Simmental cattle are renowned for their docile nature, ease of calving and carcass quality – all that are key attributes in producing the ultimate breeding cow for farm manager, Geoff Anderson at Pitgaveny Farm, Elgin, Morayshire.

Having predominantly worked with Hereford cross Friesian cattle beforehand and using the Simmental as a terminal sire, it wasn't long before Geoff made the complete switch to Simmental cross cows in order to keep up with demand from customers requiring the perfect female.

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"The Simmental breed is easy managed and the females are very milky, have good mothering traits and can produce cattle that suit our bull beef system here too," said Geoff. "The thing I like best is that it's perfect breed for a closed herd because your breeding a good cow with a great temperament and still producing male calves that put on the weight and perform."

Having previously bought in replacement heifers for the commercial side of the Pitgaveny herd, it wasn't until 1995 that Geoff decided to closed the herd completely and rely on Simmental genetics to cross over his black Hereford cross females. Having made the transition to using predominantly Simmental genetics in order to produce the farm's own replacement heifers, Geoff and the team at Pitgaveny quickly formed a buoyant market for their surplus heifers.

"We are now running a herd of approximately 225 commercial Simmental cross cows, with the Pitgaveny pedigree herd sitting at 10 cows too. I also run my own small pedigree herd – Quarryhill – consisting of five breeding females and I’m always slowly adding in heifers, however the commercial side is the most important aspect of our system," explained Geoff.

"The pedigree herd was founded in 2011 with the purchase of two Corskie-bred in-calf heifers, at Stirling. We then put those two cows to the 11,500gns Drumacritten Arnold – an Irish-bred bull that stood reserve overall champion at the pre-sale show the previous year," Geoff stated.

"When buying pedigree females, I try and get something that has the white legs, white head but not too much white on the body."

With the aim to breed big-framed, fleshy females that carry plenty depth and width, one of the most important aspects for Geoff is selecting the right bull.

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"I AI some of my own pedigree cows but Pitgaveny uses bought-in bulls from Stirling Bull Sales on both herds. When buying a bull, I'm looking for something that will suit both the pedigree and commercial herd and will produce offspring that move well on their legs and breeds calves with depth," stated Geoff.

"The first bull we ever purchased was in 1995 at Perth Bull Sales, where we purchased one for 6500gns. He did very well in the herd and left good females to start off our venture with.

"When buying I want my pick to have length, a good wide top and depth of body. I prefer something not too light in colour but the animal itself is more important than the colour, however, when selling commercial heifers, people do prefer a slightly darker and solid coloured animal – so we try and find a bull that will fit all needs at Pitgaveny," added Geoff.

Some of the stock bulls that are 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 are leaving top quality males and females in both the commercial and pedigree herds.

The herd is split into two groups consisting of 110 spring calvers and 110 autumn calvers, with the majority of cattle being left outside during the day and only brought inside at night for monitoring during calving.

"I don’t like keeping cattle in the shed too long as I find that having the cows moving and outside keeps them fit and allows for an easier calving. I don’t like to intervene if don’t have to – if the calf is up and sooking it heads straight outside the following day and out of the 110 calving cows in each group, I’ll only have to intervene and calf 10 of those, includes the heifers," he explained.

In order to produce a more uniform crop of calves, Geoff has constricted the bulling period to 10 weeks for both groups compared to the previous 12 week period and conception rates have remained high. The spring calving herd are all outwintered on a diet of draff straw and stubble turnips through to February and introduced silage one month prior to calving, with calving commencing on March 20th.

The Autumn group calf in August alongside the pedigree cows, having been housed during the first few weeks in November and then moved onto a diet of silage, 2kg of concentrate and 3kg of straw during the winter months.

With bull beef calves introduced to creep fed from early age and weaned at seven-months-old, they are then moved straight into cattle courts and placed on a finishing diet in order to hit weight goals. With a quick turnaround and bull beef calves being off the farm at 14-months-old, last year's spring-born bull calves were sold at an average deadweight of 389kg, making £1530.

The commercial Simmental cross heifers are sold privately off the farm to repeat customers, with average prices for Pitgaveny heifers last year sitting at £1600 and only the best pedigree Simmental cattle being retained for replacement purposes.

Geoff also strives to run a high health status and runs a strict culling policy at Pitgaveny, only retaining the best cattle for breeding purposes.

"We try and retain around 25 commercial heifers per year, picking out the best in the batch and selling on the surplus. In the pedigree side of things, any bulls or females that don't make the cut are either sold with the commercial heifers or put through the bull beef system," Geoff stated.

"I don't like a bad temperament and cows with bad feet have to go too if it’s a recurring problem – I don’t want to breed problems into the herd and the cattle have to be able to look after themselves."

Commenting on the herd's entries for Stirling, he said: "We have two bulls entered for October next month, one of my own and the other is under the Pitgaveny prefix. My own is sired by Ranfurly Confederate and the dam was bought Gordon Clarke's reduction sale in 2016. The Pitgaveny bull is out of Corskie Agnes and the sire is Scotland Hill Invader."

Whilst managing a busy farm, Geoff ensure that he makes time to attend and support both local and national agricultural shows, where his Quarryhill herd has certainly made it's mark over the years.

"I bought a cow for myself from Woodhall dispersal – Woodhall Eva – and had a bull calf off her called Woodhall Instinct. Eva and her Instinct stood reserve champion at the 2018 Keith Show and the following February, the bull secured junior and reserve overall champion at Stirling Bull Sales, which was a great achievement for me and my wife, Kate, who helps a lot when it comes to showing off our stock," Geoff commented.

Commenting on the future of the Pitgaveny herd, Geoff concluded: "I am confident that Pitgaveny will carry on going in the right direction under the influence of Simmental genetics as the Pitgaveny commercial's are breeding good quality females and I hope to see it continued here in years to come.

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"The owners of Pitgaveny are committed to farming and I look forward to seeing many more successes for the farm in the future."

The Pitgaveny and Quarryhill herds will have one bull each entered for Stirling Bull Sales, on October 18 and 19.


  • Farm – Running total of 3000 acres, of that 1600 acres is combinable crops – oats, spring barley, wheat, winter barley and OSR.
  • Cattle – 225 commercial Simmental cross cattle, with 10 pedigree females and also 30 Aberdeen-Angus cross cow, which are currently being dispersed top focus on the Simmental cattle. The Pitgaveny herd show some stock bulls if they are good enough for promotion, as well as cows and heifers.
  • Feeding – Located from Harbro or Norvite. Straw, stubble turnips and barley is home-grown for own use.
  • Labour – Two full time employees – Geoff and Brian – with Geoff responsible for all livestock operations and Brian responsible for cropping. The farm also takes in seasonal help during the busy periods.