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Easy fleshing nature prompts Shorthorns return to historic home

Docility and the ability to thrive and finish at grass make Beef Shorthorns the ideal breed for Waddesdon Estates’ suckler herd.

Tom Mansfield

The Buckinghamshire-based 65-cow herd, managed by Tom Mansfield alongside a 1,200-ewe flock, was introduced on to the estate to utilise both permanent pasture and herbal leys within the arable rotation.

“Lady Alice Rothschild had a noted herd of Beef Shorthorns on the estate back in the 1920s, so going back into the breed was a natural choice,” explains Tom.

Today, with 900 acres of permanent pasture and about 250 acres of herbal leys, the cattle are used to convert this forage into high quality meat to be sold in the Five Arrows Hotel and at Waddesdon and via the private events team.

“Without a doubt Shorthorns are a good fit. They are docile and easy to work with and the meat quality is exceptional,” says Tom.

And, with the Estate’s permanent pasture criss-crossed by public footpaths the docile nature of the cows, even with calves at foot, means cattle grazing can include areas of public access, which adds greatly to the flexibility of herd management.

Adding to the appeal of the breed is the natural fleshing they offer which aids early growth without the need for creep feed.

“We aim to calve heifers at two years old, with the oldest of them getting to 28 months before calving. Everything is bulled on weight, rather than age, aiming to bull heifers at 400kg.

This more moderate size is critical when outwintering, with everything aged 12-24 months kept out over winter, grazing either herbal leys within the arable rotation or permanent pasture, depending on weather and ground conditions.

“Most of the ground we graze is heavy clay, so we have to be careful over winter and have changed how we supplement outwintered cattle in recent years to reduce the impact they make.

We’ve moved from feeding silage in ring feeders to using a bale unroller and have seen a significant difference in the impact on the ground. We work on the basis of thirds, with cattle eating a third, wasting a third and trampling a third, which might sound wasteful, but those two thirds the cattle aren’t eating are going back into the ground, helping improve soil condition over time, which in turn, will mean we can maximise grass growth and outwintering in future years,” he adds.

Currently about half of the bullocks are finished each year, with the other half sold as stores at 600-650kg through Thame Market where Tom says they meet a ready demand. “We bull all the heifers, selling a number of those as in-calf heifers, both privately and through Thame.

“Long-term the aim will be to finish all the bullocks ourselves once we have sufficient demand. We currently finish bullocks at up to 28 months old, selecting prime cattle by cover rather than age or weight. The youngest would be about 20 months old, with the aim being to finish them at grass without the need for supplementary feeding.

And while the herd has pedigree status Tom says all male calves are castrated rather than being left to make bulls. “We castrate everything for easier and more efficient management.

Calving inside in from mid-March onwards Tom aims to turn cows and calves out at about 14 days old. “The sooner I can get them out the sooner they can start making use of grazed grass. Cows and calves run at grass until late October when they’re weaned, with calves offered no creep feed over the summer.

“Calves are housed over their first winter and are fed on silage and homegrown cereals to grow them on, with cows also housed ahead of calving.”

With heifers retained Tom aims to source a new bull every couple of years to ensure fresh blood is coming through the herd, going back to regular sources. “I generally source bulls from a couple of herds I know and trust. Health status and herd management style are paramount as I want to ensure any bull I buy will fit in our system and their calves will too.

“We’re a high health herd, so buying anything in is always a risk, but by working with herds I know and trust I’m able to minimise that risk. We’re accredited for Johnes, BVD and IBR and tag test every calf for BVD, ensuring we maintain the herd’s status,” adds Tom.

FACTFILE

  • 4,500 acres farmed in-hand
  • 900 acres permanent pasture, 250 acres herbal leys
  • 65-cow Beef Shorthorn herd, plus followers
  • 1,200-ewe flock
Shorthorn forage system hits 500kg bulling weights

Trawling the globe for elite commercial sires and flushing easy-fleshing females from forage-based systems has helped a pedigree herd expand while consistently bulling heifers at 14-15 months old, Michael Preistley reviews…

Dutch veterinary surgeon Gerard te Lintelo and his wife, Joanne, of Mayfield Beef Shorthorns, Wolsingham, County Durham, calve their heifers at 24 months.

The Weardale-based herd has recorded average daily liveweight gains of 1.12kg a head a day to 400 days in its heifers, and boasts several 33-34-month-old females with their second calf at foot.

But Gerard stresses that growth and performance are based on forage-reared genetics, underpinned by productive grass and clover leys and the 45ha (111 acres) of multispecies swards on the farm.

Getting started

Gerard’s veterinary background has been a key part of the herd’s progress. Advanced breeding techniques have been used to multiply the best females in the herd, with the aim to be a Shorthorn herd that can provide a bull for every type of customer.

He believes genetics based on low-cost, forage-based performance and easy calving will be sought after in the years ahead. This is the justification he has for investing heavily in a pedigree cattle operation.

He aims to get heifers to 60% of mature weight by 15 months, which can be 440kg for a cow that will be 750kg, or 520kg for a cow that will grow to be about 865kg.

“There is a huge variety within the Shorthorn breed and we aim to provide something for everyone,” he explains. “We have larger-statured cattle and smaller, mature sizes.

“In general, I am trying to moderate cow size to be nearer 750kg rather than 850kg, but everybody has a cow type that works for them.”

