A chance encounter with a few Aberdeen-Angus calves was enough to form the decisions behind a change in farming policy following an exit out of the dairy sector for Robin Lamb and family of Lime Tree Farm, Richhill.
“Due to the retirement of a key employee I decided to take things easier and having taken an interest in Aberdeen-Angus I took the opportunity to change the focus from dairy to beef,” explains Robin, who farms the 200-acre farm alongside wife Janet and sons Stuart, Ben and Peter.
As well as helping on the farm part-time, Stuart is assistant manager in a quarry for an aggregate company, Ben is a plumber and Peter is a butcher.
Alongside the Angus herd, the family also run pedigree flocks of Dorset and Texel sheep. Some 60 acres of barley and wheat are also grown with surplus forage sold to local dairy farmers.
The Richhill herd was actually established in 1999 with the purchase of two heifer calves from the late Gilbert Craig’s Gilkey herd and has now built up to 40 cows.
“I had always had an interest in Angus cattle and they were a breed I believed would suit our system here with good grazing land, so I wanted a breed that could best utilise grass,” explained Robin.
Robin returned to Gilkey in 2001 to purchase 12 females privately and as a result of these purchases, the Rosanna, Bianca and Jill families were secured as foundation females for the herd.
The Rosanna family is still strong in the herd today winning the best cow family in the herd competition on five occasions including 2014. In 2009 the two-year old Baronagh Euro A043 daughter, Richhill Rosanna G067, won the exhibitor bred and junior championship at Balmoral Show. She and other family members from this line are consistently breeding well.
The focus has always been on strong female lines in the herd and any purchases have been made on proven dams. Families that now have a strong influence in the herd alongside the Rosannas are Ellen Erica, Fleur, Frances and Missies.
When purchasing stock bulls and using AI, the main emphasis is on the background of the pedigree with good cow families and also figures. As a way of increasing genetic gain, the better cows are served with AI, with the stock sire taking care of the rest.
“Figures are something we keep an eye on with easy calving and milking ability the most important for us. Having a good milking dam is most cost effective because additional feeding of concentrates, which is expensive, isn’t necessary for the calves to get a good start,” Peter explains.
The current herd stock bull is Friarstown Prairie Chief M228, a Nightingale Ploughman G376 son out of the Nightingale Ernie B133 daughter Blelack Princess Caroline D894. “He really caught my eye when I saw him as a calf and purchased him privately. At the time I thought he would suit the daughters of our previous stock bull Netherton Archie J501.
“With the oldest calves on the ground by Prairie Chief born in March 2014 we are delighted with how he is breeding and have already sold progeny,” adds Robin.
Archie is a TC Grid Topper 355 son out of Southland Awestruck 117R and was purchased when Robin and Janet saw him while visiting Mark Piltcher’s Gear herd during a holiday in Cornwall. He carries a calving ease direct of +8.2, +16 for milk, eye muscle of +7.6 with a TI of +50 and SRI of +70.
Bulls are regularly sold off the farm mainly to commercial suckler and dairy herds with occasional pedigree sales. “We never need to advertise cattle and over the past 18 months private sales have increased with all 2013 calves selling off the farm at 12 months old,” says Peter.
The family started weight recording just over three years ago and both Robin and Peter feel this has helped increase demand in Richhill bulls.
“We’ve also found that progeny from our stock bulls have been much sought after, Netherton Archie had high figures and people came seeking his sons,” explains Robin.
The Lamb family also sell females, both heifers privately on farm and cows and calves at Society Sales at Dungannon.
“We are running a business and everything is for sale at the right price. When customers are on the farm looking to buy a bull they can often see something else they like,” says Robin.
More than 30 Aberdeen-Angus males and females will be available for sale at the official Society sale in Dungannon on Tuesday 21st April with judging starting at 10.30am and the sale at 1pm.