The Coldrochie Beef Shorthorn herd may have a high pedigree status, but Douglas McMillan and his stockman, Charlie Reed, are mindful of the fact they are in the ‘meat trade’, which underlines most management decisions and strategies necessary to move forward in today’s demanding market. 
“We keep Beef Shorthorns for their ability to produce a high value calf with the minimum amount of work and inputs,” Douglas explained. “Our main aim is to produce a good hardy animal, one that is structurally sound and good on its feet. 
“We want these cattle to be able to thrive out on the hills, so a good thick skin and coat is essential, along with good rumen capacity to maximize feed intake. We seek a quality carcase with good meat to bone ratios. We try to produce cattle that are soft fleshed, with plenty of marbling.”
Based at Moneydie Roger, Luncarty, Perth, Coldrochie currently comprises 55 breeding cows together with replacement heifers, three senior stock bulls and one junior stock bull. 
Split between two-thirds spring calvers and one-third early autumn calvers, herd size is limited by farm size with only 140 acres of permanent grassland. Furthermore, the stony and brash soil type has a natural low fertility, high acid levels and the unit has areas of very wet ground. 
Douglas relocated his Beef Shorthorn herd in 2009 from the Coln Valley, Gloucestershire, to a farm that had been neglected for a number of years. Moneydie Roger’s field systems were reorganised and the whole unit re-fenced, with hedges and trees planted on all field boundaries. 
A mixed grazing, clover rich sward was initially sown across the farm and eight years on, it is still productive with a programme in place to regularly rejuvenate some of the pastures, whilst drainage and weed control is on-going.   
Since capital investment has reached completion, fixed costs are kept to a minimum, and nowadays the farm is run on a low input system.
Charlie Reed has managed the farm for the last four years, as well as being employed as Coldrochie’s stockman, whilst his daughter, the other Charley Reed, willingly helps out with the pedigree work, daily tasks, and maintains the herd’s social media.
Douglas and Charlie together take great pride in their heifer crops. “We have a common ground as to what the requirements are, consequently decision making is a little easier,” commented Charlie. 
“We sell as many top end heifers as possible, as long as there are enough females within the family groups retained. However, it is always very difficult to decide what to keep. Apart from the obvious financial aspects, it is always rewarding to get positive feedback from satisfied customers. 
“Whilst we are pleased to bring out cattle for the show ring, we like to hear from commercial farmers and what they want from their stock,” he added. 
“In fact, we believe the future of any pedigree herd is dependent on having the insight and vision to take the herd forward, and genetics are the key. Whichever direction genetics take us, we are careful to keep the integrity and characteristics of the breed.”
Coldrochie’s breeding selection criteria is initially based on visual appraisal, whilst Breedplan helps qualify the initial selection, especially when purchasing new herd sires. 
Douglas commented: “We try to select bulls that suit our cows and the direction we want to breed. No one bull will suit every animal, that’s why we run three stock bulls, each of a different type and character which in turn helps to choose the right bull for the right cow. 
“To help evaluate the cow over time, we try not to stick to the same selection every year. Using Breedplan, we aim to look at the individual traits rather than TI and SRI indexes because these figures are relative to the herd the animal comes from rather than the entire breed, thus the quality of the herd and how it is managed will influence the indexes significantly.”
Coldrochie enjoys high herd health status – Johne’s level one for five years and BVD accredited for seven years. “We vaccinate against IBR with a marker vaccine. Although not accredited for lepto, any samples taken in the past have been negative. 
“A good indication of herd health is the 100% conception rate we recorded this year, mostly at first service. Also, the majority of the younger cows have a calving interval less than 365 days.
“The Beef Shorthorn’s mothering ability gives us a calf with plenty of thrift enabling us to minimise vet bills. The cows come into plenty of milk with good udders and once up and going, the calves do not look back. 
“Any cows that do not meet the right criteria are culled as it only takes a few high maintenance cows to affect the viability of the business.”
Bulls that do not make the final cut for breeding are finished at 12 to 13 months of age and 625kg to 650kg liveweight, and sent to ABP. Killing out percentage is normally about 56% and carcases regularly grade U+3 to U-4, competitive with any other breed, said Douglas. 
“While we believe the outlook for farming is tough, we are confident that the Beef Shorthorn has a great future in British farming, as a functional suckler cow, whilst the males – both bulls and steers are easy to finish.”