September 2013

September 16, 2013 Undisputed weight for age – Charolais cross cattle leave £132 a head benefit over all other crosses: McIntosh Donald

The Milne family, Robbie, Barbara and their son, James are among the hundreds of suppliers to one of Scotland’s major processors who are reaping the benefits of finishing Charolais cross cattle within the specification and to target weight faster than any other Continental cross cattle while measuring and monitoring their performance against the company’s monitoring programme.

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“Our Charolais cross Salers bulls and heifers are finishing at average heavier weights and faster than processor, McIntosh Donald’s kill of all other crosses,” says Robbie. “For example, our bulls have that performance edge killing out 24 days earlier and 37kg heavier and the heifers followed a similar trend, while 70% of the bulls graded U 2,3L or better and the rest in the R specification. Furthermore, we believe our cattle have the genetic potential for even better performance. There is always room for improvement.”

The Milnes farm at North Bethelnie, Oldmeldrum, Inverurie, a 500 acre mixed LFA unit with additional rented ground. The farm carries a 320 cow split spring calving Salers herd and a complementary 250 ewe flock. “We run a low input unit, yet we are focused on maximising output and subsequent value per unit of body weight from our cows, all of which are put to the Charolais. We also have that critical mass which enables us to spread costs across the herd.

“Apart from heifers retained for replacement purposes, the remainder are finished to 340kg target weight, whilst all our steers have been traditionally sold in Thainstone consistently arrive within the day’s top 10% of store prices. However in an attempt to retain more margin per cow for ourselves, we started to finish the bulls from the early spring calving herd. The exercise proved to be a success and we have sufficient accommodation, so for the first time this season we are finishing the entire crop of male calves as bulls on a mix including homegrown cereals and forage and forward bought peas and potatoes.”

All North Bethelnie finished cattle are sold to McIntosh Donald which offers support with its Qboxanalysis. The monitoring programme provides producers with comparative information on the on-farm performance of their own individual animals against the rest of the company’s kill, and ultimately enables them to make better on-farm management decisions.

The Milne’s Charolais cross bulls are currently finishing at an average 385kg at 420 days, while same way bred heifers are reaching 340kg target weight at 17 months, performance reflecting similar performance, if not better than those same way crosses incorporated in to the Qboxanalysis.

Charolais crosses make up almost 25% of McIntosh Donald’s total kill. These cattle finished at an average 352kgs within 682 days, 22 days earlier and 14kg heavier than the remainder – a mix of Continental cross and native breeds. Those performance benefits are estimated to leave an additional income of more than £132 a head over the remainder, when taking in the current 396p/kg average market price (R4L) and 350p/day costs. See table 1.

Table 1: Finished cattle performance comparison, Charolais crosses v all others


All cattle

Young bulls


Char x

All others

Char x

All others

Char x

All others








Ave   dwt (kg)







Age   (days)














Source: McIntosh Donald Qboxanalysis

* Grading matrix takes in any figure below 4 as better than R4L

McIntosh Donald’s Murray Gibb explains: “The Qboxanalysis system is providing our suppliers with a quick, easy to access and highly accurate analysis of each animal’s classification for benchmarking purposes, both within their herd and as a performance guide against others. The system encourages farmers to weigh their animals at a younger age, and thereafter more frequently, batch them according to weights rather than age and select more carefully those ready for slaughter. Suckler producers may need to select more carefully their terminal sires while finishers need to review their feeding diets to achieve better weight gain and earlier finishing.”

At North Belnethie, the Qboxanalysis data is examined after each kill. “We manually record every single beast so that we can check their performance, primarily for weight gain, and monitor the trends. While our Charolais bull selection is initially visual – he has to look the part, Breedplan data is essential for us to make a judgement, primarily on 400 day weight and we’ve found that the higher the figures the better the progeny’s performance. In fact the Qboxanalysis has convinced us to invest in bulls within the breed’s top 10% on performance. Any bull or female leaving progeny that underperform is down the road.”

The new finishing regime has also promoted the Milnes to rethink their systems. “Introducing EID and updating our handling system with weigh scales is on the cards and will enable us to monitor individual performance more carefully and fine tune where necessary, and overall further exploit our Charolais crosses genetic potential.”

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September 16, 2013 Saxon Charolais peak at 5,000gns


Martin and Sue Conley

Charolais sold to a top of 5,000gns in Sedgemoor on Thursday 12 September when the Conley family, Martin, Susan and Christopher dispersed their pedigree Saxon herd.

Sale leader at 5,000gns was Saxon Etigny, the herd’s four year old stock bull by the homebred Saxon Travel who goes back to PtiPrince. The buyer was J Courtier, Whiddon Down, Okehampton.

Heading the female trade at 2,800gns was the French bred Saxon Cocarde, a six year old Uranus daughter offered with her five month old bull Saxon Indre, by Etigny. The pair was knocked down sold to M Vooght, Northview, Okehampton.

Next at 2,750gns was Saxon Colleen, a six year old Diabolo daughter offered with her eight month old bull, Saxon Indurain, by Indurain. The pair went home with Martin Donaghy, Dungannon, along with three other cow and calf lots. They included at 2,200gns the seven year old Balbithan Bonbon by Farleycopse Telemarque with her eight month old bull Saxon Igny, by Indurain.

Mr Donaghy also went to 2,000gns for Saxon Faune, a three year old Saxon Admiral daughter sold with her seven month old bull, Saxon Indigo by Saxon Travel.

A bid of 2,100gns secured the six year old Saxon Amiral daughter, Saxon Crème for MJ Clifford and Son, Moretonhampstead. She was accompanied by Saxon Icecream, her nine month old heifer by Saxon Asterix.

