THERE is a fantastic entry of Beef Shorthorn cattle for the Native Breeds Sale set to take place at Dungannon Farmers Mart on Tuesday, February 8.
Almost 30 pedigree registered bulls and females will go under the hammer and provide an excellent opportunity for pedigree and commercial farmers alike.
For those wishing to source a new stock bull and perhaps tap into the bonus payments for commercial stock, there are 17 bulls listed in the catalogue. Also included are a number of well bred cows and heifers from leading breeders.
A feature of the sale is the reduction of the Ardean herd from Ms Sara Isaly, which is packed full of top bloodlines.
If you are considering using a Beef Shorthorn bull, read how the breed has excelled in the commercial suckler enterprise of the Fitzsimons family.
A visit to the NI Beef Shorthorn National Show at Glenarm Castle some 10 years ago was a turning point for County Down beef farmer Barry Fitzsimons. Having always been drawn to the breed, he became aware of the Glenarm Shorthorn Beef Scheme that day and the potential benefits that it could offer beef finishers locally.
The seed was sown, and within a short space of time Barry had secured his first Beef Shorthorn stock bull to run with his 45-cow herd of suckler cows.
“Bawnforth Farm” is nestled within the rolling countryside between Dromara and Ballynahinch and is approximately 400 feet above sea level. It extends to 150 acres, divided into two holdings. Barry, a retired stockbroker, farms in partnership with his wife Frances, son Craig, and with the help of grandson Tom, 11.
Over the years the Fitzsimons have always fitted their beef and sheep farming enterprise around full-time employment off the farm, so it has been essential for the cow and calf enterprise to be easily managed. A key component is temperament, especially as the farms involve moving stock on a public road.
The introduction of Beef Shorthorn to the herd’s breeding programme has significantly improved the temperament of the cows and their calves, an element that has not gone unnoticed by herdowner Barry: “We no longer dread walking the cattle between farms as the docility of the Beef Shorthorn shines through. This is also evident at calving time when the females are quiet and a pleasure to work with.”
The cows are calved in March and April, with a view to keep calving pattern as tight as possible. With the Shorthorn influence enhancing fertility in the breeding herd this is easily achieved. Calves remain on their mothers until January, and are creep fed which ensures a seamless separation at weaning. Most of the heifer calves are retained to assist with increasing the overall herd size using homebred Beef Shorthorn replacements.
A strong relationship has built up over the years with Bryan Wilson, Glenarm Beef Scheme, who calls out with the Fitzsimons to select cattle for slaughter through the Glenarm brand. All steers reared on the farm are finished through the scheme and must fit the required specification.
Carcase weight: 280-380kg, Con-formation: R or O+ and Fat Class: 4L-4H.
The Glenarm Beef Scheme sticks rigidly to these criteria as it feels it offers the absolute best eating quality and texture for its customers.
In return for producing Beef Shorthorn prime cattle in line with the specification, members of the scheme are rewarded with a bonus payment.
Barry explains: “We pay a nominal membership fee annually to be part of the Glenarm Beef Scheme, however the benefits we reap as beef finishers are substantial. In comparison to similar steers not killed through Glenarm, we can see added value to the tune of £131 per head. If you put that across a wagon load of cattle, the extra payment soon adds up.”
The easy fleshing of the Beef Shorthorn blended with Shorthorn x Simmental or Shorthorn x Limousin cows is also pleasing the Fitzsimons.
“In addition to the benefits of selling finished cattle through the scheme, we are also delighted that our stock is ready for slaughter much sooner in comparison to breeds we have used previously which were ready just under 30 months. The most recent Beef Shorthorn steers killed ranged from 19-24 months of age, so there is a massive saving in terms of finishing costs.”
The Beef Shorthorn influence is certainly a major factor in improving the overall profitability at Bawnforth. In just 10 years the Fitzsimons have enjoyed watching their suckler herd improve, and
in recent times received a number of awards in the NI Beef Shorthorn Club’s Commercial Herds Competition.
Looking ahead, the plan is to continue to manage the farm system as they do now. When the cow herd is at maximum capacity once again Barry and son Craig hope to establish regular clients for surplus in calf commercial heifers.
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