Simmentals Fitting Into Organic, Low Cost System In West Wales

Simmentals Fitting Into Organic, Low Cost System In West Wales

SIMMENTALS

FITTING INTO
ORGANIC, LOW
COST SYSTEM

IN WEST WALES

Highlighting the flexibility and adaptability of the Simmental breed to all systems and geographies, here we feature the organic suckler herd and Welston pedigree herd of Anthony and Harry Davies, Tenby, Pembrokeshire.

Welcome to West Wales, where my son Harry and I farm 275 acres together with another 120 rented acres.  Our climate is gentle thanks to the gulf stream and ideal grass growing country, which we try to utilise to the max.  We carry 105 suckler cows and all followers are kept right through to either breed or to fatten.  The farm has been organic for more than 20 years, producing milk, corn and beef.  Without the use of chemicals, the farm has thrived with the dairy herd averaging 7800 litres/cow.  Clovers – red and white – are the mainstay with arable silage boosting yields.  In 2011 we decided to sell off the milking cows and increase the suckler herd.  The majority of our beef cows were graded up from the dairy herd, and we found half bred cows had loads of milk, whilst the 15/16th cows have a lot more muscle.  Each year we try to bull 20 to 25 heifers, and now all pedigree.

The simple organic, low-cost system we employ, also helps with a low carbon footprint.  Growing clover to fix nitrogen means we are able to graze from 1st March until November in most years.  We make our own silage with a forage wagon and spread the manure back onto the silage ground.  About 10% of the farm is reseeded each year, following the arable silage which we have gone back to this last 2 seasons.  A mix of barley, oats and peas under sown with ryegrass and clover to give cover over the winter.  For next year we will introduce vetches and radish for deep tap root penetration of the soil.  We also aerate the farm each year to allow oxygen into the soil.  Soil health means crop health which in turn means stock health. 

We originally bought Simmentals in 1987 after using MMB Halo on the dairy cows.  Those first cross breds showed to us the growth the breed had, and so our first pedigree purchase was Estelle 3rd and Tascha 14th from the Heywood sale.  Then, in 1990, came Revelex Avril 3rd, Avril 11th and Avril 12th out of Fincham Avril ERM.  We always look for stock from a very good female line.  Fincham Avril should have made Golden Cow, but alas, because she had moved farms, she didn’t have 3 calved cows on the same unit and so missed out.  The Avril family went on to produce Welston Frontier Avril who classified EX94. The Tascha family became our firm favourites with Welston Elgars Tascha classified Ex94, and a host of daughters classifying excellent (and maybe one of the first EX Simmentals to breed 3 generations EX).   Having bred Holstein for 30 years, Beef Character, legs and feet, body and mammary had improved the dairy herd no end, so we were keen to classify the Simmentals as we are well aware of the benefit.  

Initially, we had only used AI – Rickardstown Jumbo and Camus Brandy on our pedigree Simmentals.  However, we also used Sacombe Wishful Thinking on dairy cows and heifers as well as pedigree Simmentals.  Wishful Thinking was a very good all-round bull.

We decided we needed our first stock bull, which we found in Ireland when we bought Jennalyn Aspen from Clonagh – a son of Banwy TRex out of Milton Sapphire ET.  He is a full genetic brother to Clonagh Darling Eyes. In 2015 we purchased Shiloh Farm Forever Royal, a son of Kilbride Farm Bantry out of Shiloh Farm Royal Babe ET – a Hercules daughter.  Royal was Junior Champion bull at Tullamore also winning 8 first prizes that show season.  He has bred extremely well for us, being a long bull and has Classified EX 94. He is breeding smaller cows with extra length which is perfect for us.  In August 2018, we decided to look for a polled bull which we found in Northern Ireland and came home with Kilbride Farm Hans PP EX93 – a son of Sneumgaard Imperator out of Kilbride Farm Fanni 44 – a daughter of Hoeness.  We have used him on the heifers for the last 2 seasons and so far, we have been very pleased with the calves. Our recent Classification resulted in a further 15 cows and 2 bulls going EX.

