COMMONLY known as the “mother of all breeds”, Simmental cattle, which are renowned for their maternal traits and milkiness, are growing in popularity with commercial beef farmers.

Tie that in with good temperaments, heads and shape, and you have the perfect breed for David Craig, of Kennox Cottage, Stewarton, who is a firm enthusiast of the Stars of the Future Show, having won the Simmental championship last year, the junior female championship, in 2012, and the overall junior championship, in 2011, when the show was at Forfar.

“Stars of the Future is a great show to take calves to, and it’s an education for them. It gets them used to being transported about, the people, parading round the show ring, and the atmosphere at shows,” said David.

“It’s also a great way to gauge how well your calves are going to perform, and how they compare at an early stage to other calves of the same age. It’s a great day out and one that has become a fixed date for me in my calender,” he explained.

“I also think, especially after last year, that it’s a great pointer to what’s to come for the rest of the show year – that’s what I enjoy most about about the event,” David added.

Last year’s big win at the Stars of the Future set the ball rolling for what has been a roller-coaster of a year for David, who is a retired joiner to trade.

Having won the red, white and blue sash that day in the Simmentals, his show stopper, Kennox Tara’s Gem went on to win several local shows and inter-breeds with the icing on the cake being a breed championship, and reserve overall beef interbreed championship at the Royal Highland Show, and a championship at the Scottish National, held at Perth Show.

David has been breeding Simmentals since 2002, but has always been enthusiastic about cattle.

“I moved to Kennox Cottage with my wife, Susan, in 1996, where we had a few horses, but I always had an interest in livestock.

“As a young boy, from around the age of seven, to my early 20s, I spent all of my spare time helping out at Little Fenwick Farm, Fenwick, and that is definitely where the groundwork for cattlerearing was laid.”

After moving into Kennox, David purchased some Blackface ewes, which he described as a “hobby”, before purchasing some pure Texels.

However, he soon realised his interest lay more with cattle, and bought three cross calves at the old Paisley market, which were later sold on as heifers with calves at foot.

The Scottish Farmer:

SIMMENTAL CHAMPION at the Royal Highland Show, in 2011, was David’s Annick Tara’s Alice

“These were usually black Limousin crosses, which I AI’d either to a Limousin or Belgian Blue sire, but, for ease of management, I stopped this, because of health scheme complications,” he said.

With Kennox being home to a small steading, and some 10 acres, with a further 50 acres rented elsewhere, David is able to pay particular attention to the cattle, which saw him move into pedigree breeding.

“One of my friends commented one day that because I treated my cross cattle so well, I should breed pedigree cattle for added premium, which I decided could work – provided I found the right breed.”

A trip to a dispersal sale at Strathaven market, and David had found exactly what he was looking for – the Simmental cow, Pride of Hartfield Gail, purchased from J Munroe, Hartfield Farm, Allanton, Shotts, which sold with a bull calf at foot.

Another cow was purchased from Lauchlan’s Quarm’s Annick reduction sale – Annick Helen’s Tara, which sold with a heifer calf.

“Tara was the best £3000 I ever spent, particularly when her calf went on to win the Simmental championship, as a twoyear-old, at the Royal Highland Show in 2011 – that’s when I really first caught the bug for showing,” David commented.

Since then, Tara has produced six heifers to four different bulls, and she has now been entered into a flushing programme this year, which is a first for the herd.

Discussing his show successes, and his biggest achievements, David added: “One thing I am particularly proud about is that in the 10 years of the Scottish National Show, I am the first person to have won the Royal Highland and the national show in the same year, with a home-bred animal.”

Overall, the Kennox Simmental herd now stands at 23 head, which is made up of cows and calves.

And, with such a small herd, David relies on AI.

“I don’t feel keeping a bull is necessary, as I generally only use AI.

"However, if a bull is required, I use one on loan from Skerrington Mains, which is very local to me.”

The Scottish Farmer:

KENNOX ALICE’S Helena, a niece of Kennox Tara’s Gem, which will be shown this Saturday

David will again be showing at this week’s Stars of the Future Show, at Stirling, and he plans to take a November 2016-born calf, Kennox Alice’s Helena – a niece of Kennox Tara’s Gem – and two other young calves.

Helena has already had a successful show year, having won her class at Neilston and Ayr, so David has high hopes for her.

Although much of David’s life revolves around his Simmentals, he still does the odd bit of joinery work, and also delivers feed, mainly for Mole Valley Farmers, throughout Ayrshire, after purchasing a three and a half tonne lorry, just over two years ago.

He is also a past chairman of the Scottish Simmental Club, which, he commented, “was certainly very interesting”, and is a past president of his local Stewarton Show, which he has won for the past three consecutive years – all with different females.

“I do think the British Simmental breed has a very strong future. Breed averages increased at the recent sales, and there seems to be a strong demand for bulls.”

However, while he admitted there is a growing trend to breed cattle with good figures, he admitted, he selects his cattle more by eye “Figures, in terms of what they are worth, are secondary to me – they’ve got to be pleasing to the eye before I’ll look at them.

“I like to have cattle that are nice to look at, and I only ever keep heifers that are easy on the eye. I’ve always tried to use semen from bulls that produce good females too, and I also try to match particular bulls to certain females to ensure I get good females. In my opinion, good quality females are a must in any pedigree breeding set-up,” he said.

The Kennox showing team is made up of David, his wife, Susan, and daughter, Gemma, who lives in Sauchie, as well as Matt Gilliland, from Kilbirnie, who assists at show time.

“I must have it noted how much I appreciate Matt,” added David.

“I met him in 2010, and he’s given me a great hand to dress the cattle for showing.

“I also can’t forget Susan. She has been a huge help to me, in all that I do, particularly since she has taken early retirement, as an assistant air-traffic controller. I really wouldn’t manage without her.

“It’s so important in life to have something that you enjoy, if you want to have a great life, and I love having Simmentals, and being involved with them – particularly the camaraderie, and the social side of things.

The Scottish Farmer:

HUSBAND AND wife team, Susan and David who founded their Kennox Simmental herd in 2002

“There are people I would never have known existed, had it not been for the Simmentals, and I’ve met so many people through them since. I’ve been to so many shows that I would never have attended before, just to take my cattle, and it has been truly wonderful,” David concluded.