Tom Bradley Farmer says he’s working up to three years ahead to determine what beef farmers will be looking to stock, and he’s confident Beef Shorthorn will fit the bill.

“That’s the time lag – from selecting the genetics through to having bulls and heifers for sale. However, I know Beef Shorthorn is an efficient functional suckler suited to low input, grazing systems, and as we move towards the new support systems, then I think that’s what our marketplace will be about,” he says.

Read more: Millerston Beef Shorthorn dispersal sets 17,000gns new record at Stirling

The family’s Meonside Beef Shorthorn herd comprising 50 pedigree cows and followers pays testament to that efficiency; 85% of the herd is calving within the first five weeks, cows are milky weaning seven to eight-month-old calves on average 40% to 60% of their bodyweight and the herd is rearing 90% calves from cows put to the bull.

The breed is also extremely docile which Tom says is not only important to himself managing the herd singlehanded but also for other producers particularly since labour is becoming more and more scarce.

“With a set of new breeders coming into the marketplace and an increasing number of registrations, then I believe there will be a growing demand for Beef Shorthorn foundation females, and a very big one for heifers, followed by repeat purchases,” he comments.


Cows with three-month-old heifer calves at foot

Cows with three-month-old heifer calves at foot


“In fact, when you factor in our 50 pedigree Texel ewes, we’re currently heading to maximum stocking rate and I’m already selling some of our best heifers to both new and established herds. I’ve three heifers from our best female lines entered for Stirling, sired by Willingham Kensington and Meonside King Kong, whilst we have another good crop of bulls lined up for February."

Tom's Beef Shorthorn journey was fast tracked eight months ago in Stirling when he achieved a record of 27,000gns for Meonside Nidavellir, 12,000gns for Meonside Nosty and 6500gns for Meonside Millicent Ninet.

“It was a lonely time, in the middle of another lockdown, however that success gave us that extra spur to keep going; in fact, we were overwhelmed, it was just as though the stars were aligned,” said the 25-year-old.

Read more: The world of Shorthorns comes to the UK

Twelve months earlier Tom enjoyed his first taste of success in Stirling with Meonside Mufasa selling for 11,000gns. Mufasa was the first calf born on Scottish soil since the herd settled in Dumfriesshire.

“So far, demand has been absolutely fantastic, however that level of trade isn’t going to happen every year, consequently we keep a firm eye on the commercial market.”


Two-year-old heifers running with bull

Two-year-old heifers running with bull


Farming is in Tom’s blood having grown up at Drayton Farm, a Hampshire unit which had been in the family for 150 years. However, it wasn’t his original career path. “I’ve always liked sport and was initially looking at doing sports physio. But before going to Uni, I had a year out and worked at home with my brother, David and my grandad, Frank Moffat, I realised I wanted to farm and ended up studying Agriculture at Harper Adams University.

“When it came to David and I taking on the family farm reins then it simply wasn’t big enough for us both, the farm was in a TB 1 area and located in a limited marketplace. My grandparents and my mum, Sally gave us the opportunity to up sticks and buy outright another farm. We’d always had Scotland in mind with a lot of our stock already sold up North, but it was still a big decision to make; in 2018 we finally agreed on Dumfriesshire, a great grass growing area with good logistics.” The following year, Tom graduated in Agriculture and headed north to manage the 150-acre Wester Parkgate and ship up the Meonside herd, established by Frank Moffat and Simon Bradley Farmer in 2006.

“Wester Parkgate is a grass-based farm with a bit of hill making it perfect for the Beef Shorthorns,” explains Tom, who now runs the farm singlehanded whilst David is currently managing a newly established Texel flock in Oxfordshire - a job he says he couldn’t refuse. “Apart from managing the stock, I’m kept busy introducing new infrastructure, setting up the unit to bring the best out of the grassland and the herd.”


line-up of heifers for sale at Stirling and Skipton

line-up of heifers for sale at Stirling and Skipton


Taking forward the Meonside herd is amongst his list of priorities. “My dad and grandad put in the solid foundations; without them the herd wouldn’t be where it is today. Foundation lines came from Layberry, Aylward, Sannan and Ballylinney, going back to lines from Dunsyre and Uppermill. These with added lines from Glenisla and alongside homebred females give us this genetic pool that is breeding consistently well. Stock bulls Elliot Salute and Willingham Kensington have clicked tremendously well whilst Meonside King Kong continues to impress into his fifth mating season, breeding correctness with that breedy stamp.

“As well as phenotype, I look for the correct structure, the right udder placement, topline and mobility but if an animal has good EBVs, then all the better. EBVs have a big place in our selection process, but they’re only as good as the data you input.

“We are now trying to pull together a good genetic base and then buy or breed a bull to produce a female that best represents the breed. Our latest private purchase was Podehole Piper chosen for his correctness, and exceptional bloodlines, including some of the breed’s best female lines.”


Meonside Miss Ramsden

Meonside Miss Ramsden


Agreeing a new herd sire was a family decision, he explains. “Whilst I manage Wester Parkgate and the buck stops with me on the day-to-day stuff, the business is a family partnership between mum, David and myself. I get a great deal of support from them, even though they’re all in Southern England, and that’s really important to me.”

To the future and Tom considers herd health status is going to be even more important, testing for Neospora as well as maintaining the herd’s high health status will be vital for the market. “We would like to start herd classification in the next couple of years; we’re confident it will be able to further help in the selection procedure.”

He adds: “I feel very lucky to have been given such an opportunity, and plan to put in the graft to make my family proud and the venture a success. My goal is to be running the best Beef Shorthorn herd in the country in the next 20 years, keeping pace with the evolving marketplace to ensure it continues to meet demand from both the pedigree and commercial producers.”