The Classification for these 2 bulls is shown below as well as 6 heifers from Royal –

 BODY CONFIRMATION
BEEF CHARACTERLEGS/FEETMAMMARYRUMPFINAL CLASSIFICATION
KILBRIDE FARM HANS PPEX93EX94EX930EX92EX93
SHILOH FARM FOREVER ROYAL
EX94EX95EX950EX93EX94
ROYALS PROGENY
85858485084.86

We aim to breed easy care cattle that don’t cause us problems.  So, temperament, milk, growth, and easy calving are the goal.  We fatten off grass and silage with a guide cost for grass at £1/kg dry matter, silage at £3/kg dry matter and concentrates (if used) at £5/kg dry matter.  However, being organic, we aim to finish off grass wherever possible.  Royal’s progeny are grading particularly well as shown below by the kill sheet from a consignment sent in June 2020.  

 GRADEQUANTITYAVERAGE WEIGHTPAY WEIGHTAVERAGE VALUEPRICE PER KG.
HO CROSSR4L2338.3676.61522.354.5
SO CROSSR31440.440.1892.4.3
SO CROSSR31430.430.1870.54.35
SO CROSSR31420.6420.61850.644.4
SOR31412.8412.81836.964.45
SOR4L1440.440.1892.4.3
SOR4L1422.2422.21857.684.4
HOR32366.3732.61648.354.5
HO-U31330.2330.21512.324.58
SO-U32421.1842.21886.534.48
SO-U31411.4411.41863.644.53

In January 2019 we decided it might be a good exercise to take pelvic measurements of the heifers.   So, Richard Cummings, Cwarre Herd, who is a local vet, came along with a measuring instrument and measured the pelvises of our heifers.   Having measured the width and depth at this stage, you can calculate the size of a calf, by weight, that the heifer can deliver without difficulty.   We felt this information would be very useful before bulling, in order to calculate what size calf can pass safely through the pelvis. The pelvic area grows at a fairly constant rate from 9 to 24 months of age.  Heifers pelvic area increases slightly faster from 10 to 15 months versus 16 to 24 months.  The Continental breeds average growth is 0.30 cm sq. Per day and the native breeds are 0.25 cm sq. per day.  This relates to 8 or 10 cm sq. increase per month for this period.

Below is a list, by age, weight and calving history of our results:

Welston HerdAGE IN MONTHSWEIGHTPELVIC WIDTHPELVIC HEIGHTPELVIS SIZECALFWEIGHT KGSIREDIFFICULTY
COOMBER AVRIL
276101620320HEIFER40HANS
APOSTLE HONEY275601417238BULL47HARRYCEASEAR
MANS/MAN AVRIL2557816.517280HEIFER43HARRY
ROYAL TASCHA2356014.517246.5BULL42HANSPULLED
EDWARD CANDY2351413.515202.5BULL44ICON
ASPENS ANNAKEL224901417238DEADCALF
ROYAL TASCHA 2224801415210BULL43NEWRY
ROYAL WELCOME224801516240BULL41HANS
ASPEN TASCHA225041516240HEIFER40HANS
ROYAL ANGEL2146514.516232BULL41HANS
EDWARDS AVRIL204041416224BULL47ICON
ASPEN TASCHA 21642314.515217.5HEIFER38HANS
ROYAL KARINA twin1533811.514161BULL43HARRYSLIGHT PULL
ROYAL KARINA 21335011.514161HEIFER40HARRY
COOMBER ANGEL13.540012.513.5169HEIFER40HANS
MANS GENIES13.542012.514175TWINSHARRY
MANS GENIES134201416224BULL47HARRYPULLED
BULLSAGE IN MONTHSWEIGHTPELVIC WIDTHPELVIC HEIGHTPELVIS SIZECALFWEIGHT KGSIREDIFFICULTY
WELSTON IVAR218101315.5202
WELSTON ICON2179012.513.5169

100 cows weighing 700 to 800 kg eat the same amount of feed as 120 cows weighing 600 to 650 kg. and also produce an extra 20 calves per year.  Basically, we are currently trying to breed a small to medium cow that is polled, out of dams classified Very Good or Excellent with a self-replacing index in the top 25%.   

We now have our first home produced poll bull – Welston King Hans – son of Kilbride Farms Hans PP EX93 and out of Curaheen Gretal P EX92 (a granddaughter of Raceview Merle Beauty).  He looks very promising.

We believe the Simmental has all the leading traits of all the other breeds put together, but also believe that we must get more efficient by breeding a correct cow or bull of moderate size that can wean a calf weighing 50% of the dams’ body weight.  Heifers must calve by 2 years old, be easy calving with fewer than 3 to 5 per cent needing calving assistance.  They need to be efficient foragers and converters with optimum milk yield.  Good Classification will lead to longevity and so more calves produced per cow. Earlier in the year we purchased 6 Stabilizer heifers in order to directly compare the breeds and maybe follow some of their strengths in conversion of feed.

