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  • Writer's pictureNHC

Ervie and Drumdow host NHC AGM visits 2023

Members travelled to the seaside town of Portpatrick, near Stranraer, for the National Hereford Club AGM & herd visits, held across the weekend of 3rd & 4th June.

John Douglas, Ervie Herefords

Kindly hosting the first of two farm tours were John Douglas and family of Ervie Herefords, the well-known pedigree herd which holds an annual bull sale in their on-farm auction room, alongside breeding and selling pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle, Texel and Romney sheep, and Appaloosa horses. John, with his wife Alexandra and daughters Rosie, Ellen, Olivia and Kristina run the 620-acre farm situated on an exposed stretch of coastland on the Rhins of Galloway peninsula on the west coast of Scotland, testing and recording the stock's performance on a fiercely commercial, grass-based system to ensure productivity of the large suckler herd, and consequently the breeding bulls produced from it.

Yearling bulls at grass

Upon weaning, bull calves are wintered on the farm's own silage supplemented with just 1.5kg/head/day of cereals, this being the only time they'll see hard feed. As yearlings they are turned away to grass to grow on until the autumn, when selection begins for which will make the cut for the annual Spring sale. John explained that their aim is to produce strong, fit, 2-year-old bulls from a low-input system, where buyers can have confidence that the bulls will thrive at work on any farm. Heavily influenced by imported Line One genetics and containing several tribes to ensure a spread of bloodlines are available as a basis for line breeding, the herd is performance recorded and operates a strict culling policy.

Robert Parker introduces his herd to the group

Day two of the trip saw members travel just one farm further inland to one of the Ervie bull sales' top customers, Robert Parker of Drumdow Black Baldies. Operating a cross-breeding program using Hereford and Aberdeen Angus bulls within his high-health suckler herd, as well as a flock of Easy Care sheep, Robert's was another grass-based enterprise with a strong emphasis on commercial viability, achieved by keeping a detailed eye on performance data.

Focussed on female traits

Robert explained that the focus at Drumdow is on fertility, where the herd's conception rates, ease of calving and dam functionality are of utmost importance to the efficiency of the operation. Calving for the first time as 2-years-olds, the Hereford-sired females are put to Angus bulls and vice-versa, with the continuation of this simple breeding program maintaining hybrid vigour throughout each generation. Any problems with fertility, docility, or locomotion are culled out, with all female replacements sourced from within the yearling crop, the surplus predominantly sold for breeding to other suckler herds. Bulls are purchased only from high-health herds such as Ervie, where the breeding system and values match those at Drumdow to ensure a correct fit.

National Hereford Club AGM 2023

The National Hereford Club are grateful to both John Douglas and Robert Parker for inviting us to view their farms, and to all who made the trip so enjoyable. As expected, the hospitality was superb, and the weather could not have been better to experience such a stunning setting for these impressive herds of cattle - though we were all well aware that the area was not often as temperate as the weekend we had chosen! The quality and condition of the animals shone through at both places and it was fantastic to get together to discuss Herefords with a group of breeders so passionate about their stock.



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