Eight key factors for fast-growing heifers

1. Multiplying elite females

  • The herd is based on five in-calf heifers bought in 2016 for an average of £6,000 a head: three Chapelton heifers and two Upsall heifers. These were from proven female families with good growth estimated breeding values (EBVs) from forage, type and udder structure.
  • Multiple ovulation embryo transfer (Moet) and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) have been used to grow the herd. Pure and Angus cross Shorthorn heifers used as recipients to ensure performance is genuine beef performance, not a milky dairy cow.
  • IVF costs £150-£200/viable embryo produced, with a pregnancy rate of about 60% on fresh transfers and 40% on frozen embryos. Each calf born via conventional embryo transfer costs about £1,200 at a 50% rearing success rate. Importing embryos costs about £500 an embryo.

2. State-of-the-art sheds

  • As well as a herd health and vaccination plan, the farm has high-welfare sheds built in 2021, designed to be safe for cattle and people.
  • Two 35x48m cattle sheds can each be split into eight pens for in-calf cows, calving cows and youngstock.
  • Tipping troughs, weaning gates, self-locking yokes, adjustable windbreakers, swing brushes, and deep bedded straw from the arable enterprise, make for a comfortable shed in which heifers thrive.

3. Proven forage-based bulls

  • Genetic progress and foraging ability are ensured by using bulls from forage-reared systems in Australia and Canada.
  • Breeding values are scrutinised for 200-day weight (milk), 400-day weight (early maturity), mature cow size (not too high), marbling, calving ease direct and indirect, and scrotal size.
  • Crooked Post Stockman, Hill Haven Firestorm and Sprys All Gold embryos were imported from Canada. Royalla Rembrandt, Sprys Patent Ace and Muridale Thermal Energy embryos were imported from Australia.
  • Only bulls with performance from 150 or more calves and strong accuracy figures are selected.

4. Low-stress handling

  • A handling system design based on Dr Temple Grandin’s principles and a quiet, ergonomic crush allow weight collection, vaccination and TB testing to be a safe, one person job if needs be.
  • Growth rates plummet when cattle are handled, so making the process calm, quiet and low-stress means heifers are more settled and their growth check is lessened.

5. Easy weaning

  • Calves are weaned inside via a creep gate. The creep area provides a small amount of creep and high-quality big bale silage, which is better than the cow silage.
  • Stage one, lasting one week, uses the creep gate to allow calves access to the best silage and a small amount of creep feed.
  • Stage two sees the gate shut and calves and cows penned either side of a partition rail inside for a further week before calves transfer to another shed.
  • A 50:50 mix of home-grown oats and a heifer rearing pellet is built up to a restricted intake of 1.5kg a day.
  • Creep is fed for four to six weeks before and after weaning date (at about 200 days). Total intake is about 100kg, which is for rumen transition and stress management.

6. Good-quality forage

  • The system is based on harvesting silage for quality rather than bulk, and extensive use of red clover, white clover and herbal leys. Dedicated silage fields have two or three cuts and some grazing fields receive a first cut before grazing.
  • Dry cow silage is about 11% crude protein (CP) and 10MJ/kg metabolisable energy (ME) while silage for young calves and lactating cows is 13% CP and 11-12MJ/kg ME.
  • Gerard has calculated that one big round bale of red clover silage has the energy and protein content of nine bags of calf feed.

7. Pelvic measuring

  • Monitoring pelvic dimensions helps minimise calving issues by rejecting and fattening the heifers with the smallest pelvises.
  • This has been done for four years. The minimum cut-off is 160 sq cm (standardised to 365 days of age).
  • Reject numbers have fallen each year and no heifers were rejected for pelvis size this spring.

8. Calving ease

  • Average birth weights for bull calves (41kg)and heifer calves (39kg) are low.
  • Calving assistance is artificially high, at 5%, because high-value embryo calves are given a precautionary pull.
  • Any females with calving problems are recorded and rejected.

Gerard believes that the forage based performance and strong maternal traits of the Beef Shorthorn, combined with a focus on the best genetics and attention to detail will provide a sustainable business model for his pedigree enterprise.

It’s the high finishing quality of the Shorthorn that has cemented its status at Edinvale where you will find Jock Gibson. Along with his wife Fiona, Edinvale have over 200 cattle comprising of Beef Shorthorns and Highlanders alongside a small flock of Herdwick sheep. Acquired in 1974 by his father and grandparents, Edinvale Farm is now operated by Jock & Fiona with a goal to bring the Shorthorns to the forefront.

Jock Gibson from Edinvale Farm
Jock Gibson from Edinvale Farm

Originally home to pure Highlanders from the pedigree Cullerne fold, Beef Shorthorns were introduced in the mid-2000s to improve the finishing speed and quality of the cattle. In 1986 the Gibson family at Edinvale purchased Macbeth’s, a butcher in nearby Forres to make better use of the surplus carcases that weren’t making the grade at market. The butcher is now the farm’s main source of income with all the cattle being reared accordingly to benefit the commercial end product.

“Everything we do here has the final consumer in mind, customers want assurance that the animals are local, well reared and of the highest quality.” The Highland cattle were easy to market but despite their high suckling level they were slow at finishing, introducing the Shorthorns into the mix with a faster growth rate and low input helped to keep a consistent supply of product to the butcher shop.

“I am not looking for over-defined hindquarters, I need something more even and with the Shorthorns being a good size and not over pronounced it worked as a happy medium.”

The cattle at Edinvale are fed on grass and forage using a rotational grazing system that was implemented in 2018 and the farm can be split into a maximum of 27 paddocks. All the beef they produce is Pasture for Life certified. Jock also no longer uses fertiliser after taking it out of the system last year.

