SELECTING for the doublemuscling gene in Red Poll cattle offers a real opportunity for breeders to broaden the appeal of the breed – but it must also be recognised that it is still very much in its early stages.
Simon Temple said: “One of the breed’s key potential markets is for use as a beef sire on dairy heifers. There is no doubt that the cross works well, producing a good beef calf with ease of calving.
“Calves by bulls carrying the double-muscling gene should be beefier than those by bulls without the gene.
However, we believe there will always be a place for both types of Red Poll bull.”
A barrister by profession, he gave up law for farming due to ill health and founded his Bowland Red Poll herd in 1986 after moving to the family’s 30-acre smallholding, Stockabank Farm, Quernmore, Lancaster.
He now also farms his late parents’ 300-acre Yealand Hall Farm, at Yealand Redmayne, near Carnforth – a SDA farm, which takes in large areas of woodland, scrub and moss, as well as good grazing.
“I was still practising at the Bar and decided I wanted some rare breed cattle to graze the fields,” he said.
“I went to a Rare Breeds Survival Trust sale at Stoneleigh to look at beef cattle breeds. Knowing nothing about Red Polls, I bought two Red Poll heifers from Adrian Derby, then added a couple more and borrowed a bull from Adrian. We now run a 40- breeding cow Red Poll suckler herd and about 120 breeding ewes. With ‘slippages’ the Red Polls have calved almost all year round, but we are gradually trying to concentrate on spring calving.
“Apart from potential breeding stock, calves are sold as stores, or, in the case of bull calves, sold direct to a beef finisher.”
Simon believes strongly in the value of Signet recording for all his stock and using the information to develop his breeding programmes.
One of the stars of the herd is the 2013 Westmorland Show breed champion, Bowland Zeus, whose figures place him in the top one per cent of the breed, with high accuracy values. Zeus carried one copy of the double-muscling Myostatin mutation.
Zeus semen has been exported to New Zealand and Australia and sold within the UK.
Especially interesting is the heifer, Bowland Charisma, a Zeus daughter, that is one sixteenth Limousin and carries copies of both the Red Poll and Limousin double-muscling genes which, says Simon, seem to complement each other.
Lancashire beef finisher Ann Gardner, of Great Eccleston, takes Red Poll bull calves from Simon Temple, finishing them at about 14 to 16 months old.
They are finished intensively on an ad-lib ration of straw, barley, biscuit meal and a 38 per cent protein concentrate. She said: “We have about 300 assorted beef bulls, mainly bought in as calves. The Red Polls finish well at about 330kg carcase weight. The last Red Polls sold made U and O grades and we think those we have at the moment will probably be R grades.”