The Burytown Herd owned by David and Nikky Field from Blunsdon, Wiltshire has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most Improved Herd of Simmental cattle for 2011. The award is presented by the EBLEX Beef Better Returns Programme (Beef BRP) to the recorded herd that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial traits over a 12-month period. There is a separate award for each of ten UK breeds.
The Fields took on the tenancy of the 202ha (500 acre) Burytown Farm in 1997 on behalf of Nikky’s parents, who bought the farm on their retirement. The land now carries 61ha (150 acres) of arable including winter wheat and barley, with the remainder split between grazing, silage and hay.
Initially they ran 40 commercial suckler cows mated with a Simmental bull, and 600 ewes for lamb production. When the decision was made to start a pedigree herd in 2007, the Simmental breed was the obvious choice.
“David had managed a Simmental herd in the past, and we were always impressed with the calves produced from the commercial cows,” says Mrs Field. “We wanted a breed that does well on grass with little supplementation. And with their finishing ability and quiet nature, we felt this breed gave us everything we could want.”
The herd was established with 55 heifers purchased from Perth and Carlisle sales in 2007/08, selected for depth, length and locomotion. Numbers have now risen to 65 cows and the diverse genetic base of the foundation animals has provided the opportunity to capitalise on a wide range of breeding lines and traits.
“Having worked in the pig industry we know the benefits of running breeding programmes based on figures and knowledge,” Mr Field explains.
“Buying in and managing 55 heifers has had its trials, but three calvings later we are starting to see the results of our labours. We rely heavily on Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) when selecting bulls and female replacements.
“We performance record everything, and only keep high index animals that have good EBVs for easy calving and fast growth rates. Anything not up to the mark is finished for slaughter. We definitely see this as the way forward for the herd.”
Two stock bulls were purchased to introduce new genetics to the herd, Dirnanean Typhoon from the Perth sales in 2008 and Corskie Radium bought privately in 2009. Both bulls have delivered excellent calves, and Typhoon’s semen is also being sold worldwide.
Corskie Wham, a second bull bought in 2009, has a Milk Value of +11, Terminal Production Index of +34 and a Self Replacing Index of +43, putting him in the top 1% for the breed. He moves well and has a gentle temperament and is proving to be fertile and easy-calving. His first calves show real promise.
Wham has since been joined by Beanhill Warrior who has a Terminal Production Index of +33 and a Self Replacing Index of +39, which also places him in the top 1% for the breed.
Burytown Atlas, a Typhoon son, has been retained as a junior stock bull and has a Terminal Index in the top 5% and Self Replacing Index in the top 10%. He has particularly good conformation and temperament, and is also doing well in the show ring.
Showing is seen as an important tool for promoting the herd, and is a real family affair, with daughter Hannah and son Jamie taking an active part.
“We think this is the best way for potential customers to see our stock, and we have been quite successful considering how young the herd is,” says Mr Field. “Nearly all the females bred have been sold for breeding either privately or through the Perth or Bristol Sales.”
Worthy winners “The Fields have done an incredible job with the Burytown herd in a very short space of time,” says EBLEX breeding specialist Samuel Boon.
“Their focus on providing top quality breeding stock that produces commercially desirable progeny is to be commended. Basing all breeding decisions on records and information to make sure the herd progresses in the right direction, is certainly reaping dividends for them.”