A decade ago, Ian Norbury came back to the family farm full time with his dad part time. They had milked cows but then got into sucklers. The ethos needed to change in order to make money and Ian decided to go pedigree. Mobberley Angus and the beef he produces is making great strides. Ian has increased the numbers of cattle from 60 cows six years ago and is aiming for 150 suckler cows +followers to total 300 to make full use of the available land. Stock is born on farm and stays until slaughter or sold as breeding stock.
The Mobberley Angus brand is now achieving a good price and reputation for quality beef. Ian has recently started selling to a local butcher in Manchester who sells to local pub trade and chains and likes to know the provenance of the meat, the butcher is active on social media, which is good for everyone.
“EID should be used for traceability of meat, breed and days hanging, this is what the restaurant trade want and what the consumer should be asking and having an answer to”.
Ian is an AHDB Strategic Farm and was lucky enough to be loaned a Tru-Test XR5000 weigh head and a Tru-Test XRS2 EID stick reader to use on farm as Datamars are AHDB strategic partners. Ian said he did not think he could justify the Tru-Test equipment but now he doesn’t want to give it back! Within 24 hours of it arriving he had ordered readable EID tags which made the job superfast and so quick getting cattle through the race.
“Having a stick reader takes away human error of reading or writing a tag number down wrong, or having paper blow away or get wet, especially on a TB testing day, when stress his high and numbers are on various pages” Ian adds.
Initially, Ian used a Tru-Test EziWeigh7i and explains; “this is very good as it works out kg/day gained for each animal and he manually wrote in the last 3 digits off the eartag, it would record the Daily Weight Gain from the last time weighed. Ian quickly realised by also using The Datamars Livestock free software (formerly known as MiHub), “it is useful for DLWG and tracks weight gain and is a great free tool as you can set the end weight and month you want the cattle finished by. The software creates a graph to show if you are on track to get to this goal. So, if you are aiming for a 650kg cows, it plots on the graph where you need to get to, this can help with grazing or feeding decisions”.
“The XR5000 is a game changer! It collects and delivers as much or as little information as you want it to. It could be confusing. Choose what information you want to see and want recording, while the rest sits in the background. I like to see DLWG, Average LW gain, Sire / Dam, UK Tag number and health status”.
Using Datamars Livestock, Ian knows he only needs 0.8kg of DLWG not 1kg DLWG last winter on his store cattle in order to meet his month and weight goal, which is to kill between 16 -22 months, this saves on concentrate usage and saves money. He can use this information when talking with the feed supplier, for them to provide the correct feed and ratio to be used for the cattle. By weighing every three weeks, a clear indication can be seen from the graphs created to see if the feed is delivering what it said it would.
Ian weighs every animal off the farm when selling to abattoir or for breeding, he then stays to see them graded so he can get a good idea of confirmation and carcass quality and ensure that the sire and confirmation are working for him.
By staying with the bulls at kill and seeing them graded he can see how his weights are comparing to the end kill weight, plus he can see more from his Sire & Dam when a carcass is hanging up.
“Datamars Livestock puts cattle in weight order, this means it is easy to see which need pulling out as they are nearly ready and finish for the butcher”.
Ian now also uses the XRS2 Stick reader for keeping his medicine book up to date as it reads the EID Tags and then uploads the data onto the computer using FarmPlan software. He also captures much more valuable data with the XR5000 too.
Ian collects the following information every time the cattle go through the crush or are Stick Read. Tag No, EID No, Weight. Av Weight. Breed, DOB, Dam, Sire, Sex, Age in months Date 7& Time weighed. When he weighs a group, he can get the Average group weight, the Max and Min weight and a Total group weight.
“The Tru-Test XRS2 EID Stick reader is fantastic on a TB testing day – just use the stick separate (not just when weighing), it gets all the data. When treating flies, person on the stick, waits for the beep – all the information is recorded! This then gets downloaded into FarmPlan, with the Number in the group, age of the animal, put the treatment in the column, the amount of treatment (10ml) and highlights movement restrictions, which is fact, not guess work! All this is recorded in the Medicine Book section of the Farm Plan software, no need for bit of paper, error in writing down tag numbers or forgetting movement restrictions. Plus it is easy and quick and anyone can beep it over the ear!
Tru-Test has really helped make benchmarking so easy, just pull the data off into a spreadsheet, which shows the comparisons between 2 groups, which means you can move animals around so they are in the best group for them. The data shows you Actual weights, there is no guess work. There is confidence in the true figures #measuretomanage”.
“So much information CAN be used and can be daunting BUT you choose what you want to look at, all the information is there if you want it #measuretomanage”.
