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SRUC Kirkton Farm

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