Beef Shorthorn, the obvious choice for a start-up herd

Beef Shorthorn was an obvious choice as a start-up herd for Jim Cameron and Valerie Orr. “It’s a breed that is so easily kept, there’s a good market demand as a result of its increasing popularity, and it makes for a good cross in particular with other native breeds,” says Jim.

Four years on and Jim and Valerie have built their pedigree Trainview herd from scratch to 10 breeding females. The couple also have a handful of Irish Moiled females imported from Valerie’s home in Northern Ireland, whilst 16-month-old Alec has his own cow.

 Jim Cameron and Valerie Orr with their son, Alec amongst their Trainview herd (©Craig Stephen Photography)

Jim Cameron and Valerie Orr with their son, Alec amongst their Trainview herd (©Craig Stephen Photography)

They have also introduced the Beef Shorthorn across their two Highland cows to achieve what they say is a real functional suckler, whilst the steers have added value in the store ring thanks to finishers seeking cattle for the Morrisons Shorthorn Beef scheme.

“Since we are not around 24/7 as we both have full time jobs, the key to our farming operations is having quiet easily calved, and easily kept cows,” explains Jim, a self-employed stockman and seasonal ghillie who had spent four years as stockman to the Durno’s Uppermill herd prior to its sale to Northern Ireland, whilst Valerie works as an agricultural officer for the Scottish Government.

“Beef Shorthorn has proved that it perfectly fits in to our system; females can calve from two years, they have plenty of milk, look after their calves well, they have a great quiet temperament and we’re expecting them to last until they are teenagers - for up to 10 calf crops. In fact, we would very much recommend the breed to other people considering starting up.”

Valerie continues: “We have also found that the Beef Shorthorn cross Highland make for a fabulous suckler cow on an extensive system and that can be crossed to a Continental sire; they demonstrate real hybrid vigour, have great functional pelvic structure and they are hardy.

“Both the pure Beef Shorthorn and the crosses thrive in least cost extensive solely forage based systems which is another bonus for us, since we are paying premium rents and receive no support payments.”

The couple who currently farm near Forfar say they are what’s termed ‘landless keepers’. “Our priority is a secure farm agreement, for example contract or share farming and ultimately a tenancy however there-in lies the real challenge,” Valerie explains. “We are determined to battle on until we achieve success. In the meantime, whilst we are building up stock numbers, we are acquiring seasonal grazing wherever we can and we’ve been lucky for the last three seasons. If we could acquire grazing or stubbles, then we firmly believe our cattle would outwinter. This winter we have been fortunate to secure the rental of a steading.”

Setting out to establish the Trainview herd whilst the couple still lived in Northern Ireland before they flit to Jim’s native Scotland in 2016, she explains: “We initially studied various Beef Shorthorn female lines for consistency and then followed up visiting a lot of herds. We were looking for older female family lines that had proven the test of time, they had to be very correct, functional and well fleshed, and then we check out their performance data with Breedplan. We are also hot on health and only select from herds with the highest status.”

“We eventually secured our first female from Ballyvaddy, she has gone on to classify at EX92 and we have retained a son as our herd sire.” The herd was one of the first to be officially classified when the society launched its initiative in 2016, it was reclassified this year and averaged VG87. “We have now reached the point where we are now looking to close the herd, buy in only very select females and being a very small herd using AI provides a choice of selected bulls.”

Trainview has been successfully out and about in the showring. “We need to introduce ourselves and our cattle and we also like to support our local shows,” says Valerie. This season we secured championship and reserve at Kirriemuir, reserve female champion at Alyth and some tickets at Perth adding to previous success at Fife where we won the top awards on our first ever outing.”

She adds: “Our objective is to develop a business focusing on that potential premium producing good breeding stock - bulls and heifers for both pedigree and commercial producers, and any surplus males steered and finished. Whilst it’s too early for Stirling success, we are scheduling entries for 2019.”