The Pottage herd, owned by Richard & Penny Mortimore from West Sussex, has been recognised by AHDB Beef & Lamb as the most progressive herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle based on the herd’s genetic merit and improvement in 2017.
“About five years ago we decided to reduce cow numbers, as we personally (as well as some cows!) had passed retirement age, and develop a smaller herd for mainly pedigree breeding rather than beef production,” says Mr Mortimore.
“We selected the home cows we wanted and also bought in a strong line of cows from two main disease-free sources.”
Mr Mortimore began blood testing the cattle using Biobest to gain higher health certification, and the herd currently qualify as Johne’s level 1 and BVD free. Mr Mortimore says: “In addition, calves are batch tested, and pre-sale breeding animals are tested for Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis (IBR) and Leptospirosis. Young bulls are semen tested to check fertility.”
The next step was to get a bull and Mr Mortimore bought an Aberdeen Angus bull in the top one per cent from the Rawburn herd. “Along with using semen stored in our own tank via artificial insemination (AI), we were able to birth calves from as many six different bulls each year.”
Today the herd is smaller, with about 30 females. “Our cows birth calves with excellent phenotypes and higher estimated breeding values (EBVs) ranging from 45 to 55. These will be our main breeding stock going forward. The older cows will be sold, so as not to grow the herd size, but maintain our developed blood lines, which is a mixture of Scottish, Canadian and American types.”
“Over the last 20 years, I have used both the ABRI and the Signet cattle breeding evaluation schemes. Cattle and breeding data collected over many generations are a very useful planning tool. Figures do not select animals, but they can offer excellent guidance in trait management. I firmly believe the EBV figures have assisted the development of our herd.”
Mr Mortimore has started to use embryo transfer with Bovine Genetics to form a small Red Aberdeen Angus herd from Lazy MC and Ter-Ron Canadian stock.
“It is our intention to use a good red bull, along with AI, to establish a pattern of heterozygous Black AA females from existing high-grade black females on which we can use top Red bulls to gain a wider genetic base for our herd.”
“I was astonished to hear that I won an award for anything, let alone being recognised by AHDB Beef & Lamb as the most progressive herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle. It is pleasing to know that the efforts and investments involved in the system is bringing real gain to our pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows”