Beef Shorthorn bull a must for Ballycarry suckler herd

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Commerial Beef Shorthorns, shorthorn crosses and blue greys are a feature of the stock on the farm of Robert Patton outside Ballycarry in Co. Antrim.

Robert farms over 190 acres and has been using a Beef Shorthorn bull for more than six years. He likes a good shaped cow and not too big. He chooses Angus, Limousins, Simmental cross cows which are suitable with decent sized frames and plenty of milk.

Robert bought his first Beef Shorthorn bull in 2006 from James Porters Uppermill Herd and was quick to admit it was the right move for him with ease of management, calving and reduction in overhead costs and veterinary bills.

A year later Robert invested in a small number of well bred pedigree heifers sourced locally from James Nelsons Glenbrae Herd and James Porter Uppermill. The following year he visited Stirling Bull sales and increased his pedigree herd again with two nice heifers. He continues to grow this side of the business using AI from top sires worldwide.

When buying a bull he looks for an easy fleshing bull with good locomotion. Roberts’s ideal bull is one that produces easy calving, fast growing, and easy finishing.

The Herd is spring calving 90% calved within 60 days, with the majority of cows calving in the house. They are turned out onto good quality grass from mid April onwards, depending on the weather and grass growth.

As Robert’s farm is not his main business, he is thankful that the cows mainly calve on their own with no assistance. The calves are lively at birth and soon up and sucking which is a bonus.

One of the biggest advantages with shorthorns is how easy they are to work with. Ideal for a one man operation and safety. Newly calved cows are generally easy to work with and seldom give any issues. Calves are usually kept on the cows till December and creep feed is introduced shortly before weaning.

The heifers and bullocks leave the farm aged between 19 and 24 months. The Beef Shorthorn cross cattle are naturally finished on silage and feed ration and reach appropriate slaughter weights more cost effectively which suits the low input management programme.

Robert has been keeping the best commercial heifers to increase the herd size and also has high quality breeding commercial heifers for sale this year.

When spring calving is underway, they also lamb 170 mules ewes and try to get lambing and calving all completed in as short a period as possible. Robert sells all his finished cattle through the Glenarm Shorthorn Beef scheme and reports to be extremely happy with the service provided and the prices he has received.

Glenarm Shorthorn Beef Scheme are currently sourcing Beef Shorthorn cross cattle sired by a pedigree registered Beef Shorthorn bull, achieving deadweights between 280 and 380kg, the majority of the cattle reaching R grades. They are paying a bonus of up to 35p over market beef price for all carcases which meet the criteria. On average the bonus works out between £80- £140 per head.

If you are interested in purchasing a bull or heifer the NI Beef Shorthorn club are holding their annual sale on Tuesday April 21st at Dungannon Farmers Mart.

For catalogues and further details contact Dungannon Farmers Mart 028 8772 2727.