CHAROLAIS cattle have played a part in the breeding of store calves at Barnbackle for many a year, but as the younger generation has taken over the reins in recent years it’s a pedigree herd of Charolais that is making its mark. 

The McCornick family – Andrew and wife, Janice as well as Andrew G, Lousie, Craig and Richard – moved to Barnbackle from Wigtownshire back in 1992, and now run the 450-acre farm near Lochfoot, Dumfries, which offers impressive views across the rest of the parish. 

Two brothers, Richard and Craig, have taken on the management of Barnbackle with a further 800-acre farm is rented by the duo a short distance away which Craig runs. 

As well as a 500-strong flock of Texel cross ewes to produce prime lambs, the farm is home to around 160 breding cows. These were previously Limousin crosses but since Craig introduced his own Dachie herd of Luings, a new breeding female has made its way to Barnbackle in the shape of Sim-Luings. 

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This selection of breeding females produces the bread and butter of the cattle enterprise, with Charolais-sired calves selling through the store ring. But it’s clear to see that Richard’s passion lies in the pedigree herd. 
“It all started when I was 16 and bought Greenwell Treasure, whose second son Adrenaline sold well at Carlisle, and Greenwell Satin at a Carlisle sale with the money I’d made milking cows,” said Richard of his Ricnick herd which now numbers 15 breeding females.

“I’ve always liked the look of the Charolais breed and we’ve used Charolais bulls here for a long time so I know what they could produce – the growth rates on commercial calves are superb and they are very docile.”

After those two initial Greenwell purchases, Seaville Gina, a Newhouse Bigal daughter, joined the herd for 4800gns and went on the produce Richard’s first eye-catcher, Ricnick Leonidas. This Whitecliffe Harlequin son fuelled Richard’s fire for the pedigree job when he sold to Caithness breeder Graham Sinclair, Glenview, last October, for 8500gns. 

This gave Richard his first taste of success and allowed him to widen his female gene pool as he invested in a couple of heifers from the Blelack dispersal. 

Prior to his sale Leo made his mark in the show ring, taking the male championship at Dumfries as well as the reserve beef title at Stewartry and a third prize ticket in a strong class at the Royal Highland Show. Richard was so impressed with him that he retained some straws of semen and has two cows due to calve fairly imminently, with a few more pregnancies planned in the coming months.

Despite only getting in to the showing scene couple years ago, Richard and his partner Hayley Currie, who together are expecting their first child in a few months, have thoroughly enjoyed their time on the circuit. This was no doubt aided by a degree of success with the Leo bull, as well as Jaszmin and Joop as a starting point, but this year’s entry for the Carlisle sale furthered their passion for showing when the young bull secured the reserve junior male title at the Stars of the Future show on his only outing. 

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          Ricnick Monsoon

Ricnick Monsoon was born in January, last year, out of the now 11-year-old Ashby Bella, which was bought as a calf at foot alongside her dam, while the sire is the Irish-bred Goldstar Echo.

“I like to try different bulls than those seen doing well – I’ve followed Echo’s breeding and his sire’s offspring for a while now,” said Richard, adding that there is now no more semen available from the Texan Gie son so he hopes this will add some extra interest in his Carlisle entry. “Monsoon is a very stylish and correct bull – he’s easy fleshing and should produce calves to meet the modern market.”

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          One for the future - Ricnick Mega

So far, Richard has solely been using AI to breed the next generation but he is on the look-out for a bull to use in the pedigree herd. He would also like to try more work with embryo transfer, but so far this has proved rather costly for just one live calf from a couple of flushes. 

“I’d quite like to get the pedigree numbers up to around 20, hopefully with home-bred replacements, and then have more bulls to sell. It’s all about trying to make a profitable business, and that means the pure herd is run commercially but it’s the AI job that takes up the time,” pointed out Richard.

Heifers in the commercial herd are either covered by a young Luing bull to calve at two years, or an easy-calving Charolais sire for the second calf, and while this might lead to a smaller cow, Richard believes this makes them more fertile and easier managed. 

As for the commercial calves, they’re sold straight off their mothers as this proves most profitable. While they’re often the youngest in the sale catalogue, they do just as well as their older counterparts with a batch of back-end calves sold through Castle Douglas just a few weeks ago to average above the £800 mark at an average weight of 336kg. This, noted Richard and Janice, was up more than £50 per head on the year which was partly down to the trade but also because of a growing demand for growthier and faster finishing calves, which the Charolais-sired calves prove to be. 

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With help from a European Rural Priorities Scheme for young farmers when Richard and Craig joined the business, the family was able to build a fantastic, airy shed with great handling facilities, making the management of young bulls in particular much simpler and, of course, safer.

There is no doubting that, even with a young baby in tow, Richard and Hayley will be seen out and about at shows and sales in the coming years, but in the meantime if you’re after something a bit different it’s well worth a look at the Ricnick pen at next week’s sale at Carlisle.