Winners of the Welsh Suckler Herd of the Year organised by the Welsh Charolais Region and Hybu Cig Cymru are James and Alec Cowan of Llandysul, Ceredigion, who were commended for their attention to management, health status, genetics and marketing along with the performance of their Charolais cross calves.
Judge SAC beef specialist, Ian Pritchard with the winners, James and Alec Cowan, Welsh Region Charolais chairman, Griff Morris and HCC’s Dewi Hughes.
The three runners up are H Jones, Cardigan, Ceredigion; R Jones and Son, Bran Brecon, Powys; and D Thomas, Brecon, Powys.
Each of the four finalists presented at the Royal Welsh on Tuesday, received British Charolais Cattle Society bull purchase vouchers, while the overall winner received £500 and an HCC award.
HCC’s Dewi Hughes explained: “The competition focused on suckler herd key management issues.
These included health, marketing and financial management as well as herd performance which incorporated calving index, calving period and calf performance.
All finalists were exceptionaly examples of good practice with a focus on making their herd work as a successful business and producing high-quality calves."
Judge, SAC beef specialist Ian Pritchard commented: “All the finalists were committed to producing high quality calves and each recognised the need to be efficient – they were improving performance whilst endeavouring to cut costs, however the Cowans just had the edge.
They operated on a limited acreage on which they had to maximise resources, and they were using all available technology and taking sound advice.
The brothers aimed to maximise their calves born from high EBV Charolais bulls with easy calving figures, kept detailed costs and weighed calves regularly.
They are planning to grow the area farmed and expand their beef enterprise, and they depend on income generated from their suckler herd.The winning farm has ‘a plan’ for the future.”
Welsh Charolais Region’s Griff Morris added: “We are pleased with the response from Welsh suckled calf producers who are using a high genetic merit registered Charolais bull as their herd’s terminal sire.
EBVs are now firmly endorsed as an essentisl tool when selecting a Charolais terminal sire and our winners to date are working proof of their value.
The success of these Welsh suckler herds proves that easy calving and quality calves can come in the same package.
Charolais cross cattle have passed Welshpool store ring in excess of £1,600 this year, with both vendors and purchasers confirming that when margins are high, quality and quantity must go hand in hand.
Only the modern British Charolais delivers the complete package.”
J H Cowan and Son, Blaencwmpridd, Synod Inn, Llandysul, Ceredigion
100 cows plus followers; 300 breeding ewes; 185 acres owned plus 170 rented; 40 acres cereals.
The Cowans aim to produce high quality cattle and become a closed herd in the future by breeding heifer replacements using sexed semen from AI bulls with maternal traits to produce their own ‘heifers from heifers’ at 24 months old.
Cows are put to Charolais bulls within the breed’s top 10% of EBVs for calving ease, 400 day growth and gestation length to produce easy calving, fast growing cattle that are either sold as stores or finished on farm.
The Cowans have identified Indian and Chinese markets to offer potential added value export opportunities as they continue to expand the herd size.
Huw Jones, Ferwig, Cardigan, Ceredigion
42 cows plus followers; 275 acres; cereals; feed and pet shop supply businesses.
Huw is focused on a low-input system with dry cows outwintered on stubble turnips and rape.
The farm aims to produce strong store cattle that are sold as yearlings with a DLG of 1.1kg up to weaning.
Calves are creep fed and weighed at weaning and then twice again before they’re sold in the spring at one year old.
Huw’s plans include increasing the number of home-bred heifer replacements sired by a Salers bull.
R Jones and Son, Gwarllan, Penpentre, Llanfihangel-Nant-Bran, Brecon, Powys
85 cows plus followers; 555 acres; sheep and self-catering holiday enterprises.
The Jones’ have introduced a strategy focusing on maximising calf output value whilst minimsing input costs.
Heifer replacements are sourced at two to three weeks old from high health status dairy farms while Charolais bulls are selected for easy calving and high growth rates.
The highest performing calves are sold in November and the majority outwintered and sold in the spring, whilst the remainder are grazed on and sold as stronger stores at 20 to 22 months.
Plans for the future include to further improve the quality of their Charolais cross calves whilst maintaining the herd’s health.
David Thomas, Penwern, Llanspyddid, Brecon, Powys
68 cows plus followers; 140 hectares; 520 breeding ewes plus 120 ewes
David’s key objectives are to maximise calf growth from grass and maintain a low-cost system by overwintering spring-calving cows on forage crops.
Suckler herd replacement bulling heifers are bought in whilst all Charolais bulls used are home-bred from the herd’s eight pedigree cows, all of which are AI’d to high-performance Charolais sires selected for growth rates, eye muscle and calving ease.
In the future, David’s plans for the suckler herd are to sell heifer calves in the autumn, rebuild herd numbers, fine tune the current system for outwintering weaned heifers and also achieve a premium for surplus pedigree Charolais sales to reflect their genetic merit
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