largest hire fleet.

Cattle are a passion for Michael Barlow, who runs Barlow trailers with his father, John, and brothers John and Graeme, establishing the Denizes Simmental herd in 1978 and taking on the running of the MRIs.

Michael’s sons share his enthusiasm for the cattle, with Matt, John, who is studying for a BSc honours degree at Myerscough College, and Sam all working on the family’s 138 ha which includes Littlewood Hall. Fourth son Thomas will work at home after completing an agribusiness degree at Harper Adams University College.

Michael is a member of the British Simmental Cattle Society’s council and is the young members representative. It was the boys’ great grandfather Albert who began farming at Littlewood Hall Farm after the Second World War and their grandfather Johnny began manufacturing trailers at Denizes in 1970.

The MRI herd was started when great uncle Tommy in the 1970s, after a visit to Holland where he saw the cattle, decided to switch to the breed from Dairy Shorthorns. Now the Littlewood MRIs work well together with the Denizes Simmentals and a small herd of pedigree Limousins also under the Littlewood prefix.

Cross bred Simmental/MRI bullocks sold up to £1,470 last autumn and averaged £1,250, achieving weights of 700kg finished off grass. They are also in demand as embryo recipients, making excellent dams because of their milkiness, and the Barlows use them to carry Simmental embryos.

Since Michael started the pedigree Simmental herd, the aim has been to include as many of the important cow families as possible and, currently, most are included even with only 25 breeding females. The majority of the herd is home-bred but a couple of significant recent purchases have further expanded the genetics.
“Our aim is to produce between 10 and 15 Simmental bulls for the society sales in Stirling, Carlisle and Bristol each year,” said John. “We have got most of the cow families we want and now the plan is to increase cow numbers from 25 to 70 to 80 and produce bulls for every sale,” he added.

Ranfurly Beauty 5
photo by Julie Hazelton

The heifer Ranfurly Beauty 5 was secured by Michael in a telephone bid for the top price of 16,500 gns at David Hazelton’s production sale last September in Co Fermanagh, breaking the breed’s record price for a maiden heifer. She has since been flushed and MRI cows are carrying five embryos by Heywood Handsome and Cairnview Snazzy.

A member of the Kim family was purchased in November in Roscommon from for 8,000 Euros, the top price of the sale. Raceview Cinderella Kim, purchased from Raymond and Marion O’Connell, will be flushed in the spring.

The Denizes herd has won the female championship three times at the Perth Stirling society sales but the best sale so far was in February 2011. Out of an entry of 200 cattle on the day, the Barlows took the top price of the sale at 17,000gns with 15 month old home bred bull Denizes Amazon, their female champion, the 30 month old heifer Denizes Nelly sold for 9,200gns.

Probably the herd’s best family to date and Michael’s favourite is the Melody family. It began with the purchase in 1999 of the heifer Brinkton Melody 10, a daughter of the famous ‘Golden’ show cow Stuartslaw Melody. Brinkton Melody’s daughter, Denizes Melody 2 won the reserve breed championship twice at the Royal Show.

Another successful family the Trixiebelles has had success in the show ring with Denizes Trixiebelle 3. By Ashland Tornado, she was first and senior heifer champion at the English National Show and she was in the winning sire group of three at the Three Counties Show. Her February 2012 daughter, Trixiebelle 6 was champion Simmental in a strong line-up at Borderway Agri Expo last November. Ashland Tornado, the herd’s six year old current stock bull, has added his stamp, siring some of the top selling progeny, including Amazon. The first seven of his sons sold at Stirling to average £6,500.

Denizes Cadette 29

A grand daughter of the oldest cow in the herd at 17, Denizes Cadette 8, Tornado daughter Cadette 29, a three year old heifer due to calve to Curaheen Apostle at the beginning of April, is entered for the Stirling sale on February 18.

Two home bred bulls by Tornado, Chicago 11 and Commander 11, out of the Cadette family, are also entered for the sale. Health is a priority and the cattle are Johnes and BVD accredited and the herd is in the SAC CHeCS health scheme.

The MRI milking herd currently runs to 48 cows, reduced because of the poor forage harvest last year and an increased number of stock generally. The plan is to increase the number of milkers to 60 to 70. Twenty per cent of the herd are crossed with the Simmental bull, a few going to the Limousin and the remainder bred pure. The herd averages 7,000 litres a cow with butterfat running at 4.12% and protein at 3.28% with milk being sold on a cheese contact to Milk Link and attracting 28ppl.

The attributes of the dual purpose breed which is long-lived and expected to average six lactations brings a ready number of purchasers of both pure bred and crossbred females from across the UK, including Scotland.