The introduction of Hereford bloodlines is producing handsome dividends on a farm in the picturesque Fermanagh lakelands.
Terry and Rosie Roberts run a 200 cow suckler operation at Lisnarick near Kesh and are enthusiastic about their experiment with Hereford sires.
“Our herd had been founded on Charolais cows,” says Terry, “but with Angus bulls used on heifers over the years we now have a high proportion of black females.
“When we came to consider another cross to use on these females Rosie was keen to try the Hereford.” “I had fond memories of the lovely placid Hereford cows on the farm at home,” said Rosie.
A trip up to a Hereford sale in Dungannon in 2012 convinced them that the breed could give them the growth and quality that they needed and led to the purchase of the first bull.
“He was used on a batch of heifers in his first year and as his progeny have come through we have been pleased with their performance – both as breeding females and as beef carcasses,” says Terry.
“There is no problem selling Hereford crosses – the demand from the branded beef schemes is adding substantial bonuses to the price of our beef cattle. Our local butcher is also keen to buy all we can give him and neighbouring farmers want the heifers as suckler replacements.”
Another trip to the Elite Breeders sale in Dungannon last spring and a second Hereford has been added to produce more Hereford crosses.
“We have bought bulls with good EBV’s for growth and muscle so that we don’t lose out on performance and the returns have been very pleasing.”
Steers are marketed through the Dunbia Hereford Beef Scheme and are producing R grade carcasses averaging 320 kgs at around 20 months of age - the last batch realising over £4/kg deadweight and from £1,200 to £1,400 per head.
Dunbia Research Manager, Ryan Law is delighted with the quality from the Robert’s herd: “Our principal customer is the Co–op retail chain and the response from them has been terrific - this is exactly what they are looking for – moderate size carcasses, naturally finished to give the succulence and flavour which the consumer is looking for. The Hereford product is their fastest growing line and they have great confidence in its future.”
Local butcher, Stephen Millar of Millar Meats in Irvinestown was also full of praise for the quality of the product from the Roberts breeding program.
“I have purchased a number of the Hereford heifers for our shop – they cut up lovely and our customers love the taste and eating quality. There is no quibble about the price– I just need more of them,” says Stephen.
“The Hereford is definitely going to play a bigger part in our farming system in the future,” affirms Terry Roberts. “Apart from adding value to our beef we are pleased to see lower feed costs and you can’t put a value on the temperament - they are such nice cattle to work with.”