Our aim last year was to reduce cow size by about 100kg.  For every 100kg reduction per individual, 15% more cows per acre can be carried.  We intend to breed moderate cows, that are polled, Classified VG and EX with estimated breeding values in the top 20%.

A highlight for us in 2020 was the Virtual Show held by the Welsh Club, with Welston Harry winning overall Male Champion.  The Welsh Club was founded 30 years ago and it has been a great way of meeting fellow breeders at home and in Ireland.

A few final thoughts.  We need to work with our neighbours as one breed.  Simmental is one of the largest breeds in the world but we have to be open and mindful that this great breed is slipping behind in the UK.  We must look at the work of breeds like the Stabilizers who are measuring feed efficiency, weight trait trend, average weaning and finisher index by year of birth and, most importantly, average profit by year of birth which has improved by 100% since 2010.  Stabilizers also claim to be the most carbon efficient suckler cow, and, another milestone, they are now geonomically testing to enhance all their EBVs.  Don’t forget, the Stabilizer has Simmental in its makeup!  With all our leading traits, Simmental can get back to be THE LEADING BREED.  

Let’s make it happen! 

Simmentals Dual-Purpose Traits Paying Dividends at Ballystrone

Simmentals Dual-Purpose Traits Paying Dividends at Ballystrone

SIMMENTAL’S

DUAL-PURPOSE
TRAITS PAYING
DIVIDENDS

AT BALLYSTRONE

Commercial feature on Allister Calvin, County Londonderry who is seeing the strengths of the Simmental breed in producing suckler replacements, and in bull beef finishing.

County Londonderry farmer Allister Calvin initially bought a Simmental bull to produce suckler replacements, but quickly realised that the breed’s dual-purpose traits also delivered satisfactory results in his bull beef finishing unit.

“The Simmental is a good all-rounder, offering beneficial maternal and terminal traits,” said Allister who farms in partnership with his father William at Ballystrone on the outskirts of Coleraine.

The father and son duo have been crossing Simmental on their Limousin and Belgian Blue cross-bred cows. “The Simmental cross is the ideal suckler cow with good conformation, sound legs and feet, a nice temperament, great mothering ability and plenty of milk.

“Over the years we have boosted our profitability by selling surplus heifers as replacements to repeat customers. Heifers are sold at approximately thirteen-months-old at a price equivalent to that of a finished animal.”

“Our top performing bulls are ‘flying’ and can achieve 1.21 kilos of carcase gain per day, which is equivalent to 1.46 kilos daily liveweight gain from birth.”

Allister and William have been producing bull beef for Foyle Meats since 2002. Meticulous records confirm that the Simmental also has a lot to offer when it comes to beef production. “Our Simmental carcases are averaging 403 kilos deadweight and achieving U-2+ grades at around 15.2 months of age. That’s an average 0.88 kilo of carcase gain per day,” explained Allister.

“Our top performing bulls are ‘flying’ and can achieve 1.21 kilos of carcase gain per day, which is equivalent to 1.46 kilos daily liveweight gain from birth.”

He continued: ”Meat plants have introduced weight restrictions meaning heavy, lean carcases are penalised. We are under pressure to finish our bulls lighter, and it can be a big challenge to get enough fat cover on them at a younger age. The Simmental is ideal as it produces good fat cover at around 400 kilos.”

Breedplan figures are an essential selection tool when it comes to selecting stock bulls for the farm’s suckler enterprise. Bulls are always bought on above average figures.

Simmental bulls at Ballystrone have included the April 2011 Omorga Casper – a full brother to Omorga Volvo – bought privately from Harry and John Moore’s herd in Beragh, County Tyrone.

“I like a muscly bull with good conformation and breed character,” added Allister who paid 8,500gns to secure Omorga Eli at Stirling in October 2014. Sired by Ashland Brandy and bred from a Cleenagh Flasher dam, the February 2013 bull is still working in the herd. Eli is ranked in the breed’s top 1% for eye muscle area +6.0, and top 5% for milk +10, terminal production index +101 and self-replacing index +112.

For almost twenty years Allister worked full-time as a beef and sheep adviser for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Enterprise in Northern Ireland. He recently gave up the role to return to the family farm.

“…cross-bred Simmental cows are hardy and can withstand outwintering in the hills. We like medium-sized cows that can hold condition easily. Longevity is another added benefit of the Simmental!”

