Sta­biliser breed makes its mark


The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - FARMING -

An im­ported “breed” of cat­tle known as Sta­bilis­ers is qui­etly mak­ing its mark on Scot­tish beef pro­duc­tion.

Purists are sus­pi­cious or even dis­mis­sive of this com­pos­ite an­i­mal that sells it­self on sta­tis­tics, yet sup­port­ers claim it is the fastest grow­ing breed in the UK with more than 10,000 cows in 110 herds.

The Sta­biliser’s ori­gins are in a US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture-de­signed four­way cross that com­bines Red An­gus, Sim­men­tal, Gel­b­veigh and Here­ford ge­net­ics to pro­duce an an­i­mal that ben­e­fits from hy­brid vigour. The York­shire-based Beef Im­prove­ment Group­ing Ltd (BIG) owns the Sta­biliser trade­mark in the EU and has been sell­ing the ge­net­ics here since 2000.

In­di­vid­ual lines are pro- duced in the United States, ex­ported as em­bryos then mul­ti­plied by nu­cleus breed­ers in the UK. Bull sales are con­trolled by the breed­ing com­pany. Sires cost £2,500-£8,000, with prices based on a bull’s ge­netic merit, or Es­ti­mated Breed­ing Value (EBV).

The Sta­biliser movement is pop­u­lar in the US, and farm­ers in the UK who use the cat­tle swear by their re­sults, par­tic­u­larly as an ef­fi­cient suck­ler cow.

Early con­verts in­clude the Nor­rie fam­ily who farm at Den­head of Ar­bir­lot near Ar­broath. They are so con­vinced by the breed they are host­ing a farm walk and talk by breed mas­ter­mind, Lee Leach­man next week.

Dou­glas, Frank and Robin Nor­rie were amongst the first in Scot­land to im­port Sta­bilis­ers in the late 1990s, orig­i­nally to use as a ma­ter­nal line to put to Charo­lais bulls, but in 2006 they bought a Sta­biliser bull and now run a closed herd of 140 an­i­mals.

“We were cer­tainly the farthest north Sta­biliser breeder in those early days and at that time our herd was made up of cows of 57 va­ri­eties which we had bought out of auc­tion marts as bulling heifers or with calves at foot,” said Dou­glas Nor­rie . “That wasn’t work­ing for us and one of the main rea­sons was the need to get rid of dis­eases, par­tic­u­larly BVD and Johne’s. We joined the HI-Health Scheme and are now on top of those dis­ease is­sues.”

The Nor­ries sell Sta­biliser calves as bull beef at 13-14 months old and sur­plus year­ling bulling heifers are mar­keted for breed­ing.

They are now de­vel­op­ing a small sub-herd of graded- up to “pure” Sta­bilis­ers with which they in­tend to pro­duce bulls for sale un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the breed­ing com­pany.

Robin Nor­rie said he fo­cused pri­mar­ily on the breed’s ge­net­ics and the bot­tom-line fig­ures but said it was still im­por­tant to look at a bull’s lo­co­mo­tion and tem­per­a­ment.

Dou­glas Nor­rie added: “We used to worry about heifers not be­ing good moth­ers, but Sta­bilis­ers are very ma­ter­nal. Calves have low birth weights of 30-40kg. That means we haven’t had to do a Cae­sar­ian in 11 years and very rarely have to get the vet.”

farm walk and con­fer­ence takes place at Den­head of Ar­bir­lot, Ar­broath, on Mon­day. Reg­is­tra­tion is at 4pm fol­lowed by a farm walk of the Den­head of Ar­bir­lot herd.

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