THE crossing of different breeds to make the best use of the type of farmland available, is common practice in the UK sheep industry, but could also be the way forward for upland beef producers.

This was the focus of an open day held at High Airyolland Farm, near Stranraer, recently.

The event, sponsored by Morrisons and organised by the Whitebred Shorthorn Association, presented the economic case for breeding Galloway cross Whitebred Shorthorns, known as Blue-greys, and Highland cross Whitebred Shorthorns, as hardy hill suckler cows.

Almost 100 beef farmers from all over the UK made the journey to Stranraer to view Neale and Janet McQuistin's Highland cows with their Whitebred Shorthorn cross calves.

Mr McQuistin said: "We chose to cross our Highland cattle with the Whitebred Shorthorn because of their reputation for producing a first class suckler cow that is remarkably milky and easily maintained."

The heifers are all sold privately and are in high demand, producing fast-growing commercial calves when put to a Continental bull.

A batch of nine bullocks, weighing 215kg, sold at Stirling market in November 2013 for £490 each.

Visitors to the event also had the opportunity to see Blue-greys with Charolais cross calves and Highland cross Shorthorn cows with Charolais calves at foot.

Gavin Hill, assistant regional manager for SAC Consulting, revealed that a recent study conducted by SAC had shown that the average profit per Blue-grey cow is over £260 higher than the Quality Meat Scotland national hill average. Such figures have created an upsurge of interest in this type of breeding.

Andrew Loftus, Morrisons agricultural manager, added: "Whitebred Shorthorns, in our view, could become very important as part of a stratified beef breeding programme, being a true maternal breed. Whitebred Shorthorn sired females make great suckler cows that can calve to a wide variety of terminal sires."

Under the supermarket's traditional beef scheme, Whitebred Shorthorn-sired steers are eligible for the same 30p per kg premium as the Beef Shorthorn.

Morrisons currently has a small herd of Whitebred Shorthorns at its Dumfries House Farm in Scotland. The farm is a unique collaboration between Morrisons and one of HRH The Prince of Wales' charities.