With the increasing need for cattle which
finish quickly and where necessary off grass, the Davies
family have found that the Simmental is ideal for their organic
grass fed system but will also adapt to the more intensive
rearing of bull beef. Anthony Davies, farms a mixed arable
and dairy unit with his other two partners, Harry and Lesley
at Milton Manor Farm, Milton Tenby near the south west coast
of Wales in Pembrokeshire.
The farm runs to 260 hectares,
which is mostly down to grass with 60 hectares of arable
surrounded by another 16 acres of woodland. The farm changed
over to Organic in 2000 but had been moving in that direction
for some time previously. “We were looking to farm
in balance with nature, says Anthony, in order to exploit
the farm’s natural resources as much as possible.” The
clover already on the farm gives all of the nitrogen necessary
to provide the quality feed and the cattle in turn provide
enough manure, to grow both arable and forage crops.
family have had pedigree Simmental cattle since 1987 and
run a pedigree herd of 20 cows, which are spring/autumn calvers.
Their current stock bull is Welston Perry, who is a home
bred bull out of a home bred cow and is sired by Dirnanean
Jacob. They also use AI and have recently been using, Derwentwood
Nero, Camus Brandy and Agardsley Elgar. The best bulls from
the herd are sold for breeding, with the rest being fattened
and sold deadweight to ABP killing in the R3 to R4L range.
of the stock, both pedigree and commercial are fed on Organic
leys with a base of Red/White clover and stubble turnips.
Silage is made on farm with a self loading wagon and the
cattle are finished on the silage and stubble turnips. “The
fact that the Simmentals are easy to handle and grow quickly
on forage and grass makes them ideal for our system.” says
Anthony. We find them to be easy to adapt to a more intensive
system and with the cost of feed, it is important that we
keep a close eye on our overheads. With more technology becoming
available in DNA work for marbling and meat tenderness, Anthony
feels that this would be an appropriate way forward for many
breeders in the future. He also feels that farmers should
use EBV’s to their advantage, with the information
available on easy calving in particular. The use of bulls
whose progeny finishes quickly, will also become more important.
The biggest current advantage to using Simmental in the present
market is their easy handling and ability to produce plenty
of milk. All of these things are taken into account when
buying a stock bull, with particular attention being paid
to calving figures and growth rates by EBV and sight choice
on good confirmation and locomotion.
The family also make
the most of the milking ability of the Simmental in their
190 dairy cows. The cows are mostly Holstein Freisian Cross
with 40 Montbeliarde and 10 Holstein Cross Simmental. The
aim is to improve the longevity and fertility in the herd
and to increase the calf value to compensate for slightly
less milk production. It is worth noting that Holstein bull
calves do not command an organic premium. Despite lower yields,
the Simmental cross has a higher fat and protein content
which makes up some of the shortfall with 20 – 25%
higher longevity and calf value making up the rest.