A total of 34 pedigree animals – 26 males and eight females – have been entered for the pedigree Aberdeen Angus Autumn Sale, taking place in Dungannon Farmers’ Mart on Tuesday, October 13. Twelve of Northern Ireland’s top pedigree herds will be represented at the event, which will be held under the auspices of the Aberdeen Angus Society.
“The sale provides buyers a unique opportunity to invest in a selection of the breed’s best bloodlines,” confirmed Aberdeen Angus Society President Alan Cheney.
“Demand for Aberdeen Angus cattle continues to grow. As a consequence, a large turnout of buyers is expected for the Dungannon event.”
Alan made these comments while visiting the Ballykelly farm of Hugh McCollum, the chair of the farmer-owned co-operative Aberdeen Angus Quality Beef Ltd (AAQB).
Hugh currently finishes a mix of 120 Aberdeen Angus steers and heifers, which are bought in as yearlings. He commented: “The animals are almost all dairy-bred. Our plan is to finish them at around 24 months.
“Most of the cattle are slaughtered at around 24 months of age leaving the farm during the months of June and July.
“This approach ensures that we can make best use of grazed grass while fitting the beef enterprise in with our tillage operation. The cattle are supplied to the Foyle Food Group.”
Hugh continued: “Demand for Quality Assured Aberdeen Angus beef remains strong. But this must be accompanied with a strong commitment on the part of commercial breeders to use pedigree Angus bulls with strong performance figures.
“This is a message that dairy farmers, in particular, need to hear. Given the growing use of sexed semen, milk producers can secure the replacement heifers form a considerably lower number of matings.
“As a result, there is greater scope to use Aberdeen Angus semen and/or sweeper bulls within the dairy sector.
“But the commitment must be made on the part of milk producers to use top quality genetics. Otherwise, the opportunity for beef farmers to make a margin further down the line is becoming extremely difficult.”
Alan Cheney agrees: “Looking ahead, only calves born to pedigree sires will be eligible for the various Aberdeen Angus quality beef programmes.”
He added: “A lot of work has gone in to genetically fingerprinting every pedigree Aberdeen Angus sire in Ireland. Since January 2019 all Aberdeen Angus bulls submitted for registration to the society must be genetically identified prior to the actual registration process itself taking place.
“Given these developments, it will simply require the meat plants to take a very small tissue sample from animals submitted for slaughter and to have this DNA-tested in order to verify if their sires were, or were not, pedigree Aberdeen Angus bull.
“The meat plants involved in all the Aberdeen Angus quality beef schemes and the supermarkets are totally committed to using the sire data base in this way. This means that all the calves born this year will be subject to this testing procedure at point of slaughter.”
Meanwhile, Hugh McCollum is in the process of changing his Aberdeen Angus finishing enterprise into a calf-to-beef operation.
He explained: “The plan is to procure dropped calves from dairy farmers and then take these animals through to slaughter.
“This approach will allow me to ascertain which Aberdeen Angus bulls actually sired the calves. It will also enhance the overall traceability status of the business.”