Quality finish at Edinvale
In 2017 a rotational grazing system was introduced to the farm and a key emphasis has been placed on measuring carbon emissions.

“We’re not producing any less grass than before and now we don’t have to deal with an unnecessary fertiliser bill. It also a big carbon cost that we just don’t need.”

Jock has set himself a target of the farm being as close to carbon neutral as possible by 2030. He does regular carbon audits to understand where processes are impacting emissions and what can be done to improve them. They planted 1,400 trees and now the farm is 10% trees and hedgerows and

they have hopes to fully offset the fuel and electricity used for the business.

“We are a business that’s in front of the consumer and being environmentally responsible helps with the appeal of our product. We want to rectify the image that farming isn’t sustainable and make sure we are trying our best to do our bit.”

Currently the cattle are split with a third being Highlanders and two thirds Shorthorn. Edinvale stopped breeding pedigrees in 2011 and now maintain Highlanders to provide replacement breeding heifers. The Shorthorns were favoured because of their resilience and ability to finish well within 30 months on grass and forage.

The Highland cows go to a bull at three years but the Shorthorns are able to go at two with all the cows being naturally served by the bulls. They have a seven-week mating period to calve mid-February inside. Up until calving the cows spend the winter outside to reduce the chance of large calves causing problems in calving.

“We are not here to produce big calves and we want to focus on the ease of calving. The cows are still able to maintain their weight over winter.”

Edinvale’s scanning percentage this year was 95% with any heifer not in calf going to the butchers or going direct into the cull market. Consequently any cow that has a bad calving will not be kept. Currently the calves are weaned at 170 days but Jock is looking to push it to 200.

“Highlanders sit at 35% of weaned body weight and the Shorthorns at 40%. I think we could delay weaning by another 30 days or so to get more positive results.”

Jock has set up a weigh crate with an attached water trough that allows the calves to be independently weighed whenever they go for a drink. The EID panels collect the daily weight results for each calf and is just another way to record performance.

“I like to see how bulls do in their natural habitat I am looking for animals that thrive on our system and the last three bulls I bought were; 1 highland from Emma Paterson’s Benmore Fold and 2 Shorthorns from John Scott up at Fearn Farm in Tain. Shorthorn wise I have a lot of confidence in the quality of Fearns stock.”

It is also the reason Edinvale no longer show animals.

“The animal you produce for the showring isn’t the animal you produce for the butcher.”

Macbeth’s the butcher being the main driver in the business, Jock is able to slaughter all his animals at John M Munro’s abattoir in Dingwall.

“It’s the only part of the process that isn’t within our control, but I have no desire to place an abattoir on the farm. We are lucky that we have a couple of abattoirs nearby that do private kill.”

All of Edinvale's cattle are grass and forage fed
All our cattle are grass and forage fed

Jock’s system means he can provide Macbeth’s with an animal a week year-round with 70% of products going to the food service industry such as restaurants and hotels and the rest sold online or in the shop in Forres. The quality speaks for itself as Macbeth’s has won several Great Taste awards for their meat produce since 2009.

During the pandemic Fiona set about starting a small honesty shop in a shed on the farm. It was initially just to sell milk, meat and Fiona’s baking but it has developed into a showcase of local produce and gifts such as candles and soap.

“The idea is you should be able to buy everything in there to make an evening meal. We wanted something that would draw people to their local producers and support these independent businesses. Items all have a price but being a small shed no one manages it so it runs on an honesty system which has worked out so far.”

Jock and Fiona would like to branch out into more tourism, they currently run farm tours for educational and marketing purposes.

“Depending on the future legislation we’d quite like to do holiday lets and maybe look at developing a farm shop with vending machines and a full kitchen. We want to create an accessible environment for agritourism with a focus on enhancing an individuals wellbeing.”

For the future of the cattle at Edinvale Jock is looking to increase the herd by 10-20% more suckler cows but still maintain the split of two thirds to one third Beef Shorthorns to Highlander.

“We still have a dozen pure Highlanders which will remain important, but increasingly the focus will steer towards Shorthorn genetics. There will always be cattle here at Edinvale as long as it’s viable and I believe the Shorthorn is really the way forward.

“The livestock are here for an awesome time but not always a long time. It’s about having resilient animals that can thrive in this system with little input and high-quality results and the Beef Shorthorn really does that.”

FACTFILE

  • Farm size: 90 acres at Edinvale with 250 acres in seasonal holdings and a 50 acre tenancy the other side of the village.
  • Number of stock: 200 cows, 3 bulls and a micro flock of 100 sheep.
  • Scanning percentage: 95%
  • Other enterprises: Macbeth’s butcher in Forres, Wee shed honesty shop, Agricultural contractor
  • Who’s all involved: Jock, Fiona and their three children Aila, Tilly and Rory, Full time stockman Johnny and part time general farm worker Malcolm.

David Monkhouse, Lower Houselop Farm, Tow Law, Co Durham
80 cow suckler herd inc 27 Limousin cross Beef Shorthorn
550 ewes, all lambs finished
273 acres, LFA grassland
Newly established deer enterprise

Putting milk back in to a Continental suckler herd
David Monkhouse with some of his herd

Herd performance
100% cows calved naturally without any assistance
100% calves reared per 100 cows put to the bull
95% calved within the first nine weeks
42.6% suckler cow efficiency
65% of heifer replacement mature body weight at 14 months

Putting milk back into our Continental sucklers was amongst the measures we’ve taken towards improving the unit’s efficiency and making more profit.

