Aberdeen Angus has been the first choice of terminal sire for Draperstown suckler herd owner Harry Sinclair for almost 15 years.
Farming 200 acres of grassland and hill at the foot of the Sperrin Mountains, Mr Sinclair runs a herd of 40 cross-bred continental cows, and a flock of 150 commercial ewes.
Well-known throughout Northern Ireland and further afield, Harry Sinclair has held various high-profile roles including vice president and president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union from 2008 to 2014; and has recently finished a two-year term as vice president of Europe’s influential farm lobbying body COPA (Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations). Mr Sinclair is also involved with various committees within the UFU, and is chairman of NIFCC, and a board member of LMC and HSE.
“Over the last 15 years I have spent a lot of time away from home, leaving the day-to-day running of the farm in the capable hands of one full-time employee. Calving ease, hybrid vigour and good growth rates are vital for the profitability of the suckler enterprise, and the Aberdeen Angus ticks all of the boxes,” he said.
Prior to investing in an Aberdeen Angus stock bull he used a continental sire. “I remember having four caesarean sections in one week,” recalls Harry. “At that time I had a New Zealand exchangee, and she recommended Aberdeen Angus for calving ease as that’s what they used on her home farm.”
Harry bought an Aberdeen Angus bull to use on heifers and was very impressed.
“The heifers calved with no assistance, and the calves were vigorous and lively at birth,” he said.
“Experience has taught me that if a heifer can calve unaided then she will make a better suckler cow, and will have many productive years ahead of her.”
Harry buys his Aberdeen Angus bulls privately from a local pedigree herd. When selecting a stock bull he is looking for good conformation and muscle, breed character and above average Breedplan figures.
“Calving ease means there is no stress on the cow. She cycles and goes back in-calf quickly, which also shortens the herd’s calving interval. We have calving cameras installed but they haven’t been used in years,” he explained.
Two-thirds of the cows calve in January and February, with the remainder calving in May. The cows receive grass silage, and the calves are introduced to creep feed at around four to six weeks prior to weaning.
Harry added: “I’m a founder member of the Farm Safety Partnership, and one quarter of all farm accidents are caused by livestock. I like the Aberdeen Angus bulls because they are docile and easy worked with. Their progeny are also quiet and easy handled, but farmers must ensure that they have the correct facilities when handling animals.”
Harry is a member of the Linden Foods Aberdeen Angus Club, an initiative which offers producers a structured bonus for heifers and bullocks sired by a registered Aberdeen Angus bull.
He continued: “The Angus calves have tremendous growth potential. I’ve had animals at fourteen-months-old weighing 500kgs.”
The calves are grazed in the summer and autumn months, and during the winter housing period they receive a diet of grass silage and one kilo of concentrate per head per day. Feeding is stepped up four months prior to slaughter, with concentrates reaching a maximum of five kilos per head per day.
Harry aims to slaughter the majority of his bullocks and heifers between January and March. Heifers leave the farm at between 18 to 20-months-old and achieve deadweights ranging from 280kgs to 320kgs. Bullocks range in age from 20 to 24-months-old with carcases weighing between 300kg and 350kgs.
“A substantial bonus is payable on top of market beef price and depends on the weight and grade of the carcase. Membership of the producer group provides an additional return in excess of £100 per animal, making a vast difference to the overall profitability of the suckler herd,” he concluded.
Dungannon Farmers’ Mart is hosting a show and sale of Aberdeen Angus bulls and females on Tuesday, December 15. Judging commences at 10.30am, followed by the sale at 1pm. Catalogues are available from the auctioneers tel: 028 8772 2727.