In this article, That’s Farming looks at some farmers we have profiled as part of our popular Suckler Focus segment.
James Milligan-Manby returned to his family farm in 1985 with a mission to focus on the polling of the Limousin breed.
He farms under the McTurk prefix across the waters in Lincolnshire, with his brother, Richard, running a mixed farming enterprise on two separate units.
Their holy grail is a herd of 100 homozygous polled Limousin cows but 40 years on, they are still around only 25% homozygous.
“Sod’s law says it is the homozygous ones that have a mishap or a drama,” he told Catherina Cunnane.
“We have 68 polled Limousin cows, with 8 two-year-olds and 16 three-year-old polled heifers to calve this spring, and a further 10 Lincoln Red cows have gone to the Limousin bull.”
“We are ruthless on ‘empty’ females, bad bags, lameness and, above all, temperament when it comes to filling the cull pen.”
“Assuming you had a 50% chance of a polled animal, a 50% chance of a male or female, then wait two or three years to repeat the probability, and it is easy to see why we are still trying 40-odd years later.”
Read more on his journey.
We also spoke to Adrian Ivory of the Strathisla and Cardean herds, which comprises 150 commercial cows, 60 pedigree Simmentals and 40 pedigree Charolais.
He farms across 2,700-acres, which is partly owned (1,500), part contract farming (combining, drying, and baling only) (1,000) and part full contract (200).
He returned to the farm when he was 24 to work under the farm manager to get an understanding of what we did and how but sadly, he fell ill shortly after, and Adrian was left running the farm business at the age of 27.
Looking back, he has “made several mistakes along the way, but it was important to be able to make them and learn from them”.
“I have learnt a huge amount and grasped every opportunity given to me and tried to improve and adapt the business along the way.”
But in doing so, he has fine-tuned a 250-cow suckler herd, which comprises a blend of native, and continental breeds.
The efficient herd has a calving index of 372 days and an average days to slaughter on bull beef of 405 days.
“Understanding your numbers and making sure you know which are the poor performers through actual figures are the key elements of successful suckler farming,” he told Catherina Cunnane.
“Keep it simple so that it is not seen as a hassle doing the numbers, and make sure you enjoy what you are doing too.”
“We are always looking to improve as standing still is not an option, so we are always looking at where improvements can be made,” he added.
Read more about his story.
Cunnane also profiled Herrick, who runs Folly Farm in Leicestershire, in partnership with his parents.
They operate a suckler beef and arable enterprise and currently, farm 140 suckler cows that are mostly British Blue-cross-British Friesian cows; however, they have recently started making the switch to Stabiliser cattle.
The herd calves in a spring block starting in March for twelve weeks; however, this year, 90% calved in five weeks, which will allow them to drop the breeding period down to nine weeks in the future for cows.
All the young stock are finished on-farm, with bull calves kept entire and finished at 600-650kgs at 14-months-old, and heifers are grazed for a second summer and finished at 600-620kgs and 18 to 20-months-old.
He told That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane: “Our cows are not big, with most weighing between 550-600kgs as mature animals.”
“Recently, we have made a move to Stabiliser cattle to help simplify our whole farming system.”
“In the past, we have tried to make our system fit our cattle, but moving forward, we want a cow that fits our system, and Stabilisers do that for us.”
“They will give us the ability to out winter; they are highly fertile, easy calving, easy fleshing and easy to manage, making the perfect fit for our system.”
“This will allow us to maximise our stocking numbers per labour unit whilst also adding the ability for us to potentially produce bulls and heifers for sale in the future.”
Read more on Folly Farm.