AHEAD OF the autumn suckler sales, Bevis Jordan, the farm manager at Mains Rigg Farm, Whitfield, Northumberland, will open its gates for the NBA Northern regions Autumn farm walk.

Bevis has been with the estate for over 20 years, growing the estate’s 125 head suckler business, using a low input system producing top quality suckled calves and herd replacements year on year. His attention to detail and drive to constantly improve the herd is clear, trialling out new ideas and investing in infrastructure to improve cattle health and safety.

After foot-and-mouth, Bevis chose to alter the business model from buying in replacements to breeding his own with an aim to reduce disease risk and improve consistency. He selected the Saler breed to produce maternal replacements and hasn’t looked back since. The herd consist of medium-sized Saler cross cattle with heifers and the top 10% cows bred to a Saler bull and the remainder with Limousin stock bulls.

The herd performs well, achieving over 90% of calves weaned year on year, the majority of cattle calving within an 9-week block with negligible difficulties and all replacement heifers calving at two-years-old. Suckled calves are sold in the autumn, with cattle fed though the winter on silage and loose minerals formulated to compliment the farms forage analysis and only heifers fed beef nuts to ensure steady growth.

Bevis puts the herd's exceptional calving ease down to the annual pelvic area measuring of potential replacement heifers to ensure that they are fit to calve themselves. Bevis first saw the tool in practise on a trip to the US and was determined to bring it back to Mains Rigg. After discussing with Karl Collins, his local vet, the pair set about annually measuring replacement heifers and removing those whose measurements were too small to calve naturally.

Since implementing pelvic measuring there has been a marked decrease in assisted births, only one or two each year, and no caesareans. Karl will be on hand at the farm walk to demonstrate how pelvic measuring works on a group of 2017 heifers.

Over the years Bevis has improved the farm's traditional housing, removing Yorkshire boarding and replacing traditional doors with gates to help improve ventilation, as well as building a modern purpose built shed and handling system. The handling system, designed by Bevis and purpose built by IAE, includes squeeze crush and adjustable width race components seen in the US. Bevis will be demonstrating the system and its design on the evening.

The farm walk, scheduled for next Wednesday, October 17, is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim, who will be discussing cattle health at housing on the day of the event. The walk will commence at 12 noon and will be followed by light refreshments. To book a free place contact NBA head office on 01434 601005 or email info@nationalbeefassociation.com.