The Rawburn Aberdeen-Angus Herd at Roxburgh Mains, Kelso is set to be visited by an array of global delegates on 27th June during the Scottish Tour of the World Angus Forum. John Elliot owns the herd along with his wife Joan, son John and wife Cheryl, and we’ve been speaking to him ahead of the visit to learn a bit more about the herd.
Although the Rawburn herd was established in 1972 it wasn’t until John travelled to North America on a Nuffield Scholarship in 1982 that the herd gained real direction. “Performance recording was in its infancy and didn’t exist in the UK. Then and now it is such an obvious thing to do. Our early and wholehearted adoption of weight recording and the use of only the highest performing bulls and cows has paid off time and again. The concept that we should breed off animals which are born easily, grow fast and make a premium at market remains as basic now as it did then. Add a milky, docile, fertile and long-lived cow and success is guaranteed.”
Such innovation in performance recording contributed greatly to John being awarded The Sir William Young Award for his outstanding contribution to animal breeding in Scotland from the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society.
The Rawburn Herd is now widely recognised as one of the highest performance Aberdeen-Angus herds in the United Kingdom, with around 200 Aberdeen-Angus females mated annually. For the past 30 years, the programme has been built around breeding for commercial excellence. The programme is committed to breeding and sourcing the very best genetics, both domestic and foreign, to continue meeting the goals of the Rawburn herd and that of its customers.
We spoke to John about what delegates can expect when they visit the Rawburn Herd on 27th June:
‘’We can’t wait to welcome the delegates to the farm and have the chance to show them our operation. The visit will focus on the commercial excellence of the herd. Visitors will see the breeding herd including 24-month-old calved heifers and many of the yearling bulls that the herd sell annually for breeding.’’
Speaking further about their operation, John adds:
‘’Our Cow herd calves in a tight 2 ½ month period and all cows are expected to raise a calf annually. The herd currently includes 9 of the top 10 Terminal Index females in the UK. Maternal traits are no less impressive, having 8 of the top 10 cows in the UK for Self-Replacing Index. All calves are weighed at birth and accurately recorded for calving ease. A large emphasis is put on calving ability and the calf’s vigour at birth.’’
‘’The calves do not receive any creep feed until six months old to allow accurate assessment of the dams milking ability. Post weaning, the bulls are kept in large contemporary performance recording groups and weighed every 60 days. At 400 days-old, the bulls are ultrasonically scanned to assess body composition. The majority of the bulls are sold for breeding with customers given all relevant information to allow them to select a bull that suits their individual herd’s needs.’’
The efficiency and quality of the Rawburn operation is further highlighted by the fact that, for all male calves born in the UK in 2016, the Rawburn Herd bred 8 of the top 10 for Terminal Index, and 6 of the top 10 for Self-Replacing Index.
The herd also uses AI and Embryo Transfer to gain access to some of the best genetics worldwide. Currently, the herd owns 11 donor females in North America that are used to supply embryos for the herd in Scotland. Alongside the 200 Aberdeen-Angus females the herd runs 90 recipient females that raise embryo calves from the international donors and from cows identified within the Rawburn Herd of high genetic merit.
With delegates, undoubtedly very excited to visit and learn more about the herd, John was kind enough to let us know some of the impressive animals that will be showcased during the visit:
Rawburn Joy Erica L342: Highest Terminal & Self-Replacing female in the UK
Rawburn Dublin: Highest Terminal Index Sire in the UK
Rawburn Joe Eric S249: Highest Self-Replacing bull born in 2016
Rawburn Louisiana S265 : Highest Terminal Index bull born in the UK in 2016
Rawburn Dingo S263: Highest Eye Muscle Area bull born in the UK in 2016
Balmachie Jack Eric R206: Highest priced bull at Stirling Feb 2017 (18,000gns)
The Society would like to thank John for taking the time to give us an insight into the Rawburn Herd prior to the visit tomorrow (27th June). We can’t wait to visit the farm and learn even more on what will, without doubt, be a great part of the Scottish national tour.