In addition to farming 750 acres, which includes 500 acres of hill land and 25 acres of winter cereals, William and Allister also run an agricultural contracting business. “We’ve made a few changes to the structure of the farm. Suckler cow numbers have been reduced from 70 to 40, and in May 2020 we started milking 60 cows through a Lely A5 robot,” explained Allister.

Suckler cows are calved in the spring and autumn. “Cows are calved at home and then moved to the hill. The cross-bred Simmental cows are hardy and can withstand outwintering in the hills. We like medium-sized cows that can hold condition easily. Longevity is another added benefit of the Simmental!”

Historically the calves were creep fed, but that system has changed now that the suckler herd is predominantly grazed on the hill farm. Allister explained: “Most of the land grazed by the sucklers during the summer months is classified as environmentally sensitive and supplementary feeding is not allowed. This places even more emphasis on the cow to provide enough milk to rear a good calf. Our Simmental cows having plenty of milk and the calving weaning weights aren’t much behind those achieved when we were creep feeding.”

Cattle are finished on a ration comprising of home-grown barley and a balanced blend. The autumn born bull calves are housed at the beginning of August in preparation for slaughter at Christmas. “We are aiming to achieve slaughter weights by sixteen-months of age. Simmental progeny are growthy and easily fleshed. Other continental breeds have the growth rates but they struggle to achieve the desired fat cover within the time limit.”

Heifers selected as herd replacements are retained or sold privately to other suckler farmers. Everything else is finished for beef.

Omorga Eli has been easily calved in the suckler herd, and with AI straws collected on-farm William and Allister are planning to use the semen on some of the Holstein cows. “We’re using sexed semen to breed dairy heifers, and we also have a batch of Holstein cows P’d in-calf to Eli, as we’d like to use the cross-bred dairy progeny for the bull beef finishing system. We finish around 140 dairy-bred calves annually, and ideally we’d like to breed our own to reduce the number of bought in animals.”

Maintaining Female Quality and a Commercial Perspective are Keys to Continual Improvement

Maintaining Female Quality and a Commercial Perspective are Keys to Continual Improvement

MAINTAINING FEMALE QUALITY
AND A COMMERCIAL PERSPECTIVE ARE THE

KEYS TO CONTINUAL
IMPROVEMENT

AT ISLAVALE SIMMENTALS

Herd feature on the recently elected BSCS President Stewart Stronach and the Stronach family at Maisley, Keith, Banffshire.

It was using Simmental bulls on their commercial herd and witnessing the benefits of the breed first-hand that encouraged the Stronachs to establish their pedigree herd back in the early 1980s – and in the subsequent years, they’ve continued to keep the commercial aspect at the forefront of their breeding policy.

Stewart Stronach explains: “We noticed a huge difference after we started to use the Simmental – the heifers were growthier and went on to make great cows and the steers had far quicker growth weights. The great appeal of the breed is that you get milky, productive females that also produce fast-growing calves.”

Stewart is the fourth generation of Stronachs to farm at Maisley in Keith, Banffshire, where he’s based with partner Fiona Sutherland, and their family including Michael, Ellie, Lauren, Aimee and Emma. Along with Fiona and Michael, the farming partnership includes Stewart’s parents, Stewart Snr and Hazel, who reside along the road at Berryleys Farm.

The Stronachs have gradually increased their owned land over the years and are now farming 760 acres in all, with 160 acres of barley grown within that, mostly for malting with some kept for feeding. On the stock side, 300 cross sheep are put to Texel and Charollais sires, with the lambs finished at home off grass, while the 200-cow herd includes 160 pedigree females and 40 commercials.

“We like cows that can look after themselves as well as their calf; a medium sized, commercial type cow is ideal for us.”

FACTS

  • Farming 760 acres in all, with 160 acres of barley grown within that.
  • 200-cow Simmental herd includes 160 pedigree females and 40 commercials.
  • 300 cross sheep are put to Texel and Charollais sires
  • Top pedigree Simmental price to date is 24,000gns for Islavale Heston, in February 2018

Running a closed herd other than bulls, the Stronachs have only ever bought in a few pedigree females, with the first being Maryculter Lucinda, almost 40 years ago. Another fortunate purchase around that time was Drumsleed Amelia, which was flushed to Gretna House Supersonic, producing 18 calves.