 We deliberately steered away from introducing dairy genetics because they eat, eat, eat and they lose the flesh. However, we were aware of Beef Shorthorn, the breed’s maternal traits, hardiness, longevity and a wider pelvic area, so we invested in 27 Continental cross Beef Shorthorn heifers; they were forage reared and from a high health status herd.

Whilst we like the Continentals, seven years on and we also like our Beef Shorthorn crosses; they are demonstrating real hybrid vigour, they’ve reintroduced the milk we were looking for and they’re proving to be the most efficient in terms of overall performance. 

Continental cross Beef Shorthorn cows are slightly smaller maturing at 640kg, and they are more efficient in terms of rearing a calf with a higher DLG at 200-day weaning, at an average 1.35kg.

I prefer to have 100% calves reared, and that’s what they have achieved. Furthermore, 100% have naturally calved without any assistance, the calves are soon up sucking and growing into a nice shapely animal that finishers want to buy.

Earlier this season the Beef Shorthorn crosses calved with less hassle than other cows. Whilst the Beef Shorthorn cross cows were leaner at turnout than the other cattle, they certainly did well and put condition on a lot quicker.

David Monkhouse

Dalswinton Estate, Dumfriesshire
500 cow suckler herd: Beef Shorthorn cross Angus: criss cross breeding strategy
2,400ha LFA inc
1,000ha of mainly grassland running from the River Nith at 30’ to 1000’
1,000ha forestry

Beef Shorthorn Angus cows currently make up 65% of Dalswinton Estate’s 500 cow suckler enterprise. The breed’s natural hardiness and maternal traits combined with temperament are being blended with the unit’s Angus genetics to deliver a profitable enterprise trading 10 to 12-month-old calves, and it is one on which to build for the future.

Dalswinton Estate team, from left, Matthew Murray, Andy Williamson, Peter Landale and Mark Lochart

Since 2012 we have worked on introducing a criss cross breeding strategy and improved our grassland management which has enabled us to successfully expand the suckler herd by over 50% and achieve critical mass, and Beef Shorthorn has helped us to minimise fixed costs and improve our efficiency.

Introducing the breed has enabled us to split the herd 50:50 to winter outdoors on the hill and forage crops, consequently we’ve avoided having to invest a six-figure sum in new additional accommodation with accompanying labour and equipment. Farming a quiet breed helps to reduce the overall workload for our four-strong team.

Beef Shorthorn is proving pivotal to successfully achieving our goal. We have focused on finding a way of farming that is not too intensive, yet profitable and sustainable. We’ve reached a position where we are breaking even before payments; we believe the business can now sustain the changes scheduled under a new post Brexit regime, without the current support system.

Peter Landale, who manages in-hand his Dumfriesshire property

JUNE UPDATE

A criss cross breeding strategy at Dalswinton

Our outwintered Beef Shorthorn cross cows fared well. After spaining they were rough grazed on the hill until early November. They were then strip grazed on swift rape until late February. Overall, they came through in good condition in a fairly typical wet south west Scotland winter.

Early March they are on baled silage and 1kg/head/day of suckler rolls hopefully to boost colostrum. Calving started on the 15 March in ideal conditions. Out of a batch of 60 cows only two needed assistance and both were breech. The calves were vigorous and were soon up and suckling. A batch of 50 Blue Greys in calf to the Beef Shorthorn all calved themselves.

  • We sold the 2019 born Beef Shorthorn cross calves in Stirling between February and March
  • Bullocks averaged; 400.05kg DLWG 1.06KG 333 days £872.95 x 66
  • Heifers averaged; 368.52kg DLWG 0.90KG 348 days £768.15 x 27

We’ll shortly be AIing to the Angus, 35 of the 90 Beef Shorthorn cross heifer replacements; they averaged 420kg at 16 months.

SRUC Kirkton Farm, Crianlarich, Perthshire
24 cow suckler herd: Beef Shorthorn cross Angus criss cross breeding strategy
1,600 ewes, hoggs and gimmers
2,200ha SDA

Beef Shorthorn was introduced to Kirkton Farm’s Angus cross cows in 2016. Whilst the cows were working well, I felt that some of them – those with thinner skins were not coping as well as they should in our extremely harsh environment, our average rainfall is nearly 3m. The decision has paid off.

Kirkton Farm Manager, Ewen Campbell
Kirkton Farm Manager, Ewen Campbell

Our Beef Shorthorn cross heifers and Angus cross cows are outside until Christmas on sole forage diets at 500’, they calve within a six-week period commencing early February. From the end of May, they graze out on the hill which rises to 3,000’.

Over the last three years the herd has averaged 100% calving and 100% calves reared. We target each cow to wean a calf at an average 200 days that is 50% of her body weight. Despite the fact the calves don’t receive any concentrate, the best cows are achieving over 40% efficiency whilst last year some achieved 45%.

END OF YEAR UPDATE

Calving went very well this year, with all the cows and heifers producing live calves with minimal intervention. The nine Beef Shorthorn cross heifers did very well, calving in a 26-day period and with the calves averaging 39.6kg at birth.

We weigh both our cows and calves at weaning at approximately seven months, and this season we once again proved that it’s the smaller breeding females that are more efficient using the calf to cow body weight metric.

