Regular weighing, careful stock management and a calculated approach to feeding have enabled Edward Mathers to develop an award-winning beef enterprise.
Edward farms at Besshill Farm in Arlington, near Barnstaple, where he runs a 115 herd Limousin suckler herd on 300 acres in partnership with his mother and father. In 2002, Edward established a farm shop on site which is now rented out to a local butcher.
“Calving takes place in two blocks with 25 cows calved in autumn and the rest over spring” explains Edward. “This ensures a steady supply of finished carcasses – usually one a week – for the farm shop throughout the year. I then have about 30-40 additional steers which I sell on.”
Edward rears all his own replacements and, when required, aims to calve heifers at two years of age having had them served by one of the farm’s polled Limousin bulls.
“I take calves from birth through to slaughter; keeping a close eye on their progress through monthly weighing” continues Edward. “Calves initially suckle their mother and are turned out to grass as soon as conditions allow to make the most of grazing. When cattle are indoors, they are fed plenty of high quality, home grown silage.”
Edward starts to introduce creep feed to cattle at five months of age before weaning at eight months and then providing 4-5kg of ForFarmers Super Grower (per animal) through the creep feeder. Once heifers hit the 400kg mark, and steers 450-500 kg, the pellets are replaced with barley for final finishing.
“I used to just feed barley as soon as cattle were weaned, but found that whilst they appeared to be growing well, when weighed, they weren’t achieving good enough weight gains,” states Edward. “I started using the Super Grower about four years ago and have found they help cattle develop a strong, solid frame which fills out quickly as they mature – significantly increasing weight gains, reducing finishing times and improving overall efficiency. A recent group of cattle achieved an average DLWG of 1.13kg, with the best achieving 1.35kg.”
The enterprise at Besshill farm has been so successful that Edward was recently recognised as the Beef Farmer of the Year in this year’s South West Farmer awards.
Managing feed to deliver consistent and high daily liveweight gains is key to the ongoing success of one Exeter-based beef finishing unit.