Stewart says: “We kept all the heifers from that flush, which provided a real solid foundation for the herd; they made great cows. The health benefits of having a closed herd are really

important to us – we’ve been Johne’s and BVD accredited for 12 years and the cows are screened for Lepto and vaccinated for IBR.”

With that strong foundation of females, the Stronachs have relied on selecting the right bulls to improve and develop the herd. Darsham Lucky Strike was a purchase with growth and style, which left his stamp, and then Curaheen Bandit, which Stewart says bred particularly strong females. “Our herd is now dominated by Bandit cows. They seem to click well with any bulls.

“We like cows that can look after themselves as well as their calf; a medium sized, commercial type cow is ideal for us.”

Five years ago, the Stronachs bought Ranfurly Confederate at the Dirnanean dispersal, having liked him when he was originally sold at Stirling. He has been popular for semen sales and has also bred exceptionally well in the Islavale herd, with the first crop of sons selling to 24,000gns for Islavale Heston, in February 2018, while another son, Islavale Harvest made 16,000gns.

Two other recent stock bulls that have sired several five-figure priced sons for the herd are Curaheen Giant and Atlow Dixon. Giant was bought at Roscommon in 2016 after Stewart had placed him Junior Champion at the pre-sale show. His first seven calves averaged over £9000, selling to a top of 16,000gns.

Dixon had been placed overall champion at Stirling in February 2014, before the Stronachs bought him for 15,000gns, impressed by his ‘length and style’. His sons have also proved popular, making up to 14,000gns.

“There are a few factors that we consider when buying a bull – the look, the pedigree and its health status are all very important. We then look at the figures and make an informed choice – we wouldn’t buy a bull with particularly bad figures.

“In 2017, we bought Corskie Highlander privately from the Green family and we’re really pleased with how he is breeding. We sold the first son off him last October at 15,000gns and his first crop of heifers are calving at the moment – they’re shaping up to be really nice cows, easy calving with plenty milk.

“To increase potential buyers of bulls, since 2014, all our bulls for Society sales have been individually tested clear of IBR and not vaccinated, in case an AI Centre shows an interest, as we’ve missed out on sales in the past due to vaccinating them,” adds Stewart.

Other than pre-sale shows at the bull sales, Stewart says showing has never been a passion of his and he feels that sometimes, over-fed show animals can give the wrong impression of the breed. However, his family are now very keen on the show-ring and he gets a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them do well – which they have done, with wins including overall Simmental champion and reserve inter-breed at Turriff in 2018; male champion at the National Show at Perth in 2017 and inter-breed champion at Keith the same year.

The girls have had a fair bit of success at Young Handlers competitions too, with Aimee winning the overall title at last year’s Stars of the Future show and Emma finishing third.

Fiona says: “We really enjoy showing at the Stars of the Future; it’s good training for the bull sales. The girls love being hands-on and Simmentals are a great breed for that, they’re very quiet.”

Back at home, calving is split between two quite tight periods in late autumn and then again in the spring, with 100 cows calving each time. Spring calving cows are outwintered, brought in for calving and then straight back out once they’ve calved. Those calving in the back-end are brought in just before, in October and kept in all winter on a silage and straw ration. The majority of straw used is home-grown.

back-end are brought in just before, in October and kept in all winter on a silage and straw ration. The majority of straw used is home-grown.

Stewart explains: “Our ground is very heavy and the cattle can make a mess of it in the winter, which is why we keep the back-end calvers in. The cows receive a bulling mineral and then a pre-calving mineral.”

Maintaining the quality of the females in the herd is a priority for the Stronachs. They have always been very selective with which ones they breed from, but they now find the Society’s female classification system extremely helpful.

“I think the demand for Simmentals continues to rise because the breed is continually improving – in weight gains and calving ease. They are as milky as ever, but with improved carcases…”

“I think an outside opinion is always useful, for any breeder, and having the classification system increases buyer confidence too. Anyone can say that a bull is out of their best cow, but this helps prove how good the females are,” says Stewart.

Within the Islavale herd, there are more than 50 Excellent cows, with most of the others classified as Very Good. The policy is to keep a fairly young herd, with the aim of constantly improving the females, and with a strong cull cow trade at the moment, this also works in their favour.

Heifers not being retained for the herd are often sold privately for breeding, with lower-end heifers popular as recipients for embryos. Male calves are all kept entire, with anything not making the grade fattened on a barley beef system and sold through ABP at Perth, often making 400kg d/w at 13-months-old.  Stewart says: “There is always plenty demand for breeding females. The Simmental cow is by far the most dominant suckler cow in this area – they make great mothers and you can use any bull on them to produce what you want for your system.” 

