Using Farm Technology to Build a Better Herd
Moelogan Fawr, in North Wales, runs across a rugged landscape, rising from 1,000 to 1,500 feet above sea level. The 750-acre property, on the western edge of the Hiraethog Mountain Range and overlooking the Conwy Valley, is farmed by Llion and Sian Jones. The couple were National Trust tenant farmers before taking on Moelogan Fawr, which has been in Sian’s family for three generations. In managing the farm, they have embraced innovation as they drive their operation forward.
STABILISER CATTLE: A BREED APART
As well as running a mixture of Welsh and crossbred ewes, Llion and Sian are breeding Stabiliser cattle. It’s a change from the cattle that were on the farm when Sian was a child. “Some of them were wild,” Sian recalls. She appreciates Stabiliser for their docility, as well as the ease with which they calve. “As you breed them, you just see their benefits,” she says.
Llion’s family has a background in show cattle. Sceptical of the less traditional breed, he was quickly won over by Stabilisers once he started working with them. “Our plan was to get the Stabilisers and put Belgian Blue or Limousin on them but once you calve them you don’t want to go back, because you don’t have to do anything with them,” he says. “There’s a knock-on effect: after calving they’re not struggling, so they put condition on and get back in calf easily. Then they’re in good condition for the winter.” That’s especially important with the rugged conditions in the uplands of North Wales.
PROVEN PERFORMANCE FROM ROUTINE WEIGHING
Llion and Sian don’t leave anything to chance with their Stabiliser cattle, performance recording livestock to determine which animals perform the best in their system. AI is used for all the cattle, with bulls selected by their Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) to improve each cow’s genetic gain.
All heifers are retained as replacements, as the Joneses increase the size of their breeding herd. The best of the male offspring are sold as breeding bulls and the remainder are finished as bull beef on farm, growing to 640kg at 12-14 months.
The bulls are weighed monthly, and their performance tracked closely. “If you don’t do it, you don’t know they aren’t performing until you can visually see it,” Llion says. “And by then it’s too late.”
Knowing exactly how their cattle are tracking means Llion and Sian can rectify any shortcomings swiftly, separate underperformers, and time their sale to perfection, avoiding penalties for overweight or underweight cattle that go to processors. All in all, it adds up to more control of their product.
POWERFUL INSIGHTS WITH AGRIWEBB
As a Stabiliser Multiplier, recording performance traits is essential on Moelogan Fawr. Cattle are recorded for 13 traits in total, and these are submitted to the Stabiliser Cattle Company for analysis and EBV formation.
The data the Joneses collect is especially valuable thanks to AgriWebb farm management software. Records made in the field are synced to the cloud, ensuring information is accurate and up to date. Reports that took hours to collate are generated at the press of a button; Llion and Sian are particularly fond of the Weight Insights feature, which makes it easy to see how their cattle are performing. They also appreciate being able to manage their sheep operation on the same software, when they previously needed a separate program.
In the past, simply recording animal weights was a tedious task – taking tag numbers and weights, then spending evenings in the office, transferring that information onto a computer. “Now when we come to the office, we are looking at the data and making decisions based on it, instead of just inputting it and forgetting about it,” Sian says. “That’s a big bonus.”
AgriWebb has also proved a powerful tool for pasture management. The GPS-enabled mapping feature has made it easier to mark out two-hectare paddocks for rotational grazing, while grass measurements and cattle movements are recorded in the field, in real time.
Llion and Sian joke that AgriWebb has also helped to prevent family arguments – with everyone on the same page, their whole operation can run more smoothly!
RUNNING STABILISER CATTLE? TO RECEIVE A SPECIAL DISCOUNT SIMPLY GET IN TOUCH WITH JOSH ON 0772 350 4669. IF NOT, GIVE JOSH A CALL TO TO START YOUR FREE TRIAL TODAY AND BOOK A DEMO TO SEE HOW WE CAN HELP IMPROVE EFFICIENCY ON YOUR FARM.
