Stephen and Ann Morley of Petteril Bank, near Southwaite, are perhaps better known for their renowned Petteril Holstein herd, but this month it’s their Limousin herd which was formed in 2011 which is the main focus of their attention ahead of them taking four young bulls to the forthcoming breed sale at Carlisle.

The duo took over the running of the 220-acre farm, which sits half way between Carlisle and Penrith, 25 years ago when Ann’s parents, Gordon and Sheila, along with sister, Helen, bought Bankdale Farm a short distance away, splitting the dairy herd between the two farms.

The pedigree Limousin herd was founded just eight years ago, but the family are no strangers to the Limousin breed. Ann’s parents, Gordon and Sheila owned the famous Bankdale herd which was dispersed in 2011 at Carlisle to a record-breaking top of 65,000gns.

In all that day, the Bankdale sale saw nine animals sell over the 10,000gns mark, with 26 selling for 5000gns or more, and the £11,200 average for nine served heifers was a UK all breeds record.

Gordon had founded the herd in 2002, after both his, and Stephen and Ann’s, dairy herds were wiped out in the foot-and-mouth outbreak. While Stephen and Ann decided to restock, Gordon headed in a different direction and set off for France to purchase Princesse, the foundation cow of his new Limousin herd.

The herd grew quickly and became synonymous with quality cattle. The decision to retire from livestock breeding and to disperse the herd wasn’t taken lightly, so it was to his great delight and surprise that Stephen and Ann purchased one of the young heifers at the sale. An ET calf suckling a British Blue cross mother, Bankdale Gracie was no average heifer, being by the 13,500gns Ironstone Colonel out of the renowned cow Bankdale Alice.

Just two months before the dispersal sale, Gordon had sold the Alice son Bankdale Ex-Factor, by Wilodge Vantastic at 38,000gns in Carlisle, so she was already proving her worth when she was bought for 15,000gns by Michael and Melanie Alford of Foxhill. Since then Alice has gone on to produce some phenomenal cattle for the Alfords including the Grand Slam show winning Foxhillfarm Gracie, the 35,000gns Carlisle champion Foxhillfarm Jasper, and Foxhillfarm Lordofthering, which also made 35,000gn after lifting a Carlisle championship.

The 68,000gns sale topper, Bankdale Erin was another Alice daughter, as was Bankdale Elizabeth which sold for 35,000gns.

All of Stephen and Ann’s Petteril herd, which now stands at 20 head, trace back to Bankdale Gracie and indeed to Alice. While no longer around, Gracie left three outstanding heifers, Lucy, Jasmine and Maisie, all by Dalcorsllwyn Fabio, which are all still breeding within the herd.

“We would never have just gone to sale and picked out just any female – we knew when we bought Gracie, we were buying a heifer from a great breeding line that we had seen flourish over the years. The line is also very docile, which makes a big difference with the children around,” said Stephen.

“We have gone down the embryo route as a means to building the herd that bit quicker. We have obviously had to buy in recipients so have had to select them carefully from herds with similar health status to our own.

“Our herd has had to stay down at Bankdale as we were just starting out and had to build our health status, which was going to be difficult in the same steading as the Holsteins, but hopefully in the future that may change,” he added.

Bulls used successfully over the past few years include Mereside Lorenzo, Mereside Godolphin and Ampertaine Gigolo, which have all been sourced through Semen Store. “Our numbers don’t really justify a stock bull,” said Stephen. “We also enjoy being able to pick out bulls and to try out something new to get the perfect match with our females.”

The four bulls heading to Carlisle are Ohio and Oklahoma, two Mereside Lorenzo sons out of Lucy, along with Orlando, a Godolphin son out of Lucy, and Nirvana who is by Lorenzo, out of Jasmine.

“They are only young bulls, being 15-16 months of age,” pointed out Stephen. “But they are looking really impressive and we look forward to seeing how they sell.” In addition, the Morleys have another young bull destined for the October sale. Oz is out of Lucy, but by Irish Lad.

“The Limousins have given us another income stream,” explained Stephen. “Milk is such a volatile commodity and we don’t know what the future holds.”

Following the foot-and-mouth devastation, the Petteril Holstein herd was restocked back up to some 200 cows plus followers, with the purchase of carefully chosen females from across the UK, including a large proportion from a herd in north Wales.

“We had a closed herd before and had built up the quality over many years. We had shown a lot of the cows and bred bulls which went into AI, so we lost a very unique herd and families that were irreplaceable,” said Stephen.

The herd averages 10,800 litres with twice-a-day milking through a Westfalia herringbone parlour, and the milk selling onwards to Meadow Foods. Calving takes place all year round with all cows being put to the Holstein bull. In 2018 the Morleys were awarded Master Breeder status and are past winners of the Border and Lakeland Holstein Club herd and Winter Classic competitions.

Both the dairy herd and the beef cattle are fed their own home-grown silage and haylage in addition to 50 acres of wheat and 35 acres of maize which are grown for feed.

“With the Holsteins we have always paid great attention to the female lines and when we find a line that works really well then we will stick with it and keep pursuing it” says Ann.

It’s not just the older generation who are kept busy on the farm, 18-year-old Robert has just returned from the European Holstein Championships in Libramont, Belgium, where he travelled as part of the Holstein UK team, and returned having stood an impressive second in the junior showmanship competition. Robert is an active member of the local young farmers club and after sitting his forthcoming A levels plans to study Agriculture.

Anna (15) is currently in year 10 at school, studying for her GCSEs, and is also keen on the cattle, being a member of the Border and Lakeland HYB and the Young Farmers club.

This tight family unit certainly works well together as a team, and Ann’s sister Helen has recently bought her own Limousin heifer from the Alfords – Foxhillfarm Nextmillion, out of Bankdale Alice – so its looks like the Alice legacy has a firm future for the family!

Helen ran The Flower Bank, a very successful wholesale flower business from Bankdale which she has recently sold to a London-based company. She explains: “I had just sold my business and was needing something to focus my attention on – so having seen the tremendous cattle, as well as the fun the others were having, I decided to get in on the action myself!”

There is no doubt that this family have a solid future ahead of them “We love seeing Robert and Anna being involved and enjoying the farm and the cattle as much as we do,” added Stephen.

“We would love to get out showing the Limousins in the future, too, as we have a lovely heifer calf out of Maisie which is full of promise and we hope to get her out in the show ring soon.”

But with the bull sale just around the corner it’s all hands on deck as the family prepares the four youngsters for the event.