A larger cow needs to eat more in order to both sustain herself and her calf. Smaller cows can therefore utilize more of their daily energy intake to provide milk for the calf, which is an important consideration where no supplementary feed is provided to the calves when growing out on the hill.

To put the figures below into perspective, a 745kg Angus cross cow would have needed her calf to be 331kg at weaning to achieve the same efficiency as the nine Beef Shorthorn cross heifers. That extra 50kg is a big ‘ask’ for calves being reared in a harsh hill environment.

At scanning, 37 out of 38 breeding females were in calf. The barren animal was an Angus cross cow weighing 866kg.

Kirkton Farm Manager, Ewen Campbell

JUNE UPDATE

The cows and heifers all went on to the hill in mid-May, with supplementary silage offered until the end of the month.

Calving has gone very well this year with all the cows and heifers producing live calves with minimal intervention. The nine Beef Shorthorn cross heifers did very well, calving in a 26-day period, with the calves having an average birth weight of 39.6kg.

One heifer received assistance at calving, but in hind sight would probably have managed fine on her own. They were all very co-operative when being moved after calving and while the calves were weighed and tagged. It will be interesting to see what kind of job they make of their calves on the hill over the summer. We have a second batch of 12 Beef Shorthorn cross bulling heifers running with a native bred Angus bull at the moment and a further batch of 12 yearling Beef Shorthorn cross heifers which we will bull next year.

Kirkton Farm Manager, Ewen Campbell

It was two in a row for Charles and Sally Horrell’s Podehole herd as they were announced winners of the Beef Shorthorn Society’s National Herd Competition 2023.

Podehole do the double at Beef Shorthorn Herd Awards

Up against five other herds from across the UK who all respectively won their regional herds competitions in autumn 2022, judge for this year was former Shorthorn breeder, David Dickie from Dumfriesshire.

The presentation of the award was made at the recent October Striling Bull Sales where Mr Dickie announced his winner alongside Aimie Park who was presenting the award on behalf of the sponsor’s, Pedigree Sales Online Livestock Auctions.

Mr Dickie said: “I was looking for herd with strong breed characteristics, in particular cows that were milking well with good udders but still fleshy and making a job of their calves.

“I found the Podehole herd to be the most uniformed and credit must go to the Horrell family and stockman Roy for presenting a great herd of cattle for myself and Rosemary to judge.”

“Building a herd of top-quality animals is a skill that can take years of patience and careful management and the other finalists, Chapelton, Glebe Farm, Jodame, Meonhill and Holkin each set a great example for the breed. The standard within the breed is growing year on year and that hasn’t gone unnoticed when it comes to people investing, with numbers increasing each year at society sales and national and regional shows.”

Established in 2022 during the society’s bicentenary celebrations the award scheme will be run over an initial three-year period.

The Beef Shorthorn breed is positioning itself for a confident and modern impact on the beef industry going forward as they launch a new evolution of the Beef Shorthorn Society brand, with a refreshed and modernised message of the breed’s future potential.

Tim Riley, President of the Beef Shorthorn Society said, “As a Board and Society we are thrilled to launch a new chapter of the Beef Shorthorn Society brand.

New Beef Shorthorn Logo

“As the oldest pedigree-registered cattle breed in the world as well as one of the fastest-growing native breeds in the UK, we are immensely proud of our past but also excited for the future direction of the breed and the Society. It was therefore the right time to build on and revitalise our original branding.”

Membership along with the number of Beef Shorthorn cattle has grown in the last 10 years, with over 4,000 females and nearly 1,100 bulls being registered every year and commercial birth registrations to Beef Shorthorn sires on a steady increase.  Mr Riley says the continued success of the breed is at the forefront of the Board’s thoughts and ambitions with the aim to “continue this momentum with the next generation of beef farmers.”

He continued: “Our new look more clearly distinguishes the “Shorthorn identity” in the image of the bull and embodies the friendly nature of our Society. Earlier brand elements such as our ‘tick’ have also evolved. The motif of the ‘tick’ sets us apart visually from other Society’s and denotes the ‘approval’ that the breed receives from the likes of Morrisons through our Beef Shorthorn Scheme.”

Ed Harvey, Head of Marketing and Communications said, “I’m extremely proud of the work produced by the team at Findlay Design who were commissioned to advise us on evolving our brand in a way that was considerate of our heritage but would also convey the value proposition of the breed both as a modern beef breed choice whilst reflecting the ‘friendliness’ of the Society to prospective and long-standing members.

 “The modernisation of the brand, from the softening of the font through to a more representative ‘roan’ colour and markings as well as the improved characteristics and stance of the Beef Shorthorn animal within the design, conveys a wonderful confidence for the future of improved awareness and interest in the breed.”

The rebrand will shortly be rolled-out across a new and improved website for the Beef Shorthorn Society, with updated merchandise, digital and print advertising filtering in throughout 2024.

It was great to see so many new faces, as well as familiar ones, on the day, who embraced the concept of the day to promote confidence in the ring as judges, with good reason giving, with the use of the PA system and microphone: a great investment on the societies behalf.

In between and during classes, we were able discuss many subjects that the attendees wished to raise and this really helped the day flow, along with the leadership of our invited guest Paul Westerway. Paul’s ability to put people at ease and encourage reason giving was very infectious, which made the day a great achievement.

First class of the day was “Bull of any age” and immediately folk were keen to place the cattle.  As expected, there was a variety of different placings, but this led to a great and thought-provoking dialogue for those present.

