Great breeding of Charolais pays dividends

July 2, 2020

The Goldies’ commitment to Charolais has paid off with success at an online auction. Jennifer MacKenzie, from The Northern Farmer reports.

IAN Goldie’s longstanding commitment to the commercial values of the Charolais as a terminal sire paid off in one of the online May pedigree beef sales organised by Harrison & Hetherington to market livestock under the coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

Ian and his wife Dorothy’s Solwayfirth herd topped the sale of 19 pedigree Charolais bulls and four females on May 1 at £10,000 with their 18-month old home-bred bull. They sold three other bulls to average £5,525 for four.

All were by stock bull Glenericht Majestic, which is leaving his mark on the Solwayfirth herd that makes up a total of 170 cattle with the Charolais the uppermost influence at neighbouring farms Greenfield, Cummertrees Annan and The Aiket, Ruthwell.

Ian and Dorothy, who is also secretary of the Galloway Cattle Society, have always had a keen interest in breeding cattle. The farm’s only sheep is the small flock of 19 Cheviot Mules put to Texel and Beltex tups run by their daughters Heather, 12, and Grace eight, along with some wintering sheep.

Their November 2018-born Solwayfirth Oneal was purchased by pedigree breeders John Wight and Sons, of Biggar, Lanarkshire. The bull is the first to be sold by the 11,500gns Glenericht Majestic, which has so far produced over 40 progeny for the Solwayfirth herd since his purchase for 11,500gns at Stirling in October 2017.

The Goldies bought the May 2016 born Majestic from father and son Peter and Alan Drysdale, of Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

Glenericht Majestic, sired by the 12,000gns Caylers Gladiator, is bred out of the Royal Highland Show class winner Glenericht Gem, which goes back to the 16,000gns Stirling junior champion and Caithness show supreme champion, Clyth Diplomat.Majestic also carries two copies of the F94Lgene, only three per cent of Charolais bulls carry this gene.

In April this year, Glenericht Oasis, full brother to Glenericht Majestic, was overall champion at Stirling and made the joint top price of 25,000gns for the Drysdales.

Ian said: “I’m delighted with our trade and really pleased that H&H set up this new online system so quickly. I feel that we would never have achieved a price of £10,000 in the current situation without it. These are the first four sons of Majestic which we have sold and hopefully, there will be some more for sale in February.”

Oneal’s dam is Solwayfirth Ingrid, a daughter of the Perth (May sale) supreme champion Blackford Samson who was used mainly on the commercial cows.
Oneal has some impressive figures with a calving index of +8.9 putting him in the top 15% of the breed. A terminal index of +63 and self replacing index of +60, placing him in the top ten per cent of the breed and a copy of both the F94L and Q204X myostatin genes in his DNA.

The Goldies selected Glenericht Majestic for his ease of calving figures as well as his conformation and breed character he has already had a big impact on the Solwayfirth herd.
Ian’s family has been Charolais enthusiasts since the 1960s, importing among the first cattle to the UK from France.

When Ian left school in 1982 he took over the running of the Longbridgemuir Charolais herd from his father David and he began farming on his own in the early 1990s.
Ian and Dorothy farm 280 acres between the two holdings, running 30 pedigree cows in the Solwayfirth herd.

They lost all their 80 pedigree Charolais and their flock of 400 Half bred ewes in the foot and mouth epidemic in 2001. They began re-building the newly named Solwayfirth Charolais herd as soon as they were able to with purchases from Moyness and Ugie in the north of Scotland and Brampton and Bassett in North Yorkshire.
The herd has been closed since 2012 when three in calf heifers were purchased from the Caithness herd. Oneal’s dam, Solwayfirth Ingrid, goes back to one of the original Brampton cows, Tanya. Ingrid’s last bull calf is used on the commercial cows at home.

Pedigree Charolais numbers are now at their optimum of 30 breeding females, which calve in the spring and autumn to catch the trade at the February, May and October sales for home bred bulls.
So far to date the top price received for a bull was 11,000gns when Solwayfirth Union was sold to the Thrunton herd. The best average was obtained in February 2012 when six bulls were sold to average £7,083 and recently four bulls sold in Carlisle in May 2018 to average £5,125.

In the show ring the Goldies compete at the Highland Show and some local shows with the best achievement winning the beef interbreed at Dumfries show after 18 years of trying with Solwayfirth Hannibal, a Balmyle Vendetta son, which was subsequently used on both pure and commercial cows.
Another highlight was Solwayfirth Abbi, a Maerdy Restful daughter out of Basset Tilly, being first at the Highland in 2006 and junior female champion at the Scottish and Northern National Show at the Cumberland Show.

Uppermost is the Charolais breed’s commercial values of easy fleshing and weight for age but the Goldies are now also concentrating on breeding easy calving genetics accompanied by figures as most buyers look at the calving data before looking at the bulls, although Ian is not a big fan of calving figures, as he feels they are not accurate enough!
As well as selecting bulls with good calving ease figures, all the herd’s pure-bred heifers have been pelvic-scanned by the farm’s vet to detect any potential problem breeders.
The in-calf cows are fed a TMR which includes up to 4 kilos of ground straw (depending on the silage analysis) to prevent them putting on too much condition pre-calving.
“We’re trying to breed easy calving cattle that are fast-growing and good fleshing animals. Bulls are fed a TMR ration aiming for 1.5kilos dlwg. We also try to breed bulls that are correct with good breed character,” said Ian.

The proof of the Charolais lies with the Goldies’ herd of 140 commercial suckler herd which the pedigrees run alongside.These calf outside from April 15 for nine weeks.
“The commercial cows are the main enterprise. The Charolais were a hobby to start with but they have to pay their way. We don’t carry any passengers,” said Ian.
The suckler herd has changed in recent years but the Charolais still plays a major influence. At one time Limousin cross heifers were bought in with calves at foot for what was a flying herd, but due to high replacement rates in these heifers all replacements are now home-bred.

There are now 40 home-bred Charolais cross cows in the herd which are put to the Beef Shorthorn bull and the best females are kept as herd replacements. These are bulled with a Saler bull to calve at two years old. The Goldies have found the steer calves off these Charolais cross cows cows perform nearly as well as the Charolais crosses out of the Limousin cross cows.

“We’re trying to get away from the dairy influence in the suckler cows. We like the Saler and the Shorthorn crosses which are then put to the Charolais terminal sire. I am just myself 99 per cent of the time on the farm so I need lower-input, easily managed cows,” said Ian.
Steer calves and heifers not retained as herd replacements are currently sold store at 10-12 months old weighing around 380 to 400kg through H&H’s Lockerbie mart. The last batch of 30 Charolais cross steers at 413kg averaged out at £974 to a top of £1,065.
Depending upon the store trade in the future, Ian is considering keeping males entire and selling as bull beef.

The Goldies aim to be as self-sufficient as possible even with the current stocking levels. Between 50 and 60 acres of wheat and barley are grown,split between spring and winter crops, combined and urea-treated for home use.

Greenfield is in a good grass-growing area close to the Solway Estuary and silage is taken off 90 acres for first cut in the second week of June, weather permitting, with up to 60 acres for second cut.

Article and all photos supplied by The Northern Farmer

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