BEEF STIRLING BULLS PREVIEW It was at Stirling Bull Sales where Terence and Jane Pye made their herd’s best price they are looking forward to heading back there this month. Angela Calvert went to
Maternal focus for Rigel S PICTURES: MARCELLO GARBAGNOLI
t was ease of management which attracted the Pye family to the Salers breed when they set up the Rigel herd in 1991 and those attributes are still at the heart of the breeding programme today. The herd has since grown to 60 cows which, along with followers, stands at about 170-head. Based at Middleton-on-Leven, North Yorkshire, it was established by Terence Pye and his wife Jane, along with Terence’s brother Malcolm and his wife Gill. Terence says: “At that time both my brother and I were working off-farm with our wives responsible for most of the daily management of cattle, so choosing an easy calving breed with a good temperament was a priority and these are still the qualities which make it the ideal suckler cow today.” In 2016, business commitments led to Malcolm and Gill moving to Stirling where they set up the Rednock herd, founded on Rigel females. Terence and Jane contin-
Rigel Lymond is one of two Rigel bulls to go to this year’s sale.
ued the business in partnership and are now assisted by their daughter Emma Denton and her husband Scott, who have moved back to the farm. Part-time member of staff Jim Ridley also helps out. The focus of the businesses is the sale of pedigree breeding stock,
Rigel Salers herd ■ 60 pedigree Salers cows, with followers totalling 170-head ■ Four Salers stock bulls, three home-bred, and one from France ■ Use one or two young bulls each year on heifers ■ The herd is Biobest HiHealth
Cattle Health Certification Standards-accredited BVD free since 2010 ■ Johne’s risk level 1 since 2014 ■ Annual monitoring for IBR and leptospirosis plus BVD and IBR vaccination programmes
www.emily.fr / email@example.com Tel 0033 298 21 86 12
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with up to 35 bulls and 25-30 heifers sold each year. About 60 per cent of these are sold direct from the farm with about half going to suckler and dairy farmers who have not had Salers before, but also to a large number of repeat buyers from all over the UK and Northern Ireland.
Dry food mixer feeder tank
They also sell bulls at the main breed society sales at Castle Douglas, Stirling and Welshpool twice-ayear, as well as other sales as far away as Thainstone, Aberdeen, and Sedgemoor, Somerset. They have also exported bulls and heifers to France, Germany and Ireland. Terence says: “What is interesting is a different type of bull is required for the different regions. At Castle Douglas the pedigree breeders are interested in bloodlines and at Stirling they want a bigger bull, whereas Welshpool buyers seem to like a bull which is shorter in stature. But the demand is there, with the breed growing in popularity in all areas. It is now the eighth largest beef breed in the UK. “The Salers’ role is to breed efficient suckler cows and the breed has a unique set of traits suited to this, specifically unrivalled ease of calving with low birth weights, large pelvic opening, fast growth rates, plenty of milk, sound structure and a calm disposition. Longevity is also a trait. If we do not get 14 calves out of a cow we do not think we have done very well.
“We select for the maternal side of the breed. Our policy is to preserve and enhance these key traits, many of which are not easily assessed by eye, unlike conformation and growth rate. “Breedplan was introduced for the breed in 2014 and we really appreciate the value of performance recording. We measure birth weights at 200, 400 and 600 days, as well as pelvic area and scrotal size. Bulls are back fat scanned and udders are assessed and scored on first calved heifers, as well as legs and feet generally. The more we can contribute to Breedplan the more useful estimated breeding values we can obtain. “This also gives us another marketing tool as we can supply potential customers with figures and guide them as to which bulls will have the best traits suited to their needs.” Herd health is high on the agenda, with the herd closed apart from bulls, although three in-calf heifers have recently been bought from the Livesey family’s Cleuchhead herd, Melrose, which has a similar health status and also performance records. Bulls are generally sourced from France, with Terence and Jane regularly visiting farms and sales there to identify potential purchases, firstly by compiling a shortlist based on data which they follow up with physical inspection.
Quality The use of French sires Bruno and Crocodile Dundee established the quality of the females, and homebred Rigel Othello Poll put the herd on the international stage. A series of bulls imported from the French Bull Test Station – Sagitaire, Amazonien and Casimir – have each made their mark on the herd and the breed in the UK. First calves from the most recent import, Lascaux, are just starting to be sold. Salers are usually red coated, however a few black Salers are retained in French herds for good fortune and the Rigel herd is 20 per cent black, while 65 per cent of the herd is polled. The Pyes have been pursuing a polling programme using only the FGinsight.com