BY slowly increasing cattle numbers as well as acreage over the years, Ross and Elaine Pattinson have made a name for themselves in the pedigree British Blue world with top results in the show and sale rings. 

With breeding focusing on the muscular strain, they’re also proving the Blue has its place in the market. 

The husband and wife duo took on the tenancy of Temon Farm back in November, 2011, and arrived at the 460-acre farm on the outskirts of Brampton, Cumbria, with just 20 commercial and 10 pure Blue cows as well as 200 Cheviot, and 300 Mule and Texel cross ewes. Since then, commercial cattle numbers have dwindled while the pedigrees gained strength, but not numbers, as Ross believes using embryo transfer work on his select brood females offers better returns.

“Elaine’s family had a few pedigree Blues and used the Blue bull to breed commercial show calves which I always liked the look of,” Ross, current chairman of the Border British Blue Club, explained, adding he caught the showing bug when helping his grand-parents and uncle show Simmental cattle back in the day. “We put the Blue over our Simmental cross and Limousin cross commercials for a few years, before we bought our first pure Blue at Andy Ryder’s dispersal.”

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That founding female was Annanwater Adonie, an in-calf Serum d’Anloy daughter that produced Low Longthwaite Exel, a bull calf that went on to be the Pattinsons’ first pedigree sale at Carlisle and was knocked down for just under 5000gns.

“We then flushed Adonie to Bluegrass Cyclone and got 15 Grade 1 embryos, resulting in seven lives that were a mix of bulls and heifers. After that first success with flushing we thought to ourselves ‘this is easy’, but the next time we flushed her we got nothing. Those initial flushes meant that the first year we moved from Low Longthwaite, Wigton, to Temon we had five bulls for sale which really set us up,” Ross added. 

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Following the sad passing of Elaine’s father, the family gifted Lowthwaite Wendy Woo and her heifer calf Lowthwaite Cuddles to Ross and Elaine, which went on to produce a number of females still found in the herd.

The gene pool was widened further by the addition of Rathlyon Dinah, a Heros du Peroy daughter that stood overall champion at Carlisle and was purchased for 3500gns after the couple “just went for a look”. Ross states this 3500gns was the best money they’ve ever spent and it’s clear to see why when looking at Dinah’s offspring. Her first calf was Top Side Isla, a daughter of the Gitan du Pt’t Mayeur-sired Streathearn Carvalho, which went on to secure the female championship at the Royal Highland Show as a yearling, making the Pattinsons’ Highland debut one to remember. 

Dinah also produced the top price to date for the Top Side herd as Top Side Joey, a Fleuron de Maffe son, went on to take the overall championship at Carlisle earlier this year, before selling to the McLaren family, at Muirhouses, for 8500gns. Unfortunately Dinah hasn’t yet bred another female, but did produce this year’s sole bull entry for Carlisle in the shape of Top Side Kyle.

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          Top Side Kyle

Born in September, 2015, this impressive son of Naby Golddust is the biggest bull for his age the Pattinsons have ever bred and weighed in at 967kg at 20 months – equal to a liveweight gain of 1.7kg per day, putting the Blue in the same weight gain category as many more of the continental breeds which Ross believes is where the breed needs to be. 

Kyle will be joined on the trip to Carlisle by three heifers – Lily, Lexi and Leanne. Oldest of these is January 2016-born Lexi, by Bringlee Carlos, while the Drift Domino-sired Lily was born in May, 2016, and the Bringlee Volkawagon daughter Leanne was born a month later. 

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          Sale heifers - Lily, Leanne and Lexi

On the breeding side, the Top Side herd consists of just six pedigree cows plus followers with a further 20 or so predominantly dairy cross heifers used as recipients. 

“We’re going down the embryo route – selecting our best few cows and breeding from there. They talk about British and Belgian types, and we want something in between. I like the cross of Belgian blood on British cows, as some of our cows need that extra muscle to bring them in to line,” commented Ross, adding that bedded space in steadings is limited due to the year-round livery system of around 160 dairy heifers for neighbouring farmers. 

“I’m not frightened to go for muscle as I aim to breed the best I can for the show and sale ring. We do tend to perform caesareans on most of the in-calf cows and recipients but that’s more of a precautionary measure as I’d rather make sure we have live calves on the ground and simply can’t afford to lose any,” pointed out Ross, adding that the local vet practise has been a tremendous help. 

With muscle being the aim of the game at Temon, Ross does wonder about the future of the breed famed for its double muscling as breeders look towards natural calvings. 

“I don’t think we want to get away from muscle as if we lose too much  we’re knackered as they’re becoming more like Limousins. Plus, the more extreme the better for use in the dairy herd as the best thing on these rangy Holstein cows is a small but muscly Blue.”

With 20 embryos due to arrive later this year, including seven in the next few weeks, decisions need to be made as to which offspring meet the mark. Although there’s not that many, any bulls not making the pedigree grade are fattened and taken to fat stock shows, mostly at Carlisle. With females, however, it’s a different story as there’s always the potential to pick the right sire and Ross likes to give them all a chance. 

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          Lexi keeps Pheobe right in the art of cattle handling

It’s not just the cattle enterprise that keeps them busy at Temon however, for as well as three young children – five-year-old Lexi, Pheobe who’s nearly four, and 20-month-old Seth – there’s also a 700-strong flock of North Country Cheviots. These ewes, mostly draft ewes bought to replace half the flock each year, are covered by a Bluefaced Leicester to produce Cheviot Mules which are mostly sold through Longtown as well as to a repeat customer on the Isle of Wight. The wedder lambs prove their worth too as they fatten quicker and on less feed than the previous continental-sired lambs. 

Seth may still be a little young but the girls show Blue blood definitely runs in the family as they are “daft keen” and love to lend a hand at shows. Lexi even put her young handler skills to the test with the young heifer Top Side Knock Out, last year. 

As for the future of the Top Side herd, the team hopes to continue to build on the strong female lines and have some exciting heifers that will soon join the breeding herd, such as an Isla daughter which will be used as a brood cow. They also hope to attend most of the major shows on the circuit this season so make sure to keep an eye out.