NI Charolais enthusiasts take on prominent breed society roles

British Charolais Cattle Society's newly elected president, Cyril Millar and David Connolly, Council of Management member
British Charolais Cattle Society's newly elected president, Cyril Millar and David Connolly, Council of Management member

Two prominent Charolais enthusiasts from the province have been elected to key roles within the breed society – Cyril Millar, president and David Connolly to the Council of Management.

“I believe Charolais has a very sound future,” says Mr Millar. “We now have a beef terminal sire that is suited to both the current marketplace and UK production systems. Charolais leaves progeny which are generally easier calved and with that unbeatable weight for age, values that have led to resurgence in the bull trade in 2014/15.”

Mr Millar, who farms in partnership with his son Martin, established the family’s Glenleary herd based at Coleraine, County Londonderry in 1971 with animals from NI’s second importation; the herd grew to 100 cows, one of the province’s largest with highlights including the interbreed champion at the Royal Show and five consecutive interbreed wins at the RUAS Balmoral. The Glenleary herd was tragically taken out with brucellosis 10 years ago, however since then it has been re-established and is building back to 10 breeding cows carefully selected initially on their Breedplan data as well as confirmation. “We have ambitions for this herd to be very select,” he says.

During the 1980s, Mr Millar was twice elected society chairman spanning a four year period during which he steered the development of its Stoneleigh headquarters. He has also chaired the NI Club on several occasions. “Being elected president is a once in a life time opportunity and I’m looking forward to the next 12 months both representing and promoting the breed throughout the UK and beyond.”

Growth rates, return and profitability are the three values which have long established Charolais as the NI beef breed leader, according to David Connolly, owner of the Ballynahinch based 90 strong Brigadoon herd which he runs with his father, Albert.

“We enjoy our genetics and have a better breeding ethos to improve the herd year on year; selecting on visual appraisal along with Breedplan data which in turn enhances the return our bulls bring to commercial suckler producers,” he says.

“I’m looking forward to joining Council and bringing to the table new, fresh and upcoming ways of thinking on how we can promote Charolais, using my skills – both to commercial producers and for consumers.”

David’s enthusiasm for the Charolais breed has stemmed from childhood. This passion for beef production continued whilst training as a skilled butcher and then as one of Ireland’s leading retail buyers. David is currently a business development manager in the food sector while his Charolais herd and wider Charolais interests take up much of his spare time. He is NI Charolais Club vice chairman, and is chairing the new Beef NI Expo and Pedigree Calf Fair in November. He enjoys helping and encouraging the young and upcoming breeders, recently hosting the NI Charolais junior stock-judging finals and open day. David and his father are renowned for their show stock and have enjoyed considerable success; 2015 highlights include RUAS Balmoral Charolais champion and reserve interbreed champion.

Meanwhile The British Charolais Cattle Society has re-elected Steven Nesbitt as chairman and also Colin Wight, Midlock, Biggar to the council.

Charolais breeders’ decision to exploit the latest genetic selection and performance recording tools is helping to provide beef producers with added confidence and maintain the breed in the vanguard, according to Mr Nesbitt.

Charolais breeders are listening to their customers – suckler producers, and are actively using Breedplan performance recording data to carefully select the next generation resulting in Charolais being the sole breed among the other major beef breeds that has bucked the trend and is demonstrating an improvement in both calving ease direct and growth rate,” he told the society’s annual meeting.

“Introducing Completeness of Performance has also been welcomed by breeders. The star rating system which identifies and rates the quality and quantity of performance information recorded with Breedplan is in turn helping them to underpin EBV accuracy and reward them for their recording efforts. The system is also encouraging more breeders to record more comprehensively.

“Furthermore, our Council of Management’s decision for the biennial Stirling sales to offer only Breedplan fully recorded entries has been fully vindicated; Charolais consistently trades the highest number of bulls and for the highest average price. Charolais was the sole breed at the 2015 February sales to witness a yearly increase in the average bull price and gross over £1m.

“Added to that is the society’s rigorous data checking procedures to ensure accurate recording. During the last 12 months 154 herds were checked and calf registration is now compulsory within 27 days of birth after which stringent penalties are introduced. These procedures are in place to give bull buyers more confidence.”

He added: “Genetic progress is both cumulative and permanent. I believe we have achieved a lot in the last 12 months and have a clear vision and determination which will continue to take the breed forward.”