This year has been one like no other, with online bidding becoming the norm and restricted buyer numbers at sales, however, the Islavale bulls have continued to prove popular, both online and at the market. At the Stirling sale in October, their six entries averaged £8890, with Islavale Kristoff (a Corskie Highlander son) and Islavale Kai (by Curaheen Giant) making 14,000gns apiece. 

“I think the demand for Simmentals continues to rise because the breed is continually improving – in weight gains and calving ease. They are as milky as ever, but with improved carcases. It is worrying times at the moment, but we certainly can’t complain with how the sales have gone this year,” adds Stewart.

Sacombe Herd Celebrating 50 Years Of Simmental Breeding

Sacombe Herd Celebrating 50 Years Of Simmental Breeding

SACOMBE HERD

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS

OF SIMMENTAL BREEDING

Having been one of the founder members of the British Simmental Cattle Society, the Borlase family have stood the test of time in terms of being pioneers of the breed. Here we feature the family’s Sacombe herd and take a look back through the history books of the herd.

Established on the 4th July 1970, with the importation of four Swiss Simmental heifers, the Sacombe herd, based at Watton at Stone, Hertfordshire began. From that day on, the herd has witnessed countless show wins, Perth Bull Sale championships, a Burke Trophy win and a drive to help new members, particularly the younger generation, excel in the breed.

Third generation breeder Bridget Borlase who manages the 350-acre arable and livestock farm recalls how her grandfather, Bert Borlase, was one of the initial breeders who went on a buying mission to Switzerland and selected a number of heifers, one being a cow called Kleeb, purchased for £400. “This was a huge investment at the time, but her progeny went on to sell to America, New Zealand and Australia averaging £4000.”

By the late 1970’s the herd was running up to 80 pedigree cows with progeny being sold across the world for between £4000 and £7000. No stranger to the new European breeds, Bert was already running Charolais, Marchigiana, Chianina and Pinzguar cattle, but a shortage of new genetics meant he was looking in a new direction. “He ran the other breeds until the mid 80’s, but a passion grew for the Simmental due to their ease of management and the other breeds were naturally phased out,” comments Bridget.

Early bulls to leave a mark on the herd included an imported sire Kimberely, as well as a home bred sire, Sacombe Bernard, who went on to stand champion at the Royal Highland Show in 1977. A son of Bernard, Sacombe Edgar, stood Perth champion and went on to sell 100,000 plus straws for Star Machinery founder, the late Bertie Watterson.

Bernard produced amazing daughters including Sacombe Mame who went on to produce notable sires such as the Perth 1990 champion and prolific AI sire, Sacombe Wishful Thinking and Sacombe Shamus, the 1991 Royal Show champion. “Little did we know at the time Mame’s granddaughter Perrywood Wispa, which is registered in my own herd, would be part of the Burke Trophy winning pair in 2012 alongside our stock bull at the time Clonagh World Class, a pinnacle in any pedigree beef breeder’s career,” comments Bridget. 

The mid 80’s also saw the arrival of another major turning point in the herd’s history pages when Bridget’s parent’s Paull and Judy purchased Hockenhull Marvel privately from the MacPherson family, alongside a son of his, Blackford Regent. “My mother and I often debate which has been the biggest turning point for the herd and for her it’s Marvel. Without doubt this bull left his stamp on the herd,” adds Bridget.

By the late 1980’s to early 1990’s the Sacombe herd was running up to 100 pedigree females having purchased 24 imported females and were selling some 40-50 bulls a year off farm. “Not only has the demand switched with the influence of the Limousin, Aberdeen-Angus and British Blue market share, but with TB and other health issues affecting pedigree breeders, I doubt we’ll ever see that scale of sales off farm again.”

Having struggled to find suitable stock bulls, 1995 saw Paull and Judy Borlase, now at the helm of the business following the death of Paull’s father, Bert, travel to France to the Paris Show. It was at this event that they were impressed with a cow called Charmonte who took her third consecutive championship title at the event weighing in at 1080kg and giving 11,000kg milk. “We returned to France to the Dijon area to view some farms including the home of Charmonte and were fortunate to buy a daughter of hers starting the next generation of imported females at Sacombe.”