Second class was 4 “Junior bulls”, of 16/17 months all bred differently, again great deliberation really got their judging juices flowing!  A big conversation on the Thurl, Pin and Hip placement ensued, this is where Paul’s experience as a dairy farmer really came in to pull away the vail of confusion, regarding this subject.

Third class, “Cow with calf at foot”, most of the calves had not been on a halter, but they obligingly followed along behind their mothers perfectly, free range! Allowing our budding judges to factor the calf into the cow’s performance.  Another confusing subject to debate for this class of cows from 1st calver to 9th calver.

Last class “Junior heifers” the Stanford Park team had really done a great job selecting cattle that would challenge the judges and this class really did raise queries as to what to do if presented with such a mixed bag! Use of the microphone became second nature and confidence of our new judges was clearly visible.

This judging day, following on from the one held in the North of England in 2022, showed that this is a great platform for members to share some of their hesitations and qualms about what are we looking for from our breed.  Reading their feedback forms, suggests that all found the day brilliant, with no room for improvement, only that they would like more of the same.

That said, next year the Society would need to be taking the judging day to either Ireland or Scotland, so if there is a potential host out there that would like to step forward, that can have the classes of quiet cattle able to be lead around the ring at home, then please do contact the Society Office and we can start putting some dates in the diary.

Thank you to Paul Westaway for acting as master of ceremonies, and to Mark and Hayley Stoneham for kindly hosting this event.  Thanks also to all the attendees, that helped with the leading of the cattle, as without you, we could not have led all the cattle out for everyone to judge.  Lastly, thanks to Simon Bradley Farmer and his team for all the hard work training the cattle in preparation of this vital Society event.

Tina Russell
Southern Director

It was a huge honour to be master judge at the Beef Shorthorn Judges Day. It was a brilliant well organised day and huge credence to the society for taking the training of their judges so seriously and in particular the work they are doing for Judges to give reasons; and also to all the delegates on the day, they’re were all outstanding and ensure the future of the Society is in great hands.”
PAUL WESTAWAY

A tremendous day was had by all at the launch of SYD, the Beef Shorthorn Youth Development initiative.

Held at Appleton Mills Farm on the North York Moors, the Gibson family extended a warm welcome to our young people in the most idyllic of settings.

Appleton Farm

In the sweltering heat, they arrived and were treated to an array of ice-cold drinks and started to get to know each other. All made instant friends with their shared passion for Beef Shorthorns.

The day started with everyone donning their new SYD gillets and headed into the yard for a group photo, to say it was like herding cats was an understatement and that was just the parents/guardians!

Andrew and Kate of KATEM embroidery did a great job of sizing everyone up and they all looked very smart in the new SYD range.

Members were then split into groups and rotated around four workshops during the day.  All were hands on activities with the focus on learning by doing.

Halter making run by Robert Grayson was a firm favourite. His demonstration with a few rapid twists and knots looked impossible at first glance. However, under his clear and patient guidance everyone quickly got the hang of it, with confidence growing step by step.

All came away with halters in hand and were keen to get home to make more, with several commenting on how Christmas was sorted, so if you get your own personalised halter under the tree, you will know you have Robert Farmer Christmas to thank!

Drew Hyslop delivered a workshop on clipping with everyone getting to grips with the trimmers, luckily for the Whiterose herd,  everyone picked it up quickly and there were no cattle with bald patches heading back towards the fields.

Learning to groom and prepare cattle for the showring saw Mark and Drew take everyone through what products are available and how best to use them. This was followed by leading the now immaculate Shorthorns into the ring to practise displaying them to their best advantage and going over showing etiquette.

Reflecting Beef Shorthorn in their best light was also covered within a Photography module.  Alfie Shaw of Agri-images instructed all on how to best position an animal and what to think of from a photographer’s perspective.  All learned about lighting conditions, resolution, focus and depth of field in order to tell a story with the images captured. From individual animal photos in the yard, to a walk through the herd in the field, everyone learned how to approach animals safely and attract their attention without disturbing them to get some fantastic natural shots.  Everyone was blown away by Mr S’s ability to ‘talk to the animals’ and he was crowned ‘King of Moo’. More importantly everyone grew in confidence and understood better how to use their own phones and cameras to get shots that best reflected their stock in order to promote their own herds. With social media becoming an integral part of everyday life having good photographs will be key to the success of our next generation.

Most people felt that they were not natural artists so the thought of painting a Beef Shorthorn filled most with dread and there was a definite air of apprehension before getting started.  Local artist Joyce Buzeman swiftly put all at ease. Starting with a blank canvas no one dared to think that they could imitate the examples on hand, however Joyce stripped back the process to simple steps and coached all on the process of building up a sketch and then water colour painting step by step. The buzz in the room was truly amazing as everyone began to see their portraits appearing before their eyes. All that took part were blown away by what they managed to produce.

Amanda and Joe from Morrisons joined proceedings and after lunch took us through how the Morrisons scheme works and assesses output.  Carcass weights and marbling of fat were outlined, and it led to a very productive question and answer session with our breeders of the future soaking up all the information ready to put into practise.

The day ended with a farm walk.  This was much needed after the incredible food at lunchtime as more than a few pounds were gained after the delicious spread. Johnny and Hannah took us round their newly established herd and described to everyone how they had started at Appleton Mills. With a variety of stock from bloodlines like Mayfield, Millerston and the original Appleton herd, they have produced some fabulous calves. The animals themselves were incredibly calm and reflected the skill and care that the Gibson’s put into their husbandry.

