Steven Crabtree is among an increasing number of commercial producers who are returning to Charolais. How come? Quite simply, he is finding that modern British Charolais is able to deliver more kilos per cow and subsequently higher returns to the family’s 120 cow suckler herd.
Swapping other Continental terminal sire breeds for Charolais is increasing output by an average 70kg per eight month old weaned calf, which will equate to approximately £160.00 per head.
“We are currently in year three of using Charolais. We had been under the illusion that producing high value show calves was the way forward, however the herd was experiencing too many caesareans which had a subsequent impact on cow health, welfare and overall margins, and after five or six years we came to the conclusion it was not a sustainable system,” Mr Crabtree explains.
“We decided to return to a solid commercial strategy featuring high growth rates in order to maximise the number of kilos per cow managed on a forage based diet. We agreed Charolais was the breed to introduce and we selected our first bull on ease of calving and growth rate EBVs.
“At the time, I didn’t have a lot of faith in EBVs, however our son, Simon indicated they were the way forward in helping to select more accurately for specific traits, and I’ve got to admit that I’m now sold on the idea. Our second Charolais bull purchased this year was selected within the breed’s top 1% for key performance traits.
“To establish what levels of performance are being achieved, we’re measuring growth rates at weaning, and at slaughter or despatch from the unit. It’s becoming an essential jobt that fits in to the busy workload.”
The Crabtrees wean the entire crop of calves at eight months; Charolais cross
bulls are averaging 370kg and taken through to finishing at 12 months to average 350kg deadweight and within the required specification, whilst the heifers are averaging 320kg at weaning. Last season they were retained on the unit for two months before selling privately to a finisher. Eventual plans are to finish the heifers to 340kg target deadweight within 20 months.
“At weaning our Charolais cross calves are consistently averaging an extra 70kgs liveweight per head over our other same age Continental cross calves, which has prompted me to question the key to profitability. I’d previously held on to the fact it was determined by conformation, fat class and so on, however breeding and rearing Charolais cross cattle has prompted me to revise profitability as being heavily influenced by number of days to slaughter. We are also great believers in using as a benchmark, calf weight at weaning which should be 60% of mature cow body weight.
“Our crops of Charolais cross calves are hitting target weights quicker proving they have faster feed conversion rates, and a faster turnover means a better cash flow accompanied by reduced inputs – both fixed and variable,” he says adding “We have tried all manner of breeds in the past, however we now feel much better placed with Charolais than any other breed.”
|Fact fileSteven and Ann CrabtreeBolton Abbey Park Farm, Bolton Abbey, Skipton
750 acre LFA unit
120 Continental cross suckler cows
The British Charolais Cattle Society has launched a new system that identifies and rates the quality and quantity of performance information recorded with Breedplan by individual herds on a one to five star basis. Called the Completeness of Performance, the system in turn helps to underpin EBV accuracy.
A herd’s star rating is calculated on the proportion of calves within the herd born in a rolling five year period that have performance recorded for each of Charolais’ 15 EBV traits. Each Breedplan recording herd is subsequently awarded a star rating on a 0 to 5 scale, including half stars, that summarises the relative ‘completeness’ of its performance information.
“Charolais is pleased to be the first Continental breed society in Britain to adopt the new Breedplan star rating system,” comments BCCS chairman, Alasdair Houston. “Completeness of Performance will provide both seedstock and commercial producers with an assessment of how much performance data has been submitted to Breedplan by a herd. The star rating will subsequently improve Breedplan’s EBV accuracy values which provide an indication of the reliability of an individual animal’s EBVs.”
He adds: “We hope that the system will encourage more BCCS members to record their animals, both bulls and heifers which will contribute to improving Breedplan’s EBV accuracy and in turn, will give breeders more information about the genetics within their herds.”
April 28, 2014 Ballymena Charolais peak at 3,500gns twice
Charolais sold to a top of 3,500gns twice at the breed’s Northern Ireland Club sale which featured a small entry of 11 bulls forward in Ballymena on Friday 25 April.
First through the ring at 3,500gns was Ballyreagh Hero, a 22 month old Mogador son bred by S Somerville and offered by Patrick Grue, Lisnaskea, Fermanagh. The buyer was JH Fraser, Glencairn, Belfast.
Next entry in the ring was another 22 month old from Mr Grue, this time the homebred Kilturk Hero, a Cottage Devon son making 3,000gns to John McKeague, Ballymena, Antrim.
The day’s second leading 3,500gns call was made by David McClurkin, Ligoneil, Belfast for Aughafad Harry, an 18 month old Thrunton Voldemort son from RH Sinnamon, Pomery, Tyrone.
Next at 3,400gns was Coolnaslee Harold, a 17 month old by Corcreevy Dingle from Gilbert Crawford, Magherra, Derry. The buyer was TA Fenton, Ballymena.
Averages: eight bulls £2,756
Auctioneers: Ballymena Livestock Mart
April 28, 2014 Beef farmer proves value of using EBVs
April 24, 2014 Holsworthy Charolais peak at 4,400gns
Charolais sold to a top of 4,400gns in Holsworthy on Wednesday 23 April at the South West Charolais Association’s annual spring sale.
Sale leader at 4,400gns was Balbithan Fiji TI +15, SRI +6, a four year old by Newhouse Benson daughter sold with Balbithan Jamaica, her 10 week old bull by Loganbar Goran. Bred by Mr and Mrs Andrew White, Worth Matravers, Dorchester and turned out by herdsperson, Jane Haw, Fiji was no stranger to the ring having secured various successes on the 2013 show circuit, including the interbreed exhibitor bred cow title at the Royal Cornwall. The pair was knocked down sold to Lisa Davey, Launceston.
Leading the bull trade at 3,400gns was Trenestrall Hike, a rising two year old from Will Palmer and Son, Ruan Highlanes, Truro. Sired by Harviestoun Flambeau, he went home with A Lee-Shute, Camworthywater, Launceston.
A bid of 2,900gns from Messrs McInerney, Exeter secured the two year old Bailea Highresolution by Bailea Ulysse from Brian Jones, Heol Senni, Brecon.
Two entries were sold for 2,700gns. First to go was Mr and Mrs Andrew White’s Balbithan Ivanhoe, a 14 month old by the 10,000gns Chunal Dougie to Rob Tucker, Tavistock. Minutes later, the 13 month old Polgoda Ivor TI +35, SRI +36 by Beanhill Fantastic commanded the second 2,700gns bid. Bred and exhibited by DR and B Stacey, Bugle, St Austell, he was knocked down sold to M and S Littlejohns, Okehampton, Devon.
A bid of 2,500 was made by W G Smythe and Son, Barnstaple for Marne Imperial, a 15 month old Goldstar Echo son from R Tremayne, Gweek, Helston
Beanhill Highlight TI +50, SRI +47, a 19 month old Blelack Digger son from RJ and BE Kimber,Christian Malford, Chippenham made 2,400gns to B and T Baker, Barnstaple, Devon.
Averages: 8 bulls £2,802