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BEEF & BREEDER TAG SUCCESS ON FARM IN YORK
Stuart Gledhill from Glebe Farm, Yorkshire, is a beef farmer with extraordinary passion for producing high quality cows and possesses a remarkable drive for growing his business. With finances not adding up on fattening cattle, mainly British Blue x dairy bull calves and some Limousin crosses a few years ago, Stuart had clear sight of a gap in the market to produce high quality replacement females.
Based in Hessay, Stuart runs a 140 cow herd over 270 acres that consists of mainly Limousin and British Blue cross cows, calving down from two years of age between February and April. He sells his replacement cows normally at 26-27 months with a calf at foot, and any surplus stores at 12 months of age though Thirsk or York Market. “I like Limousin because I find if you get the right cow, they normally were very well and have good udders. The British Blue helps give that bit of shape and show quality calves” commented Stuart. The oldest cow currently in the herd is just 58 months.
Stuart started using AI just over four years ago, “Bulls can be dangerous animals and are hard to keep correct and on their feet working. Not only this, when you see the quality of calves AI brings it’s an easy choice to make”. Stuart’s son, James is a DIY trained RMS technician, so his skills are a huge asset to the family farm. Two vasectomised bulls play a great supporting role to James, helping detect cows in heat. Any cows spotted in heat are quickly and easily served by James.
Their results with AI have been very good to date, with their recent conception rate at 80%. The number of cows they have served to AI has been gradually increasing, growing from only 25 cows three years ago to 120 this year. “Normally we start serving heifers two weeks earlier than the cows but due to housing space this year we couldn’t, but we will aim to do so again next year” commented James.
Sire selection is done on an individual cow basis to try and create the perfect cross. “Maternal traits and the most important thing for us, especially calving ease. Some of our calves don’t all have big backends, but the market doesn’t want that. What they do want is conformation!” commented Stuart.
Stuart runs two Limousin stock bulls to serve repeats, one purchased from farm and one from a sale. “We pay much more attention to bloodlines and figures now than what we used to. We are seeing very good quality of stock coming through from AI, and the variety of bulls is excellent. The bulls that are proven through the Genus Calving Survey and have figures on calving ease are a big help when decision making” commented James.
Bulls used have included Limousin sires Chytodden Conan, Carmorn Dauphin and more recently Emslies Galileo and Lodge Hamlet. “The Hamlet calves are very shapely, I see these being my show type calves that will sell really well, you can’t get this quality with stock bulls” commented Stuart.
Other sires have included Angus sire Netherton Americano, Netherton Mr Rader, and Blue sire Brookflield Dev. “This year we are also using British Blue bulls Newpole Heartthrob and Bank Lane Icon which we will cross onto our Limousin cows. We have used sexed semen in the past, and would like to use more but are just waiting to find the right bulls” commented James.
The introduction of a Breeder Tag heat detection system in February this year is a clear sign of Stuart and James persistence to constantly strive to do a job better than they have done before.
“We purchased it in to help detect more heats and to help tighten up the calving period as we want to pull it forward to January to March, but I also really like the calving alert it has. I spend a lot of time watching the cows when we can, but we still miss heats. This system isn’t the answer to everything, but it is a great management tool” James commented.
Stuart commented “No other company could offer a system with the range Breeder Tag could offer and I didn’t have the confidence in other systems”. Stuart and James did benefit from a 45% grant on the system, but with a strong desire for this particular heat detection system, they would have still tried to purchase it when finances allowed. James commented “I just go on and play on the system, it is the best way for me to get used to it and learn more information on my cows and how it works. You can’t just rely on the system, you need to know your cows, and you can’t just always go on what the system says. For example, there will be more activity at feeding time, but I know this and I take this into account”.
Stuart and his son James’s aspirations for the farm are high; their goal is to retain 25% of the calf crop each year to grow the herd, and currently animals are only sold on a needs must basis. Next year they aim to calve 150 cows, the subsequent year 180-200 cows, with an end goal of 400-500 cows in 7-8 years time. Very few animals have been sold this year, 7 in calf heifers and 4-6 cows at Thirsk Market to keep cash flow going. We have been selling replacement heifers for the last four to five years so we have already built up some good relationships for when we are ready to start and sell more animals.
“We won’t need more stock bulls as we grow, we will need to ensure we are better managing the herd” commented Stuart.
“AI has been invaluable to us, you would need 17 to 17 bulls at roughly £3,000 each for a cheap bull for the numbers that we want to get to”.
Lodge Hamlet progeny pictured above and one of the herds cows modelling the Genus ABS Breeder Tag SYstem
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