The Society will be holding an Open Day at Longford Farms in South Wiltshire on 4th July 2018, where attendees will get the chance to see the breed in full practice through the impressive suckler herd of three-quarter Aberdeen-Angus cross cattle present at Longford Farms. The event is open to everyone, regardless of whether you are an Aberdeen-Angus breeder or not – so make sure to head along! The schedule on the day will also be filled with a number of insightful and beneficial presentations and demonstrations from a selection of industry experts. Sessions on the day will include a scanning demonstration with Breedplan, a presentation on herd health from Keith Cutler of Endell Vet Group and presentation on the UK Beef Industry post-Brexit ‘Challenges & Opportunities’ from NFU President Minette Batters. The day will also involve live stock judging, a farm tour and much more. In the lead up to the event, we’ve heard from Robert Huxley, beef cattle manager at Longford, all about their operation.
The versatility and resilience of the Aberdeen-Angus breed are what makes it a perfect choice for the variable land at Longford Farms in South Wiltshire. Visitors to the Open Day will be able to see for themselves the impressive finishing figures achievable on this low-input system. Owned by the 9th Earl of Radnor, Longford Castle and its grounds have been in the possession of the same family since 1717. Longford Farms employs seven full time members of staff. For the past 14 years, the beef cattle have been managed by Robert Huxley, who oversees the 250-strong herd of Aberdeen-Angus crosses. He says that he runs a ‘basic and simple’ system, with as little inputs as possible, and for that to work profitably, the Aberdeen-Angus breed has proved the best possible choice.
“They were picked initially because of their docile natures and the fact that they are polled. Cattle here have to be able to withstand outwintering, which the Aberdeen-Angus do – everything is outwintered, even the bulls. We’ve also found them to be fleshy and easy to fatten and finish,” explains Robert.
This year, 200 cows and 50 heifers will go to the bull, so 11 Aberdeen-Angus bulls are needed at any one time. These days, they are all purchased from the Stirling bull sales.
Robert says: “I study the EBVs and health status of the bulls – particularly looking for high milk percentages and ease of calving – and narrow them down that way, before having a look at them.’’
Calving is spread over a three-month period from April to June, with the cows split into groups and a new batch calving every 10-14 days. This allows Robert to manage the herd almost single-handedly, only bringing in extra help when needed. Currently, he says conception rates are at 94% and only 2-3% of the cattle require assisted calvings. Survival rates are impressively high too – of the 180 that had calved by mid-May, Robert says he had lost only three calves.
Stores are sold at 15-16 months old, off farm if possible, with some going to Salisbury or Frome markets. Numbers are currently being built back up in the herd, so some heifers are kept for breeding. Robert has also started fattening around 50 heifers which are sold through Farm Mark at around 24-months of age, with an average deadweight of 350kg. Receiving no concentrates, these heifers are producing some remarkable finishing figures, which will be available to view at the Open Day.
“We outwinter at minimum cost, growing 230 acres of stubble turnips and 100 acres of forage rape, and the cattle are supplement fed on Rumevite blocks and straw, with free access to minerals. Only the bulls receive concentrates,” says Robert.
In line with the straightforward system, cattle handling is kept to a minimum, and when they are brought in, several jobs are done at once. They have a large handling system, which Robert says the cattle know and respect.
To see the results at Longford Farms for yourself, you can head along to the Open Day on 4th July which is free of charge. The event will run from 9.30am to 3.45pm and for further information and to allow for catering provision, please express your interest by contacting the Society directly at [email protected] or by calling 01738 622477.