For Bridget the real turning point in terms of bull use for the herd came in 2009 when Clonagh World Class joined the herd. Bred in Ireland by Garrett and Lyndsey Behan, World Class was first spotted as a young calf at a show and was later secured at the couple’s production sale. “He’s certainly been a game changer for us and my favourite to date, stamping females across the herd. You don’t have to read an ear tag to know it’s a World Class daughter,” says Bridget.

Equally, his show career certainly backed up his breeding credibility. In 2012 World Class stood overall breed champion at the Royal Norfolk Show where he also won the coveted Burke Trophy and was male and reserve overall champion at the National Show that year at the East of England.

Other bulls of note include Sacombe Nijinsky, Fordpoint Accord, Ranfurly Amigo and Glenturk Nomad, the latter proving to be an influential sire taking the Perth championship and winning the male championship at the Royal twice, and Grangewood William.

More recently the family have used Islavale Fagan, Wolfstar Flying Scotsman and Derrycallaghan Gambler and have since used an imported sire Langmose Ludvig, a Danish polled bull which has left tremendous natural muscle and produced a reserve junior interbreed winner at the Royal Welsh last year.

Looking back over the years, Bridget says there are a few memorable summers in the show ring. “Without a doubt, 2012 was certainly a fantastic year doing so well with World Class and my own personal favourite Perrywood Wispa, but in 2016 the herd saw another level of interest as we brought out three junior females all from our original Austrian imported Fani family. Sacombe Flora, Farah and Georgina either stood first or second on every outing and we certainly received some fantastic comments from other breeders,” she recalls.

Having not brought any new females in to the herd for some time, 2017 marked a new chapter with the arrival of stockman Jimmy McMillan. That year two females were purchased from the Deerhurst dispersal and on the dispersal of the Sterling herd of Boddington Estates the record priced female, Sterling Bacardi’s Hawaii, joined the herd for 28,000gns, as well as Sterling Petro’s Cairo purchased for 6000gns who went on to win the Royal Welsh in 2018.

“I first saw Hawaii as a junior heifer at the English National Show at the Three Counties. I arrived late and saw a glimpse of her after she’d stood junior champion and from that moment, I knew I was going to buy her.”

Hawaii’s first calf, Sacombe Hawaii’s Jessica, followed in her mother’s footsteps by clinching the junior championship at the Royal Norfolk in 2019, meanwhile Hawaii’s son, Sacombe Kestrel is destined to be an AI sire for Cogent Breeding while Hawaii herself is an integral part of the Sacombe flushing team.

Embryo work certainly forms a vital part of the herd’s business structure as Bridget has embarked on an embryo partnership with breeders in Kazakhstan. “We’re working with producers who have a nucleus herd for their 20,000 head feedlots to produce their own stock bulls and semen business.” This has come from a relationship built up in the country by Bridget’s brother William and his son Ben who run a worldwide farm consultancy and mechanisation business.

In July 2019, a year after Bridget’s father Paull sadly lost his battle with ill health and on what would have been his birthday, Sacombe Dandelion Oma, a descendent of yet another influential Austrian import, was tapped out as Royal Welsh breed champion and later that day the interbreed champion.

Dandelion Oma has since proved her worth outside of the show ring as she is the dam of Sacombe Juggernaut 19, a bull sold recently to Cogent Breeding and she’s also the dam of Sacombe Kite 19, which was sold privately to the Blackford herd.

It’s clear when you speak to Bridget that the passion she has for the Simmental breed clearly runs through her veins. She’s invested her time with the next generation helping the youth development programme, been a council member and judged many regional and national shows, the Stirling Bull Sales and all the major calf shows.

But on top of running the herd as well as keeping an eye on the management of her mother’s farm in Shropshire, she is running a successful meat retail business under the name of Bridget B’s alongside her partner James. Having started with a farm shop in 2005 with a turnover of £20,000 the business now has four retail outlets with a turnover of more than £2 million.

And it’s this side of the business that makes Bridget feel that now more than ever the beef industry has to connect with the British public. “My butchery staff communicate with in excess of 10,000 customers each week and we need to be selling the story behind this great product. Where possible I take every opportunity to speak to anyone from young farmers clubs to the Women’s Institute.

“While there’s no doubt it’s been a challenge, we’re continuing to wear the Covid-19 storm well with increased sales for all meat products and the opening of a new meat retail outlet, but if we don’t make the most of this change in perception and desire for quality British meat, we’ll be shooting the next generation of farmers in the foot.”

