How a beef farmer simplified herd administration utilizing genetics

With a job off-farm and a small pool of accessible labour, breeding “hands-free” cattle is a key precedence for third-generation farmer Adam Quinney.

Reins Farm, close to Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, contains 150ha (370 acres) made up of a number of tenancies.

It is house to a 100-head suckler herd and a flock of 120 Easycare sheep, all managed by Mr Quinney and his spouse, Sarah.

See additionally: 9 methods a farm is lifting beef cow effectivity

Farm info

Reins Farm, Sambourne, Warwickshire

  • 150ha (370 acres) of grassland made up of a number of tenancies
  • 100 Salers cross Aberdeen Angus suckler cows, plus 120 Easycare sheep
  • Breeding personal replacements
  • Young bulls purchased from the identical supply for the previous 10 years
  • Cattle completed 22-24 months, averaging 350kg deadweight, processed by ABP

The objective of the enterprise is to make herd administration as easy and environment friendly as doable, whereas sustaining wholesome margins.

To attain this, 10 years in the past Mr Quinney launched Aberdeen Angus genetics to his then predominantly Salers herd.

“While our Salers had been extraordinarily good moms and really milky, there’s nothing like placing a little bit of hybrid vigour into your herd.

“The thought of getting Angus within the cows was to offer them a bit bit extra cowl than the Salers have and to make them polled as a result of that was simply one other job to do,” explains Mr Quinney.

Alongside this, it was hoped the introduction of those genetics would enhance mothering and calving capability to attain that “hands-free” standing he’s aiming for.

Herd targets

With greater than half of his complete prices attributed to overheads, having an animal that requires little labour enter or expensive administration is essential for sustaining margins.

“We try to verify once we are spending something that there’s a good charge of return. It’s all about farming the margin for us – moderately than complete output of the animal.”

Mr Quinney says together with Angus genetics inside the herd helps him meet three key targets:

  • Minimal/no help throughout calving
  • Breeding cows that rear their youngstock nicely
  • Progeny that grows and finishes nicely on grass-based diets to scale back reliance on inputs.

Breeding technique

Achieving these targets begins with breeding. The goal of the breeding technique is to finish up with a cow that’s three-quarters Salers and one-quarter Angus.

The cow is then put again to the Angus as a terminal sire, with the Angus genetics bringing good fertility and development.

Estimated breeding values (EBVs) are a core a part of the choice technique. Bulls are chosen at 15 months previous from a single supply – which has remained the one supply over the previous 10 years, explains Mr Quinney.

“With all EBVs, it’s about trying on the animal after which trying on the EBVs along with this. But primarily, we’re deciding on for calving ease, fertility, robustness of the animal – good toes and so forth – in addition to efficiency all through its lifetime.

“Maternal traits such pretty much as good teat placement are additionally vital. On the terminal facet, it’s once more about calving ease and lifelong efficiency, in addition to attaining a smart dimension of carcass.

“We’re not going for an excessive form, only a good R4L animal.”

Adam Quinney's beef herd

© MAG/Charlotte Cunningham

Fertility and calving

The advantages of the genetics and the shut consideration paid to the breeding technique imply the herd is attaining greater than 100 calves born to each 100 cows.

Over the previous 5 years, Mr Quinney has solely needed to help throughout calving twice – as soon as at a fancy twin beginning and a second time resulting from a cow with a useless calf. “We take into account it a failure if we’ve to calve a cow.”

He has additionally made adjustments to calving occasions. Over the previous 10 years, the herd has moved from conventional spring calving in February/March to calving in June and July.

“I work off farm fairly a bit, so I needed to have the great early mornings in order that I may stroll round and verify the cows after which go off farm.

“It makes administration simpler, but in addition signifies that once we flip cows out within the spring, all of them exit on the identical day as one block.”

Feeding and rearing

The food regimen is grass-based. Traditional rotational grazing is a problem as a result of the grassland is made up of a number of parcels of land. To get spherical this, cattle are set stocked however rotated in paddocks inside these areas.

The Angus’s capability to develop nicely on this grass is vastly advantageous because it reduces reliance on concentrates. This protects the enterprise in opposition to rising, risky enter prices, says Mr Quinney.

Over the summer season when cows are outdoors, they’re attaining 1kg/day each day liveweight achieve (DLWG). During the winter, cattle are housed and ate up largely home-grown, high-quality forage.

This is typically combined with co-products similar to brewers’ grain, however the capability of the genetics to do nicely on this forage means he’s attaining DLWG of about 2kg/day through the winter months.

Mr Quinney says purple clover in silage leys additionally has helped cut back reliance on fertilisers. And lucerne, now being grown as a part of the rotation, is proving to be a extra resilient species in occasions of drought – which means cows usually tend to have one thing to graze year-round. This was confirmed this yr when grass died off and lucerne stored rising – regardless of the drought.

“While it doesn’t yield as a lot [for silage], we will take extra cuts. So, whereas our slicing prices are extra, the dry matter [DM] yield will get as much as about 10-11t/ha of good-quality feed.”

The results of that is development from home-grown feedstuffs and fewer reliance on, and want for, bought-in feed. This means the enterprise is much less uncovered to volatility of enter costs, he provides.

But even with the very best genetics, good administration is key to efficiency, says Mr Quinney.

“There’s an previous saying that half the genetics are in a bucket of feed. Genetics are a long-term achieve, so to get them to precise that, the administration needs to be proper.”

Finishing

All cattle are completed by 24 months. “We begin to kill at 21 months, with the bulk going by 22 months,” he says.

Cattle are offered deadweight to ABP with steer carcass weights averaging 350-360kg, and the heifers about 320kg.

While pushing the ending age nearer to 18 months may be doable if cows calved nearer to March, and would cut back prices and administration enter additional, Mr Quinney says it is a system that works nicely for them now.

“As we tweak the rations, and I’m at house extra now, I believe that age will begin to drop. The genetics are there. But we’ve received a option to go but.”

Data evaluation

Record-keeping and “number-crunching” are key to making sure genetic development and type the idea of the substitute coverage, says Adam Quinney.

“In essence, we wish to ensure we’re not breeding from our worst cows.”

He seems at a number of efficiency indicators, together with 200-day weight, which is essential, he says. But this isn’t checked out in isolation, and efficiency inside peer teams can also be thought-about.

“We have a look at the very best inside first-time calvers and the very best inside our cows. This is as a result of a few of these first-time calvers is not going to carry out as nicely of their first yr as a cow in its fourth lactation, for instance.

“But, they might be outperforming all of their friends – and [they are] those chances are you’ll wish to preserve.”

Historic efficiency information can also be vital, with a deal with protecting and deciding on heifers from the highest quartile of persistently high-performing cows.

“The extra information we’ve received, the stronger that proof is.”

With footpaths working by means of about 70% of the farm, docility is essential to Mr Quinney. “If you stroll right into a area and she or he lifts her head, we don’t need her.”

He provides that he has additionally seen anecdotal proof inside his herd to indicate that docile cows have a greater each day liveweight achieve, strengthening the argument for the significance of this trait.