It was a really enjoyable day. A huge thanks to the Gibson family, all our workshop leaders and volunteers who made the day run smoothly and a great success. Mark Severn is a true thalwart of the breed and his vision has been to engage with our young people and inspire and encourage them. He certainly achieved that…  and more, because they all had great fun and can’t wait for the next day.  We are really looking forward to hosting similar events in different locations around the UK to allow all to access SYD.   These days are being funded by the Beef Shorthorn Development fund which is a legacy from our Bicentenary year of which one of the aims was to invest in the future of the Society and the Breed.

The overwhelming message from the day was ‘Believe and you can achieve’.  We have some amazing young people and future breeders within the Society and the future is looking very bright indeed for Beef Shorthorn.

Footnote:  All our Development days rely on having skilled and dedicated volunteers so if you have time to spare or a skill that you can pass on to our next generation please contact ellie@beefshorthorn.org as we would love to hear from you.

By kind invitation of I & S Graham and Iain Wilkinson, the Scottish development day was hosted at Balgay, Inchture, Perth.

Scottish Development Day (Balgay Farm)

This saw a full day of hands on workshops delivered by experienced breeders and industry experts and was open to all members and supporters of the breed.

Thanks to our sponsors Thrums Vets, East of Scotland Farmers Ltd, United Auctions, Harbro, The Cairnsmore herd and the Scottish Beef Shorthorn Club everyone had a most enjoyable day.

Major John Gibb delivered an excellent session on how to Judge which included what to look for within the Beef Shorthorn breed and how to explain the reasoning for selecting your champions.

Scottish Craft Butchers gave an indepth butchery demonstration followed by lunch.

In the afternoon attendees enjoyed a Show Clipping and Preparation demonstration by Drew Hyslop, which led on to Barbara Webster’s session explaining how Estimated Breeding values can be used in determining your breeding programme as well as an Ultrasound Scanning session.

Murray Cochrane then took everyone through the elements of Classification talking through a marvellous selection of Beef Shorthorn put forward by Balgay Farm.

The day was brought to an end by Iain Wilkinson who gave everyone a comprehensive Herd tour and explained how the use Pasture management to maximise production.

With over 80 attendees and multiple herds represented the day was a resounding success with all inspired by what they learned and saw, hoping to take back the lessons learned and apply back at their own farms.

Thank you Scotland!

A C Farms Development Day

Open to all Members and supporters of the breed including young people,  this was the chance for Member to gather and learn more about Beef Shorthorn as well as meeting other members. We would like to thank the Langhams team for their hospitality and host Andre Vrona of AC Farms for his excellent farm walk . Co-ordinated by Tina Russell, the day was made up of a series of demonstrations and workshops which included:

  • A Clipping and Dressing demonstration
  • Youth Activities
  • Halter training cattle for showing
  • Judging seminar
  • Ring craft and Etiquette
  • The use of recording and EBV’s

Beef Shorthorn Youth Development Day Hailed Great Success.

Over 100 participants travelled to the Glebefarm Beef Shorthorn herd recently by kind invitation of Alfie & Elaine Shaw and family who are based on the outskirts of Dungannon, Co Tyrone.

In a first of its kind, the Beef Shorthorn Cattle Society partnered up with Glebefarm to host a Youth Development Day with the aim to encourage members of all abilities to get involved with an array of highly educational work stations at the event. These included Ring Craft and Show Etiquette, Animal Preparation and Products, Stock judging, Glenarm Beef Scheme, EBVS and Scanning, Butchery Demonstration and Livestock Photography Tips.

The highlight of the day was the opportunity to walk around the award winning Glebefarm herd of Beef Shorthorn Cattle. The Shaw’s have recently been placed Overall Champion Herd in NI for the second year in succession. The afternoon concluded with tasty refreshments kindly provided by the hosts.

The Shaw family would like to thank everyone who helped them in any way, and also those who attended the event. Alfie added “We were delighted to be able to welcome so many Beef Shorthorn enthusiasts to our farm. The aim was to profile a number of key areas which we felt would be both educational and interesting to those present on the day. The level of hands-on participation was excellent right from the youngest visitor to the oldest. The future of Beef Shorthorns looks bright with so much genuine enthusiasm clearly evident.”

The Society’s September development day hosted by Society president Charles Horton at Hannington, Wiltshire.

Hannington Herd Development Day

Attended by more than 60 Society members the event included five workshops focussed on key aspects of breeding and herd management.

From a veterinary perspective, members were able to listen to Bella Maine of Larkmead Vets discuss pelvic measurement in heifers and other essential aspects of herd fertility, while Jim Barber demonstrated ultrasound scanning in relation to performance recording and the benefits it brings.

Meanwhile, Mike Deakins gave an explanation of cow classification, enabling members to better understand the usefulness it can lend to management and breeding decisions.

 Daniel Slade of Thame Market was also on hand to offer members guidance on cattle selection for slaughter and hitting the right specification, while Harbro’s Michael Richardson talked through feeding and nutrition to maximise growth and development in cattle of all ages.

 Beef Shorthorn Society operations manager Clive Brown said the event, one of several organised by the Society this year, had been a huge success with members coming from far and wide to add to their knowledge base.

 “These events have been a huge success and enabled members to come together and both learn and socialise with like-minded people from across the country. As ever the camaraderie and shared belief in the breed has shone through and that is sure to stand the breed in good stead going forward.”

A 19th century painting of a Beef Shorthorn heifer has found its way back to its former owner’s family at the same time as raising £10,000 for the Beef Shorthorn Society’s membership development fund.

