On Wednesday 15th June Jono Cole of Trebartha Barton, North Hill hosted a farm walk for the NBA/Stabiliser Breed Society. The successful event entertained over 140 farmers from across the South West. They were treated to an excellent presentation by the Stabiliser breed society chairman, Richard Fuller.
He identified the major issues that the beef sector are currently enduring, such as the highest global cost of production, the high level of dependency on subsidies, a highly inefficient use of breeds and systems, the high levels of land rent and the inflamed cost of wintering suckled cows.
He clearly identified the weakness in the use of the Holstein Cross suckled cows, suggesting it was not working efficiently for the interest of the suckled producer, high cost and poor performance. A solution had to be developed that brought the best of the UK native breeds together with the strong traits from the continent.
The Stabiliser breed has evolved over the last 14 years into one of the most progressive breeds around, recognising continued sustainability and profitability as the key to the future. Its main drivers are as follows:
- Excellent Fertility from Males and Females
- Low Maintenance requirements
- Low birth weights aiding calving ease supporting fast return to the bull
- Early puberty all heifers to calf at 2 years
- Consistent uniformity
- Robust Structure
This means that the cattle are better forage efficiency converters, they provide easy care docile stock, they are easy calving reducing vet bills, they improve herd depreciation as replacement rates are lower, they provide robust very fertile bulls that withstand a high cow to bull ratio and they have the ability to be out-wintered.
The company is a UK leader in beef genetics producing Stabilise dam line breeding stock. The focus of the breeding programme is to improve the economic production of consistently high quality beef from forage-based systems.
They recognise the urgent need to develop an improved suckled cow to replace less efficient Holstein crosses.
‘’In response we are developing a breeding programme based on the Stabiliser™. This is a composite made up of half native British breeds and half maternal Continental breeds and it offers the most cost effective suckled cow economics available. If you are interested in using the Stabiliser breed the society offer you the opportunity to become one of our Multipliers in the exciting Stabiliser™ breeding programme.
Reducing costs is vital for the sustainability of the UK Beef Industry.
Jono presented to the group of farmers 4 bunches of cows and calves and a bunch of yearling steers, the consistency was one of the noticeable things that stood out and the small demur frame on the cows. These cows are different from your large Charolais Cross cows that weigh in excess of 800-850kg and cost a fortune to keep through the winter. These cows weigh around 600-650kg, the steers average when killed at 20 months 340-350kg average grade around the R grade. The industry sometimes puts too much emphasis on massive rounds where really the market wants consistency rather massive carcases.
If anything can be judged by the quality of the burgers, at the conclusion of the event the meat from this breed is of excellent quality.
If you are interested in finding out more contact the BMLI team or contact Jono Cole direct on 07775 774620 or email email@example.com.
By Jonathan Coles
My reasons for joining the Bodmin Moor Healthy Livestock Initiative can be traced back to the Spring of 1996 when we bought our first forty Suckler cows. We had no thought of herd health back then because they all came from one herd, but all had different herd numbers! As the farm expanded, so did the cows’ numbers; we had one hundred spring calves and fifty autumn calves.
Problems with pneumonia in the autumn born calves were always around Christmas or the New Year. This led us to suspect BVD, which was confirmed by blood tests. All cows were soon vaccinated but it took two years before we noticed a big improvement in less pneumonia, more calves being born and lower vets’ bills!
In the Spring of 2005 we went into organic conversion. Part of organic farming is to reduce to a minimum the use of antibiotics, which led to a good hard look at how we kept cows. Working with Castle Vets, we drew up a Herd Health Plan, not just to keep FABBL happy, but one that did the cows some good! Twelve months later we bought our first Stabiliser bull. Whilst talking to Richard Fuller from the Stabiliser Cattle Company, it became clear that all Stabiliser breeds were in a High Herd Health Scheme. This set me thinking along the same lines.
Over the following four years Stabiliser and Stabiliser Cross heifers were bought from High Health Status herds and we signed up as a multiplier herd. This forced my herd to join the SAC High Herd Health Scheme. I thought it was going to cost a lot of money to do all the testing, but this was around the time the Bodmin Moor Healthy Livestock Initiative started so it was a no brainer not to join – someone to pay for what I was going to do anyway must be right!
The blood testing is done mainly when we are TB testing, which has caused very little extra work. Bulls have been semen tested before they are sold or put to work with our herd, much as they had been before, but this time I didn’t have to pay!
The progression on Herd Health from 1996 until now has been to reduce the calving period from sixteen weeks to nine weeks.
More calves are born, from around eighty six calves per one hundred cows bulled, to ninety eight calves per one hundred cows bulled, (we have a few twins). Now when a cow is scanned in calf, it calves, before one or two would slip or reabsorb that calf.
These improvements have meant that we don’t winter empty cows giving a saving on food and bedding. The calves at weaning are much more even. The youngest calves are seven weeks older than they used to be and heavier by 40 kg. Being heavier, they make better use of forage and grow better in the first winter. When it comes to picking cattle for slaughter, we can draw more at one time so reducing transport costs.
The work done by the Healthy Livestock Initiative won’t put pound notes in your pocket like a grant for a crush or trailer, because they are a one off payment. What we have found by getting rid of BVD etc from our herd is that we have more calves born and reared every year – up to 8 calves per year weaned at £350-400 per calf. Now that does put pounds in your pocket! It may take a couple of years for the benefits to be seen, but it is worth the work.