Kilbride Farm Simmentals go from strength to strength

Breeding cattle with improved growth rates, confirmation, temperament and mothering abilities remain the core objectives of the Robson family, owners of Ireland's oldest pedigree Simmental herd.

Michael and Norman Robson with Alan Boyd, United Feeds
Michael and Norman Robson with Alan Boyd, United Feeds

Kilbride Farm Simmentals was established in 1971 by former RUAS president Billy Robson, whose sons – Michael and Norman – retain the vision for a pedigree beef cattle business with an exemplary heritage and track record.

“There are currently 100 breeding females in the herd,” explained Michael.

“They are split down the middle into spring and autumn calving groups. This allows us to have breeding bulls ready for the main pedigree sales in the UK, which now reflect the almost year-round demand for pedigree breeding stock.

“The set up on the farm is very commercial in terms of its layout and with regard to the management practises followed. During the winter months the cows are kept in a standard cubicle house with slatted floors.

“At the end of the day, we are producing pedigree bulls that will have to perform on commercial farms.”

But one facet of management which the Robsons will never compromise on is their attention to detail, when it comes to the breeding programme they follow and the steps taken to ensure that each animal can express its full genetic potential.

“Simmental cattle can match all other breeds when it comes to the daily growth rates they achieve, the conformation of the final carcases produced and the mothering ability of the breeding females,” Norman Robson explained.

“And it is this innate ability to combine strong beefing characteristics with tremendous milkability that makes Simmental sires so popular. They are unique in giving commercial herdowners the option of getting a terminal sire and a bull capable of breeding excellent heifer replacements wrapped up in the one animal.”

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The two brothers are also committed to securing an ever improving health status for Kilbride Farm Simmentals.

“We are TB and Brucellosis-free,” Michael confirmed.

“In addition we have been BVD-free for a number of years with the herd Level 1 accredited for Johne’s disease. We regularly test our breeding stock for IBR with the intention of securing IBR-free status in the near future.”

From their own herd breeding perspective, the brothers will search near and far to get the animals that fully encapsulate their objectives for the future.

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“Our current stock bull hails from Denmark,” said Michael.

“Performance figures are important. But, essentially, we will only make an investment once we know that the visual assessment matches the records notched up by the animal in question. Eye appeal is critical. And the same principle holds when it comes to breeders buying stock from us.”

Norman pointed out the Danish arrival is homozygous polled.

“We are looking at the option of breeding polled cattle in the future. But this attribute, which does have potential, will never be allowed to detract from the overall quality of the stock we produce.”

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But, ultimately, words are cheap: it’s performance in the sale ring that counts. And in this context, Kilbride Farm Simmentals has a uniquely positive track record. A case in point was the Robsons’ success at the recent Stirling Bull sales.

“We took 14 animals across for the event,” Michael confirmed.

“The good news was that all passed inspection and we had a total clearance when it came to the actual sale. The 14 cattle averaged £5,600 per head. The top bull cleared for 12,000gns with two making 10,000gns each.

“There is a tremendous demand for top quality Simmental stock in Scotland. So events like Stirling are very important for us. Northern Ireland has long been an exporting region where commercial cattle are concerned. And, increasingly, the same principle holds from a pedigree breeding standpoint.” “However that is not to undervalue the home market here in Northern Ireland as some of our best animals are sold from home or at local sales to local farmers.”

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Young Kilbride bulls are currently achieving growth rates in excess of 2kg/day from eight months of age onwards.

“We feed a customised blend to the cattle, which is produced by United Feeds and offered as part of a total mixed ration,” Norman explained.

“It is quite straightforward in terms of its specification but is unique in terms of its mineral content.”

United Feeds’ Alan Boyd was a recent visitor to the Robson farm. He takes up the story:

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“Over and above the beef ration being balanced in terms of nutrients it also features an exemplary mineral package which is comparable in specification to that of our top dairy rations. All the key trace elements: copper, zinc, manganese and selenium, are supplied in an organic form. As a result, they have an enhanced mode of action.

“Additionally, the blend features yeast, in the form of Yea-Sacc which is proven to increase live weight gain and feed efficiency as well as elevating rumen pH to ensure that high levels of the concentrate can be offered, without causing digestive upset.

“Michael and Norman also offer United Feeds’ Nutristart calf pellets as a creep to the younger animals. So there is continuity in terms of the concentrates fed to the young bulls from birth through to sale.”

“United Feeds are delighted to be involved in the feeding of Kilbride Farm Simmentals and we would like to wish the Robson family every success in all their future endeavours.”