We are trying to produce beef that meets market specification and make the most profit possible. Using Stabilisers we are achieving our objectives, we have a low cost, low labour cow and good quality finishing cattle that meet the needs of the market.- Mel and Pete Momber, Hampshire
I’m excited by the prospects the Stabiliser can deliver for us. The proof was there based on scientific research, backed up by a large gene pool and precise management systems. It seemed the perfect breed for our farming system.- Will Evans, Machynlleth
On weaning in May at 10 mths old the Stabiliser calves were on par with the Blue and Angus calves. These were turned out to grass until early September then housed. This is when I was surprised by the differences between the breeds, the Angus averaged 480kg, the Blues 490kg but the Stabilisers were 530kg.- Robin Talbot, Laois – Ireland
In 2011 we bought 46 Stabiliser heifers plus 3 bulls and sold our 3 Belgium Blue bulls. The results were clear to see, by the time we pregnancy tested our 100 cows later that year. We went from historically having 15% barren cows to only 3% barren in a 9 week mating period.- Jeremy Iles, Gloucester
I have found Stabiliser cows to be very forage efficient. Their ability to put weight on in the summer months means I can save on winter feed costs. This has allowed me to keep more cows on the same resources.- Jono Cole, Cornwall
We have an easy-care system that is as profitable as any other beef enterprise. We benchmark our herd against the AHDB industry figure and we sit comfortably ahead of the top third performers. I believe we are now producing a carcass with the conformation and eating quality consistency that the market wants.- Dan Burling, Cambridgeshire
Docility, feed efficiency tested, easy calving, hybrid vigour, fertility, growth AND carcass traits from highly maternal cattle, what’s not like?- Robin Norrie, Fife
We aim to get most out of grass as possible. The hardy nature of the cattle seems to suit this system very well. Hardly any assistance is required during calving, combined with the excellent calf vigour produce healthy and strong calves which further reduces labour costs.- Llion and Sian Jones, Conwy
We’re over 10 years into our Stabiliser journey, we’re reaping the rewards. Moving to the Stabiliser has been a game changer for efficiency and job satisfaction, allowing us to increase cow numbers on the same area and finishing bulls averaging over 380kgs at 13 months. Our only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner!- Peter and Jackie Storrow, Pembrokeshire
Stabiliser cattle are a specialised suckler beef breed with the added bonus of hybrid vigour. The cattle are multi-trait performance recorded to produce EBV’s, this has a huge positive economical effect on our business. All of this is crucial for us to have a financially improving suckler herd on the farm.- Harri Parri, Llyn Peninsula
We chose the Stabiliser breed for their docility and easy calving traits, but with the added benefit of turning grass into meat. We soon saw all of these traits were true. Our first home bred steers were finished off grass at an average age of 19 months.- Dyfed Roberts, Anglesey
Despite our rainfall, we outwinter our cows on kale, the stabiliser cow will lay down excess fat, and successfully rear her calf. During the winter considerable cost savings are made. By changing to Stabiliser cattle I keep approximately 50% more cows as they only weigh 650Kgs, which meant more beef being produced.- Matthew Cooke, North Devon
We started using Stabiliser bulls 20 years ago. The fertility of the breed has enabled us to calve our own heifers at 24 months and reduce our calving period to nine weeks. This together with their good temperament has encouraged us to increase cow numbers. Consequently, the farm is now producing a lot more kilos of beef.- Edward and Ellis Griffith, Pwllheli
Minimal labour is required at calving time, with easy calving cows and calves up and suckling in no time at all. This gave us the ability to increase our cow numbers with no extra labour. The growth rate of Stabiliser cattle is exceptional, producing high weaning weights whilst converting feed efficiently.- John and Ianto Pari, Gwynedd
We started using stabiliser genetics in 2016, we have not looked back since, they exceeded all our expectations. Changing to stabilisers has enabled us to calve heifers at 2years old with no problems, cows wean a higher percentage of their body weight, we have increased cow numbers without any need for extra labour.- Carys Jones, Camarthenshire