Princess of Killochries
It is clear that the top end Highlanders can not only produce the desired carcass (R4L) on time but also they can achieve the desired result on poorer pasture and at a much lower cost than their continental cousins. The task is to identify these high-performing cattle and develop a strain that is not only beautiful, conformant to the breed standard but also a highly commercial asset.
As Highlanders are hill cows the first criteria was to ensure they all had good feet and good udders. Any cow that required foot trimming would not be allowed to become part of the herd. Cows with large teats would require more management at calving time and therefore, less desirable.
The following criteria were used to select cattle that would remain in the herd:
The calves’ weights were taken at approximately two hundred days old. The calf’s live weight gain was targeted to be in the range of over .7kg day for females and over .85Kg day for males. What we discovered was that the best bull calves were regularly making over 1 Kg @ day on milk.
The rib eye size of the breeding and young bulls was measured by scanning and as the bigger rig eye determines a more valuable carcass, only the bulls with best rib eyes were selected for breeding.
On the best cattle, you can see that there is significant muscle behind the hook-bone and that the plates are flat and well formed. Good locomotion is essential, especially for a hill bull.
Today our target weight for an adult female is five hundred kilos with an upper limit of plus one hundred kilos. In other words, we wish all adults to be over five hundred kilos but not to exceed six hundred kilos, as we believe that six hundred kilos is the upper limit for a hill cow. The heifer should then go to the bull when she is 75% of her adult weight, in this case, anytime over three hundred and seventy-five kilos.
If calving in March the bull will be put out in June therefore, all two-year-old heifers that are over three hundred and seventy-five kilos will go to the highland bull. The remainder who have not made the target on time will either be fattened for beef or go to a crossing bull the following year. They will not be bred pure, as they will not meet our earlier maturing objectives.
These heifers that bred with the highland will be assessed on the performance and quality of their calf at weaning and if at the upper end will continue to be bred pure otherwise they will be crossed with the beef Shorthorn bull.
There is therefore, a good opportunity for buyers to purchase these selected cattle at four years old when in calf for the third time to a high-quality Highland bull. In this way, they would be able to purchase a premium animal with proven performance record.
Pedigree information has always been used extensively as strong traits can be seen within family groups. Common ancestors; sometimes many generations back, regularly show up in the best cattle.
We have recently rejoined “Beefbreeder” and Signet performance information is available for most Killochries cattle on the Highland Cattle Society / BASCO site. (Here)
We hope many other breeders will join us in Signet performance recording, as the more samples taken the more accurate will be the information available to improve the breed. Potential buyers also will benefit by being able to buy the animals they like backed up by facts rather than opinions on how they will fit into and enhance their fold.