The Parkhouse herd owned by Paul Capstick, of Heversham near Milnthorpe, in Cumbria, has been recognised by AHDB Beef and Lamb as the Most Improved Herd of Stabiliser cattle in England for 2013.
A second generation farmer at this farm, Paul has been at Park House Farm for 32 years, farming alongside his parents until recently he took on the tenancy himself. Park House is a 700 acre mixed farm, combining grassland and 40 acres of cereal crops such as winter wheat and spring barley. 250 acres of grassland is used for silage and haylage production.
The Parkhouse Stabiliser herd numbers 140 suckler cows plus followers, half of which are purebred and the other half are crosses. The farm is also home to a commercial flock of 1,100 Mules, Texel cross, and Suffolk cross ewes.
Paul began implanting Stabiliser embryos in 2003, before which he had a continental cross suckler herd. However, he was keen to improve longevity and fertility within the herd and attended an open day where he was impressed by the Stabiliser breed. He purchased 10 Stabiliser embryos, resulting in eight calves being born the following year and then put in a further 20 embryos with a 65 per cent success rate.
Speaking about the breed, Paul said: “They’re easy calving and have a nice temperament – they’re very docile compared with cattle I’ve worked with previously.
“The cows aren’t too big and these smaller cows definitely suit my farm system better.
“Finally, they have good fertility, which enables me to maintain a tight calving period.”
Performance Recording Increases Demand
Paul has been performance recording from the start. Currently he only weighs the cattle, but he is considering ultrasound scanning in the future. As his objective is to sell breeding stock, he feels it’s important for the herd to be recorded. He said “There is more demand for cattle with beef values and they achieve better prices.”
Paul produces his own female replacements and has built up the numbers in the herd enough to regularly be able to select animals with the correct breed characteristics and Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) in the top 25 per cent of the breed. This year, for the first time, he is able to raise the bar higher and pick females with figures in the top 10 per cent.
When selecting females, Paul looks for longevity, good udders and locomotion, therefore good feet are very important. He has similar criteria for bulls, with the addition of a high beef value (high overall breeding index) and good calving traits. In order to continue the progress of the herd, he is keen to use bulls with a beef index in the top 10 per cent, or even the top one per cent if the cost isn’t prohibitive.
Commenting on the herd, Signet breeding services manager, Sam Boon, said: “The genetic merit of the Parkhouse herd has increased from a Beef Value of 11 to nearly 19 in the last 12 months. This was, in part, due to the use of stock bull, Wraycastle Lewis, as well as a homebred bull Parkhouse Ken, both of which have very good calving, carcase and maternal breeding values.
“Now numbers have increased Paul is able to start selecting for animals with high figures, meaning that some of the poorer cows have now left the herd. This coupled with the high figured bulls he is using is undoubtedly making a positive difference in his herd.”
Paul added: “Looking ahead, my strategy is to continue to improve and maintain an ability to select animals within the top one per cent of the breed, or certainly the top 10 per cent if not!”