Tell us a bit more about you, your farm and your Herefords.
Victoria: We are Simon and Victoria Elwess, and we live on a family farm in Lincolnshire. We currently have a herd of 26 pedigree Hereford cows, plus followers, which run alongside our arable and contract farming enterprises. The herd is managed extensively during the grazing period, and housed during winter months, due to the condition of our heavy clay soils. Their diet is predominantly forage and grass based, with some concentrate feed for the weanlings and young bulls. Bulls are sold off farm at 12 – 15 months old, predominantly to dairy herds for use on heifers. Cows are wintered on hay, or haylage, with access to mineral buckets. Our herd is performance recorded, with BVD free status and a Johne’s Level 2 score.
David: Hanson Herefords are based at Bay View farm Flixton which is located at the eastern end of the Vale of Pickering on Flixton carr. ‘The Carrs’ occupy land which was drained extensively for farming from the 1800s. Before that they were largely marshes and boggy wooded areas with a long history of human activity dating back to the Stone Age, this area was also known as lake Flixton as it was a large expanse of water 10,000 years ago! Today the farm is mainly black peaty soil with seams of sand running through it. It remains relatively wet as it is only several meters above sea level and water levels are still affected by the tide, because of this it grows grass all summer when everywhere else is looking brown . We run the herd on a commercial basis, fattening most of the bulls within 16 months. The majority of the bulls have been sold deadweight to Dunbia with only the best selected to sell as potential stock bulls.
When did you get involved with the Hereford breed and of course why did you originally choose Herefords?
V: We bought our first Herefords as a batch of four in-calf pedigree cows, with calves at foot, from the Dovemount herd, run by Messers Thorley Bros in Doveridge, Ashbourne, Derbyshire. They arrived in June 2009, just after we were married, and we have loved them ever since! We decided upon Herefords as we wanted a native breed, that had a commercial relevance, and had an excellent temperament with easy management for novice cattle keepers to handle.
D: We started our herd in 2007 with 12 cows bought from the Bosa herd. We decided upon polled Herefords because of their docility and ease of fattening on a grass based ration. We have been keeping most our heifers as replacements as we are currently expanding. At the moment we are currently running 52 cows and followers and plan to expand to 60 cows in the next year. We are constantly trying improve the status of our herd.
What are the main characteristics and attractions of Herefords?
V: Above all a placid and willing temperament is the most important trait for us. The cows are excellent mothers, with very little trouble at calving. On the rare occasion that we do need to intervene, the quiet nature of the cows makes it very easy to manage. The calves are easy born, quick to their feet and looking to suck straight away. Our herd is fertile, with most cows on 11 – 12 month calving intervals, having had their first calf at 2 years of age. The cows are hardy and healthy, with good feet, teeth and udders, needing little attention other than routine worming and vaccination. The herd does very well off grass, with cows rearing a solid calf to weaning every 12 months with ease.
D: Hereford cows are very maternal and even older/less milky cows always have enough until the calves get either on creep or out to grass where they really come into their own and start to perform. They are in general, very easy calving, producing a small to medium sized calf that is usually straight up and on to the cow.
How do Hereford cows perform commercially?
We only have pedigree Hereford cows, but do sell bulls to suckler and dairy herds. The Hereford cross is an excellent maternal cow, with an easy-going attitude. There is a thread on The Farming Forum regarding the “Quietest Breeds of Cattle and Sheep” and the Hereford gets many mentions!
What are the benefits of running Hereford bull in suckler herd or as a sire for dairy calves and do you find a strong demand for Hereford calves/stores?
V: Our dairy buyers like the white face of the Hereford cross calf, as it improves traceability, aiding identification of the sire. The calves are easily born, hardy, and thrive well. The bulls work well and are quiet to handle. As for stores, we reared a small batch of Hereford cross bulls to three months old, which sold within days of advertising on SellMyLivestock!
D: People tend to remember what Herefords were like 30-40 years ago little short legged fat dumpy things! They have come on a long way since then with most of our mature cows weighing 780-900 Kg, whilst they will never produce carcass like a continental, you don’t have to feed a Hereford anything like the amount of concentrate you would have to those breeds to get them to finish. Our bulls have been sold into pedigree, dairy and suckler herds and make a great commercial sire with progeny being eligible for Dunbia, Dovecote Park and Morrisons. As well as performing on a grass based ration, bulls are rugged and built to last; we have supplied Robert Craig (former dairy farmer of the year) and his business partner Steve Brandon with around 21 bulls in the last 3 years for their dairy farms and they have to do a lot of walking that’s one of the reasons I think they like them; they are very quiet easy to handle but active enough to get around the cows and keep condition.
Hereford meat eating quality, is it in demand?
V: Hereford meat benefits from natural marbling, which provides a superior, succulent eating quality, with a unique taste and tender texture. The cattle do well on grass and forage, so the Hereford is an ideal breed to fulfil the “Pasture for Life” market. The Hereford Cattle Society promote Hereford beef via their website http://www.herefordbeef.org.uk/ which has some fantastic recipe ideas, tips on cooking to get the best from your beef, and suggestions of restaurants to visit that serve delicious Hereford beef. It also lists a wide variety of suppliers of Hereford beef from supermarkets, butchers, and boxed beef via mail order, to farm gate producers.
See all Hereford cattle for sale on SellMyLivestock.