The day’s second 2,000gns call came from DP and B Smith and Son, Dingestow, Monmouth for Saxon Bijou, a seven year old MMB Apollon daughter sold with her five month old heifer calf, Saxon Isis by Saxon Etigny.

Auctioneers: Greenslade Taylor Hunt

Christopher Conley and James Vooght put the 5,000gns Saxon Etigny through the sale ring

Christopher Conley and James Vooght put the 5,000gns Saxon Etigny through the sale ring



The Top priced cow Saxon Cocarde and her bull calf sold for 2,800gns

The Top priced cow Saxon Cocarde and her bull calf sold for 2,800gns


September 10, 2013 Trefonnen Charolais Dispersal Sale 7th November 2013

Dispersal Sale at Welshpool 7th November 2013

Whole herd including:


Trefonnen Veronica

Dam of Trefonnen Crouch
Sold to Brampton Herd where he bred Fugitive who was Intermediate Champion at Stirling selling at 14,000gns


Trefonnen Violet and heifer calf (not shown)

Dam of Trefonnen Foynavon
Reserve Champion Welshpool 2011
Full sister to Trefonnen Evasion and Bollinger bull calf


Trefonnen Utopia

Dam of Royal Welsh Female Champion
Two daughters of Utopia also selling –
Trefonnen Gigi by Doonally New
Trefonnen Imogen by Maerdy Rock

Gaenor and Roy Hughes

Ty Canol, Trefonnen, Oswestry, Shropshire SY10 9EB Tel: 01691 652 370

The herd can be visited at any time prior to the sale
Catalogues from Welshpool Livestock Auctions (when available) 01938 553 438



September 4, 2013 Searching for a sustainable suckler strategy?

Charolais + Beef Shorthorn cross to maximise output

Malcolm13 1

What does it take for a sustainable future for a suckler cow enterprise? According to SAC beef specialist Ian Pritchard, the answer lies in maximising output per unit of her body weight. That means accurately matching cow type to environmental conditions before selecting the correct terminal sire to drive profits with minimal inputs.

“Suckler keepers need to evaluate the cow type they keep and check that they are ‘pulling their weight’; there is no room for passengers,” he said.

Mr Pritchard judged the Morrisons Beef Shorthorn Suckler Herd of the Year Award 2012 and found among his finalists Iain and Sarah Malcolm, who he says were farming an exemplary herd by maximising output from their own resources complemented by huge attention to detail.

The Malcolm’s Callander, Perthshire based Beef Shorthorn cross herd achieved a minimum rearing percentage of 91%, a tight bulling period of eight weeks with 100% calving outdoors on target and 74% within the first three weeks. In addition, calves were reared to a profitable sale weight with a daily liveweight gain of 1.2kg per day from milk and grass alone, creep was introduced in the last fortnight before weaning at six months. “In a difficult year like 2012, performance had to be good – this farm, as usual, had to sell all of the calves shortly after weaning.” Steers averaged 275kg and £620, and heifers, 265kg and £580, and were within the top 10% through Stirling and Oban markets.

Mr Malcolm together with his wife Sarah and sons, Angus and Jack, runs the 2,700 acre hill unit at Cromlix and Coilechat, incorporating a 170 cow commercial herd, the majority of which Beef Shorthorn cross Highland, with over 50% put to the Charolais terminal sire. Mr Malcolm explained: “Historically we have retained homebred Beef Shorthorn cross heifers, but recently changed policy to buying in replacements in order to introduce the best of the breed’s maternal traits that maximise margins on the less favoured grazing. We certainly don’t keep them for fun, they have to be commercial and pay their way.”

The ability to efficiently convert grass thereby minimising concentrates input is crucial to a successful suckler strategy, explained Mr Pritchard: “Cows need to forage well, utilising variable quality forage, and putting condition on in the summer months to take them through the winter.” The Malcolm’s unit is exemplary. Mr Malcolm said: “The sucklers form a grazing rotation alongside our complementary flock of 1,000 ewes to make the most of the poorer grassland, staying on the in-by from calving until weaning in mid-September. Come November, they go back up to the hill ground. We don’t grow any forage crops or feed hay, with cows outwintering on hill grazing supplemented with an average 490kg per head of bought in concentrate rolls. They come down on to in-by to calve from mid-March.”

The herd’s all year round foraging ability has also brought massive savings to the Malcolm’s fixed costs. Machinery and equipment and subsequent depreciation costs have been minimised to one 80hp tractor, grass topper, lime spreader, direct drill, post driver and three quad bikes. Outwintering the herd means no investment in accommodation has been required.

As well as selecting Beef Shorthorn cross heifers for key maternal traits, Mr Malcolm maintains that using estimated breeding values (EBVs) to choose high performing continental terminal sires is essential to seeing returns. “We select Charolais bulls for calving ease first and foremost, coupled with the visuals of length, height and a rangey frame to produce larger framed, shapely calves out of our compact cows that are fast growing and with unbeatable weight for age.”

Maintaining herd health also features in the strategy. Outwintering helps to improve overall status and the herd is currently tested BVD and is Johne’s free. Cows average eight crops of calves before they are moved on. “I’m confident that we could keep them for longer if this wasn’t such an extensive unit.”

• The Malcolm family is hosting an open day on 13 September organised by the Beef Shorthorn Society, British Charolais Cattle Society, Highland Cattle Society, NFUS and SRUC.

Malcolm13 6 vista

Malcolm13 8 cow with two calves

Beef Shorthorn cross Highland suckler cows with
Charolais cross calves at Cromlix.