Historic Beef Shorthorn painting fetches £10,000

The painting, dating from 1848, had been donated to the Society by the late Basil Mann who had inherited it from his uncle Alban Mann on his death in 1994 and was auctioned at the Society’s annual dinner at the Stirling Bull Sales.

Society operations manager Clive Brown explains that the painting had been in the Society’s possession for the last three years, but the Society had held back from doing anything with it during the pandemic.

“It was decided to auction it this year as a way to close off the breed’s bicentenary celebrations.”

Purchaser Ashley Warren of the Wappenham herd, Northamptonshire, takes up the story: “The picture had been owned by my step-grandfather, Alban Mann, and I always had a fascination with it during my childhood and teenage years, to the extent that I took it upon myself to research the story of the heifer and the painting as a teenager.

“When Alban Mann passed away in 1994, he left all seven of his grandchildren £40,000 each and that money was an amazing boost to my then fledgling business. However, the painting was left to his nephew, Basil, and earlier this year I’d commented to my wife, Sheena, that following Basil’s death the painting must have found a new home elsewhere.

“A couple of days after that passing comment, I received the Beef Shorthorn newsletter and was amazed to see the news of the painting and the plan to auction it. It was such a surreal moment coming so soon after I’d had that conversation.”

Having contacted the Beef Shorthorn Society to explain his connection to the painting Ashley headed to Stirling for the sole purpose of buying the painting. “The opportunity to own the painting that had held such a fascination hanging behind my grandfather’s chair all those years ago was one I couldn’t miss.

“I’d like to think he’d be delighted to see that I spent some of my inheritance securing a piece of family history and at the same time supporting the Beef Shorthorn Society and member and youth development within the breed.,” explained Ashley.

“The painting will have pride of place in our home and I will take enormous pleasure from seeing it everyday,” he added.

Clive Brown added that the auction took an emotional turn when the crowd heard the story of the painting following Ashley’s winning bid. “Very few people were aware of Ashley’s connection to the painting until after he bought it. It certainly made for a fitting end to the breed’s bicentenary celebrations.”

The Podehole herd of Charles and Sally Horrell, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, has been named as the winner of the Beef Shorthorn Society’s inaugural National Herd Competition which was launched as part of the breed’s 200th anniversary celebrations.

Podehole wins National Beef Shorthorn herd competition
Podehole wins National Beef Shorthorn herd competition

Judged by George Somerville, former farm manager at Glenkiln Farms, Dumfries and Galloway and sponsored by Pedigree Sales Online Livestock Auctions, the competition pitted the winners of the regional herd competitions against each other for the first time.

Regional winners from 2021 competitions were assessed by Mr Somerville over the summer with the judge commenting on the exceptional quality he saw in every herd he visited across the UK.

“The depth of breeding evident in all the herds was exceptional and the quality of cows I saw was tremendous and bodes well for the future of the breed in every corner of the country.

“However, the Podehole herd stood out as the most complete and balanced herd of all those I visited, and I congratulate the Horrell family on such a great herd of cows. In every herd I visited there were great examples of the breed and many, many cattle I’d be happy to have in a herd,” he added.

Other finalists were Major John Gibb and Catriona Gibb’s Glenisla herd, Scotland, Stuart and Gail Currie’s Beautry herd, Northern England, LEP Farms’ Meonhill herd, Southern England, Brian and Eryth Thomas’ Frenni herd, Wales and Alfie and James Shaw’s Glebefarm herd, Northern Ireland.

The presentation of the award was made at the Society’s development day hosted by Society president Charles Horton at Hannington, Wiltshire.

Attended by more than 60 Society members the event included five workshops focussed on key aspects of breeding and herd management.

From a veterinary perspective, members were able to listen to Bella Maine of Larkmead Vets discuss pelvic measurement in heifers and other essential aspects of herd fertility, while Jim Barber demonstrated ultrasound scanning in relation to performance recording and the benefits it brings.

Meanwhile, Mike Deakins gave an explanation of cow classification, enabling members to better understand the usefulness it can lend to management and breeding decisions.

Daniel Slade of Thame Market was also on hand to offer members guidance on cattle selection for slaughter and hitting the right specification, while Harbro’s Michael Richardson talked through feeding and nutrition to maximise growth and development in cattle of all ages.

Beef Shorthorn Society operations manager Clive Brown said the event, one of several organised by the Society this year, had been a huge success with members coming from far and wide to add to their knowledge base.

“These events have been a huge success and enabled members to come together and both learn and socialise with like-minded people from across the country. As ever the camaraderie and shared belief in the breed has shone through and that is sure to stand the breed in good stead going forward.”

National Herd Award launched to mark our Bicentenary

The Beef Shorthorn Society are launching a new National Herd Award in 2022 as part of our bicentenary celebrations.

The award has been developed to recognise the 200 years of breeding excellence across the UK and Ireland by Shorthorn farmers, which has led to the Beef Shorthorn becoming rightly known as ‘the great improver’.

This year entry for the new award will be open to the top seven herds that were judged overall champions in their local regions in autumn 2021, with the winner selected by veteran judge George Somerville, former Farm Manager of Glenkiln Farms in Dumfries & Galloway. Going forward it will be open to the highest placed Breedplan recorded herd in each region.

Annual herd competitions have become an important part of regional club activities and breed promotion for Beef Shorthorns, providing a way to showcase the qualities of the hard-working cows around the country.