“Proper facts and figures, which means you know where your business is really at. It means you know what is working and what isn’t. Key decisions can be made when you have the proper facts. Tru-Test helps you gather, then Datamars Livestock interprets them for you #measuretomanage”.
Mobberley Angus calves are tagged at birth which has their EID no, Tag & Test for BVD and DNA taken for the Aberdeen Angus Soc. There is also a ‘blank’ tag, which is used to write name, sire, dam and DOB. The left ear has the EID the right ear is Tag & Test.
“The downside of EID at the minute, is that DEFRA won’t recognise the EID number, so you have to input the UK tag number and assign it an EID number. Defra needs to catch up and get everyone on EID, which would benefit the whole industry”.
Ian will often ensure he is pushing cattle through the race as he deems this the most dangerous area, as he does not want to put his family or workers at risk, they are able to read the tag with ease, hear the beep when it has been read and recorded the information – removes all error, especially when you have a cow moving its head around, or a dirty tag. Ian trims heads and ears, this ensure ease of reading tag numbers but also creates a uniform looking cow.
TB is massively restrictive to them at the moment. They have had 17 bulls held back, which will affect their sale price and margin. TB is Ian’s biggest worry about increasing the herd to 150 cattle, he is close to Manchester airport where they are building Airport City which was once a wildlife haven. When Ian TB tests he has to bring help in, to get animals moved, this includes his father in law a local gardener – Ian feel he should be able to pay people to help, not rely on ‘free’ help, the beef job should pay, or there should be a local farming community that can be called on to help on days like these.
Ian breeds his own stock as a built in ‘insurance’ to ‘control’ TB as much as he can. Although bull sales are delayed at the moment, because of TB he will be able to sell them, however he does worry about future TB status and if buyers will still be happy to buy from TB farms.
Mobberly Angus breeding stock have been sold through Sell My Livestock for three years and selling off farm with adverts in Farmers Guardian has been mainly for his bulls. He has sold his heifers to the butcher to ensure an all year presence of Mobberley Angus in the local restaurants.
The Mobberley Angus System: Calving – 1st week March – inside
CCTV cameras have been a game changer – safety of people and calves, monitor calving and can see the calf suckling colostrum.
Ian is going for the best – which means no dead calves, the CCTV means he monitors more but from the comfort of his home, or tractor!
Feeds the cows late at night – 75% of his herd calve in the day, which gives the calves a better chance as greater monitoring.
Calves are recorded at birth
Cows Tag no, Breed, DOB, Body CS, Calving Ease score, Sire, Calf Tag no, Dam docility, sex, Calf weight (Ian holds calf on a kitchen bathroom scales then weighs himself – safer and less work), time of birth.
Ian wants to keep cows who calve easily and are docile, so these records remind him of who makes the grade!
Calves are tagged and BVD tested, DNA tested and EID – from birth. The group of tags are pre-entered in the MiHub and FarmPlan, so recoding started straight away, the stick reader can be waved over the tag – good to go!
This depends on the weather – ideally by the end of March, by 2-3 weeks of of birth.
Looking to tighten the calving pattern as the sheds are used to house cattle, calve down and house cows and calves.
Block of 60 cows & 60 calves.
Moved every 3-5 days – depending on time of year and grass growth.
1 bull per group – joins them end of May.
1st & 2nd calving heifers
Stay together as a group.
Calve at 24 months or under (find they can get too big and fat if older)
In-calf – they are out-wintered on kale
Once calved – 1st winter – they are housed.
2nd calvers and 2nd calf reared – they then join the cows, as heifers they are still growing.
Calves are weaned in October / November – weather dependent.
Calves go into the silage ground – to get the best bite!
Cows – tidy up the paddocks and ‘rough’ grazing.
Don’t want the calves to loose condition
Calves are moved every 2 days, daily if it is wet, to reduce damage
Calves stay out until mid – late December
Housed into cubicles or loose housed as numbers increase.
Need to be out by early March in time for cows calving
This reduces costs and man hours
Graze around the rough ground
1st Dec go onto cover crop (kale) and bales.
It takes 20 minutes to move the strip graze fence daily – the cows are really happy outside, the kale helps soil structure and the cows stay clean.
Bolus before kale& bale grazing – high Iodine. Blood test to see if any other deficiencies.
Stay out until Mid Feb – come in 3-4 weeks before calving.
As soon as the cows start calving the calves need to go out to make way for newbies (maximise the sheds)
Don’t routinely worm – do egg counts and faecal testing.
Weighing regularly is a massive indicator for
Grass not performing
Pushing them too hard
Worms – carry out an egg count.
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