Commercial Herds competition winners

Alan Farlow judge seated beside 1st prize winner Andrew Carleton, centre Paul Gribben with Gordon Williamson 2nd prize winner and Paul McGeary 3rd Prize winner.

Alan Farlow judge seated beside 1st prize winner Andrew Carleton, centre Paul Gribben with Gordon Williamson 2nd prize winner and Paul McGeary 3rd Prize winner.

THE Northern Ireland Blonde Cattle Club are pleased to announce the following as their winners for the Commercial Herds Competition 2012.

Results: 1st Andrew Carleton – Newtownbutler; 2nd Gordon Williamson – Armagh; 3rd Paul McGeary – Dungannon

Here’s how those mentioned are excelling on their respective farms by using Blonde sires.

In Co Fermanagh there is a mix of farmland from poor quality meadows to rich open grazing, in a county where there is a lot of suckler herds.

Farming in this beautiful but diverse countryside can be a challenge, even at the best of times. Even though cattle farmers are achieving record prices, many farmers are looking at their input costs and seeing how these can be trimmed and output increased as much as possible.

One farmer who is managing to do both these things, is Andrew Carleton. Here is his story.

Andrew Carleton runs a profitable suckler herd along the Fermanagh/Cavan border; the fact that the herd is profitable is down to using a Blonde bull according to Andrew.

“We’ve more living calves and have fewer operations, in fact the last 16 cows that calved to a well known beef breed Nine required operations with these costing more than £200 each, and the risk involved with cow/calf it was just too much,” commented Andrew.

To further confirm if Andrew was on the right path, he put two batches of bulls in to feed, one batch Blondes the other batch a well known beef breed.

Andrew who finishes all his males as bulls and keeps the best heifers for replacements, Pointed out that his Blondes ate one third less meal per day (the other group would have ate even more if it was available). The Blondes finished two months earlier and with their high kill out, made more money than the other group, as Andrew says: “The cows are nothing fancy and would have a proportion of beef shorthorn blood along with Charolais/Simmental Blood, this is because for a few years I ran a beef Shorthorn to breed replacements, but they are producing good calves with the Blonde and because of less calving problems the cows are easier to get back in calf.”

Andrew, who puts his replacement Blonde heifers in calf to the Blonde, says that with easy calving, lively calves and a good temperament the cattle are a pleasure to work with, and by building up and improving the herd using quality Blonde animals the beef enterprise is turning a profit.

Andrew, who runs two Blonde bulls with his cows, purchased these privately from two well known breeders. These bulls were in there “working clothes” but still looked really well, as Andrew added they had been running with cows all summer, but they have held their flesh well.

Andrew also has Ai’d cows as well using Blonde sires such as Fronfedw Arawn and Calfornia and has some nice calves to show for his efforts, such is his enthusiasm for the Blonde Breed; Andrew formed a small pedigree herd in 2008 and has a good group of cows with some stylish calves.

Andrew has nothing but praise for the Blondes. He added: “some farmers thought I was mad saying Blondes were hard to finish, wild, and had poor grades, but I have proved all these things to be untrue and I have the proof more living calves and good grades. I wouldn’t have believed the Blondes were as good until I tried them, they are very much under rated in the beef sector.”

Andrew’s younger Blonde cross bulls, were an impressive group, some were around thirteen months old and another batch 2012 calves, Andrew has found that he can finish them at around 15 months at 400-450kg dead, and that around 90% grades U.

Andrew believes with strong beef and store prices he can see both a bright future for the beef sector and the Blonde breed, with more calves to sell, easier calving’s and good grades, Andrew is reaping the benefits.

Alan Farlow, a well known commercial breeder and exhibitor who judged the competition, observed that Andrew Carleton was a young man with a clear vision in what he wanted from his suckler herd and that the Blonde breed was clearly working for Andrew both as a sire and a dam.

Gordon Williamson owns a medium sized herd on the outskirts of Armagh City where he also runs a sizeable sheep flock. Gordon‘s land would be fairly dry in a typical year but 2012 has been far from typical. Using a Blonde bull on blue crossed cows, Gordon has improved and expanded his herd by retaining his best blonde heifers and using a Blonde sire either through natural service or Ai.

Gordon’s calves were very eye catching both in quality and colour with his females showing future potential as great cow makers. The quality of Gordon’s was evident at a recent show and sale of Blonde suckle calves at Dungannon mart. At this event Gordon’s calves came first in their respective classes and secured the overall championship. Alan Farlow commented that Gordon had a great herd with big powerful cows with bags of potential with the Blonde bull doing a great job.

Paul McGeary runs a small suckler herd outside Dungannon. This is a relatively new enterprise with cow numbers still growing, and Paul bought his females as maiden heifers selecting an excellent group with good temperament and confirmation, with his females being Char/Simm bred. Paul opted for a Blonde bull, having heard of the breed’s easy calving, good growth and excellent fleshing abilities. Paul has not been disappointed with how his calves have thrived, having sold his male calves at the suckled calves sales where they sold up to £500 over their weight. He plans to retain the females to increase and improve the herd. Paul added that the Blondes are an excellent dual purpose breed. He explained this by pointing out that Blonde females make excellent mothers with a good supply of milk and have a placid nature with the males being good growers with excellent fleshing ability and high kill out.

Alan Farlow concluded that Paul’s herd although not long established is showing great promise with the Blonde breed complementing his herd and showing a profit.

The NI Blonde Cattle Club are grateful to the following sponsors, Richard Beattie Livestock Marts, Crosskeys Genetics, Clogher Valley Cattle Breeders and Western Farm Enterprises and to Alan Farlow for his experience, expertise and time in judging the herds competition.


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