Checking out beef cattle operations in the UK – Canadian Cattlemen

Posted: January 7, 2020 at 8:46 pm

Mike goes to ScotlandAttending the Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh, Scotland, was an opportunity to observe cattle and beef programs unique to the United Kingdom. Cattle tend to be taller, well-muscled with less marbling than Canadian cattle. But thats to be expected as they compete against cattle in the EU. Many heifers calve as three-year-olds, giving them more size before they calve. But a few cattle producers I spoke with were looking at calving their heifers at 2.5 years.The hospitality of the Scottish Simmental Society and all breeds I visited with was second to none. I noted that agriculture is very important to consumers in the U.K. They know what its like for food to be scarce, especially since the countrys experience during the last World War. There were no midways or carnivals at the Royal Highland Show but more urban crowds than what we would see here. They all wanted to know where their food came from and were actively engaged in learning more.

One of the exhibitors we visited with at the show was Neil McGowan of Incheoch Farm. Neil, along with his wife Debbie, son Angus and daughter Tally run Incheoch Farm near Alyth up in the Perthshire hills. I had initially met McGowan in the fall of 2018 when he and Debbie were touring cattle operations in Saskatchewan and Alberta looking for Canadian genetics that would work for their herd back in Scotland. McGowans travels also included Canadian Western Agribition and Farmfair International to see the latest genetics and arrange farm visits with Canadian seedstock producers.

Their farm runs 220 cows and 1,100 sheep. The cattle herd is made up of Simmental and Luing breeds. Luing is a native Scottish breed made up of Shorthorn and Simmental. They sell approximately 20 bulls and 100 rams in their Working Genes on-farm auction sale. The cattle at McGowans farm were impressive as they were well-muscled and the kind of cattle that would work well in Canada. McGowan has a passion for breeding better livestock as referenced by his paper Selection for Efficiency: Breeding Better Beef and Sheep. This paper was a report written as part of his Nuffield Farming Scholarship back in 2016. Part of McGowans research included looking at livestock operations in Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, Australia and parts of the U.K.

Some of McGowans key conclusions included having consistent breeding goals based on profitability, with feed efficiency also playing a part in the profitability equation. In the U.K. as in Canada fertility, longevity and cow size all play a role in improving efficiency.

McGowan family (l. to r.): Finlay, Neil, Debbie, Angus, Judy and Donna Asher.photo: Mike Millar

After a great day taking in a little Scottish mist and walking pastures sorting through a lot of very good cattle, I had the privilege of meeting McGowans parents Finlay and Judy McGowan. You could not ask for a more hospitable couple. Finlay told me about a Canadian bull, AWL Polar 8R, he purchased from Archie Londry in Manitoba. Finlay told me AWL Polar was one of the best bulls they had in their herd.

Archie Londry was breeding cattlemens cattle in the 80s when the rest of Canada was breeding for frame and the show ring, Finlay said. Last time he was in the U.K., Londry was asked his opinion on a cow who won a show a cow of at least a ton with a calf at foot. He said: Well, I guess her calf isnt going to fetch enough in the sale barn to see her through the winter.

I think in our search for progress we sometimes forget the basic principles, Finlay told me. A cow has to rear a decent calf every year one that will leave enough to see the cow through the next winter plus a bit of profit. Increasingly shes going to have to do that without much help, Finlay added.

Wise words from a wise man! Thank you, Finlay.

All in all, a great year to visit with beef producers across our great country and back in the country my grandfather came from. We raise the greatest beef in the world but theres always an opportunity to learn from beef producers the world over.

McKinley Hereford Ranch of Medicine Hat, Alta., won the Top Pen of 10 Hereford Steers at the 23rd Annual British Breed Rancher Calf Sale at Balog Auction Market, Lethbridge, Alta., on October 22. The Top Pen of 10 Crossbred Steers was awarded to Clark and Judy Tucker of Williams Lake, B.C. Norm and Diana Woods of Lac La Hache, B.C., won the Top Pen of 10 Black Angus Steers, and Bill and Travis Duncan of Warner, Alta., took the honours for the Top Pen of 10 Red Angus Steers.

The judging panel awarded the Top Liner Load to three outfits: Denver and Rod Bevans of Cardston, Alta.; Ken and Tyler Haraga of Skiff, Alta.; Brent and Kevin Smith of Champion, Alta.

The Gelbvieh National Junior Show was held in conjunction with the national Gelbvieh show at Farmfair International. It included events such as marketing, judging, photography and grooming done in a format that kids could participate in whether they were able to attend the show or not. Winning junior aggregate was Amber Spray and senior aggregate was Avary Hickman. Congratulations ladies! Thank you to the Canadian Gelbvieh Association, the Man./Sask. Gelbvieh Association, and the Alta./B.C. Gelbvieh Associations for their sponsorship of the event. Congratulations to the following champion exhibitors at the CGA National Gelbvieh show at Farmfair:

Avary Hickman being presented with her buckle by Jessica Pearson.photo: Supplied

The 2018 winners of the Hereford Champion of the World, sponsored by Champion of the World Genetics and Marketing, were recently announced at Farmfair International in Edmonton. The 7th annual competition featured 1,000 champion bulls and females from 77 countries and represented 16 breeds of beef cattle.

The 2018 Hereford Miss World winner was RVP 106A CAMEO GIRL 45C, and is owned by Glenlees Polled Herefords of Arcola, Sask. She qualified by winning the 2018 Canadian Western Agribition. This marks the sixth time a Canadian female has won the competition.

The 2018 Hereford Champion Bull was MLL 10Y ROCKY 225D from MJT Cattle Company, Edgerton, Alta. He also qualified for the world competition by winning the 2018 Canadian Western Agribition.

Cole and Jill Harvie of Olds, Alta., will be participating in next years competition as official judges along with Alejandro Costa from Uruguay, Tom Baker from Australia and Robin Irvine from Northern Ireland.

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Checking out beef cattle operations in the UK - Canadian Cattlemen

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