The Simmentals are the best in the business for Pitgaveny
Simmental cattle are renowned for their docile nature, ease of calving and quality of their carcass – all key attributes in producing the ultimate breeding cow for farm manager Geoff Anderson at Pitgaveny Farm, Elgin, Morayshire.
Having primarily worked with Hereford Friesian cross cows and using the Simmental as a terminal bull, it didn’t take long for Geoff to fully switch to Simmental cross cows in order to meet customer demand for the perfect female.
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âThe Simmental breed is easy to manage and the females are very milky, have good dam characteristics and can produce cattle that are suitable for our sire system here as well,â Geoff said. âWhat I like the most is that this is the perfect breed for a closed herd because you raise a good cow with a good temperament and always produce male calves that gain weight and perform well. ”
Having already purchased replacement heifers for the commercial side of the Pitgaveny herd, it wasn’t until 1995 that Geoff decided to shut down the herd entirely and rely on Simmental genetics to cross his Black Hereford cross females. Having made the transition to using mostly Simmental genetics to produce the farm’s own replacement heifers, Geoff and the Pitgaveny team quickly formed a buoyant market for their surplus heifers.
âWe are now managing a herd of around 225 commercial Simmental cross cows, with the Pitgaveny breed herd also numbering 10 cows. I also manage my own small purebred herd – Quarryhill – of five breeding females and I always slowly add heifers, but the commercial side is the most important aspect of our system, âexplained Geoff.
âThe purebred herd was founded in 2011 with the purchase of two full Corskie heifers in Stirling. -the sales show from the previous year, âGeoff said.
“When I buy purebred females, I try to get something that has white legs, a white head but not too much white on the body.”
In order to breed plump, meaty females that have a lot of depth and breadth, one of the most important aspects for Geoff is selecting the right sire.
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âI have some of my purebred cows, but Pitgaveny uses bulls purchased from Stirling Bull Sales on both herds. When I buy a bull I’m looking for something that will suit both the pedigree and the commercial herd and produce offspring that move well on their legs and raise calves with depth, âsaid Geoff.
âThe first bull we bought was in 1995 from Perth Bull Sales where we bought one for 6500gns. He did very well in the herd and left some good females to start our business.
âWhen buying I want my pickaxe to have length, a wide top and a good depth of body. I prefer something not too light in color but the animal itself is more important than the color, however, when selling commercial heifers people prefer a slightly darker, solid color animal – so we try to find a bull that will meet all of Pitgaveny’s needs, âGeoff added.
Some of the bulls currently in use at Pitgaveny include 7500gns Islavale Hero, 10,000gns Scotland Hill Invader, 10,000gns Auchorahan Juggernaut and 14,000gns Islavale Kristoff, all of which leave top quality males and females in both commercial and purebred herds. .
The herd is divided into two groups comprising 110 spring calves and 110 fall calves, the majority of the cattle being left outside during the day and only returned at night for monitoring during calving.
âI don’t like keeping the cattle in the barn for too long as I find that having the cows on the move and outside keeps them in shape and allows for easier calving. I don’t like to intervene if it is not necessary – if the calf is raised and comes straight out the next day and out of the 110 calving cows in each group, I will only have to step in and calve 10 of them , including heifers, âhe explained.
In order to produce a more uniform calf crop, Geoff reduced the rearing period to 10 weeks for both groups from the previous 12 week period and conception rates remained high. The spring calving herd is all wintered on a diet of dry straw and stubble turnips until February and introduced silage one month before calving, with calving beginning on March 20.
The calf of the fall group in August alongside the purebred cows, was housed during the first weeks of November and then switched to a diet of silage, 2 kg of concentrate and 3 kg of straw during the winter months .
With bull-beef calves introduced for fattening from an early age and weaned at the age of seven months, they are then transferred directly to the breeding yards and subjected to a finishing diet in order to reach the weight goals. With a quick turnaround time and calves of bulls off the farm at 14 months, calves from bulls born in the spring of last year were sold at an average deadweight of 389kg, or Â£ 1,530.
Commercial Simmental cross heifers are sold privately off the farm to regular customers, with average prices for Pitgaveny heifers last year being Â£ 1,600 and only the best purebred Simmental cattle are kept for breeding purposes. replacement.
Geoff also strives for high health and has a strict slaughter policy in Pitgaveny, keeping only the best cattle for breeding purposes.
âWe try to keep about 25 commercial heifers a year, picking the best from the lot and selling on the surplus. On the pedigree side, bulls or females that do not succeed are sold with commercial heifers. or go through the ox-to-bull system, âGeoff said.
“I don’t like bad temper and cows with bad feet should go too if it’s a recurring problem – I don’t want to cause problems in the herd and the cattle need to be able to take care of it. themselves.”
Commenting on the herd entries for Stirling, he said: “We have two bulls entered for October next month, one of mine and the other under the Pitgaveny prefix. Mine is sired by Ranfurly Confederate and the dam was purchased at the Gordon Clarke discount sale in 2016. The Pitgaveny bull is from Corskie Agnes and sire is Scotland Hill Invader. ”
While running a busy farm, Geoff makes sure he takes the time to attend and support local and national agricultural fairs, where his Quarryhill herd has certainly made its mark over the years.
âI bought a cow for myself from Woodhall Dispersation – Woodhall Eva – and had a male calf called Woodhall Instinct. Eva and her Instinct were reserve champions at the 2018 Keith Show and the following February the bull secured the title of junior champion and general reserve. at Stirling Bull Sales, which has been a great achievement for me and my wife, Kate, who helps me a lot when it comes to showing our stock, âcommented Geoff.
Commenting on the future of the Pitgaveny herd, Geoff concluded: âI have no doubts that Pitgaveny will continue to move in the right direction under the influence of Simmental genetics as the Pitgaveny commercials breed good quality females and I hope that will. will continue here for years to come.
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âThe owners of Pitgaveny got involved in farming and I look forward to seeing many more successes for the farm in the future.
The Pitgaveny and Quarryhill herds will each have one sire entered in the Stirling sire sales on October 18-19.
- Farm – Current total of 3000 acres, of which 1600 acres are combinable crops – oats, spring barley, wheat, winter barley and OSR.
- Cattle – 225 commercial Simmental cross cattle, with 10 purebred females and also 30 Aberdeen-Angus cross cows, which are currently dispersed with a focus on Simmental cattle. Pitgaveny’s herd features a few bulls if they are good enough for promotion, as well as cows and heifers.
- Food – Located from Harbro or Norvite. Straw, turnip stubble and barley are grown on site for their own use.
- Workforce – Two full time employees – Geoff and Brian – with Geoff responsible for all breeding operations and Brian responsible for crops. The farm also receives seasonal help during peak periods.