With a strong focus now on the beef retail enterprises, while running a smaller pedigree nucleus herd, the family’s devotion to Simmentals shows no sign of waning as Bridget and Judy continue to run the herd with the passion and devotion which has been a hallmark of their half a century involvement with the breed.

Simmental Luing Crosses Excelling As Ideal Upland Cattle

Simmental Luing Crosses Excelling As Ideal Upland Cattle

SIMMENTAL LUING CROSSES EXCELLING AS

‘IDEAL UPLAND
CATTLE’

AT TOWN END FARM

Snapshot herd feature on Angus Freeman, Town End Farm, Troutbeck, Lake District National Park.

Set in the heart of the magnificent Lake District National Park, overlooking Windermere from the heights of the historic Troutbeck village is Town End Farm, run by Angus Freeman. It is hard to imagine a more picturesque setting for a farm anywhere in the country. Despite the beautiful setting, it is nonetheless a proper hill farm, and the stock it carries has to be able to cope with whatever the weather throws at it.

The family took on the tenancy of the farm in 1971, when Angus’s father, Doug, took on the farm from the National Trust. Doug was still a regular on the farm up until recently, but had taken more of a backseat to the running of the farm when Angus came back to work full time on the farm in 2008, after spending six years working as a mechanic at C.T. Hayton’s, a local tractor dealership and engineering firm.

Town End now runs to around 700 acres of tenanted and owned land, running from the shores of Windermere to the top of Wansfell which rises to 1500 feet above sea level. The Freeman’s lamb about 750 ewes, with 400 Swaledale and 350 mule ewes. The Swaledales, are mainly home bred and any extra replacements that are needed are bought in as gimmer lambs. Running alongside the sheep is a herd of Luing cattle, which were initially introduced in 2009 when Angus initially bought six heifers from the Cadzow Bros on Luing at a sale in Oban. The herd runs to 30 cattle now, nearly all of them sourced from the same herd on Luing. “We found the cattle ideal for what we need. They thrive on the rough ground and are very quiet, important in the lakes where you may be approached at any time by walkers or mountain bikers whizzing past” he says. They used to have a herd of Limousin cattle

but feel that the Luings perform better, with wintering being cut from 8 months with the Limousin to a mere 3 months with the Luings.  The cattle come in between Christmas and New Year and are out again by late March. The first heifers were crossed with a Limousin bull which they still had after selling the herd, but Angus felt that the calves weren’t an improvement on the original Luings.  In looking for an alternative, they have been delighted with the Simmental bull, and influenced by the reputation of Simmental – Luings as an ideal cross. Calving is in late February/March, and heifers calve at around 3 years old. Spring calving fits the farms system as the cows can graze, and more importantly, thrive, on the fell during the summer months without any extra intervention.

The Freeman’s sourced a Simmental bull from the Denizes herd of Michael Barlow, Ulnes, Nr Leyland, Lancashire with the herd high health status being extremely important.  Extremely impressed with the quality of the calves and the ease of calving, further Denizes bulls have subsequently been purchased.  “The Sim-Luing cross excels as hardy hill cattle”, Angus says. “With some excellent growth rates and with the hybrid vigour offering a viable alternative to the established continental breeds, they are ideal for upland farms which need hardy cattle able to thrive on the marginal land.” This factors allied to the High Health status that the family have adhered to, make the heifers a very attractive option for herds looking for recipient cattle in pedigree herds and Angus says he can’t breed enough females to meet the demand, with a ready trade selling them all at home. “Sim-Luing heifers have proved themselves to be great mothers and good milkers as well as easy calvers and the pedigree breeders are keen to

capitalise on this” he says.  In fact, the majority of last year’s bulling heifers were all snapped up by one breeder who was so impressed by them and having initially only planned to buy a couple! Steers used to be sold in the January suckler sale at J36, Kendal, but with the tremendous growth rate that the Simmental bull has brought, Angus has moved to selling them at the first suckler calf sale in October.  “They really are proving to be an ideal suckler calf, quiet and naturally thrifty, with the calves going to the same buyers most years”, he says.

Moving forward Angus is keen to introduce more Luing cattle to Town End Farm to meet this growing demand for his heifers by the Simmental bull.  “The Simmental Luing cross is just ideal for our farm.  Looking forward to a beef system with less direct Government support, and a slant towards more environmental schemes, a beef cow that pays its way on harder ground has to be the way forward.  The Simmental bull will continue to play an important and integral part in the herd’s future.