New kids on the nursery slopes find profitability in the Shorthorn. Chris and Sue Malkin brought their first pedigree Shorthorn in 2011 and yet they are confident that they have found the breed that finally suits their Organic system.
Originally from Macclesfield, Malkin’s moved down to Cotwalton Farm, Stone with their Holstein Friesian herd in 1999 and were faced with a difficult challenge to expand their family enterprise. Buying an 184acre Nursery meant starting from scratch and Malkin’s “really had to work hard to get the farm where we wanted”. They incurred major capital start up expenses; building a parlour and adding cubicles “initially we had loose housing and were using seventeen tons of straw every three weeks plus we could not keep a handle on the mastitis”. With the capital being used to construct the farm buildings “we realised that we could grow grass without costly fertilizer and that if you are farming an Organic system you should really capitalise on the premium from your output.”
Organic conversion started in 2001 but finding a milk buyer was difficult because “everyone had jumped on the Organic band wagon”. However Malkin’s’ held out and now sell to OMSCo – the Organic Milk Suppliers Cooperative achieving a price of 27p last spring and a current winter price of 42p. “The milk price is the driving force behind us remaining organic otherwise we would have to increase our cattle numbers to achieve the same milk cheque.” Malkin’s do all the work themselves so the initial conversion into organic status was extremely tough, trying to turn the nursery fields that had bad fertility into grazing paddocks meant extensive reseeding. However the problem now became that the cows did not suit the system. “The Holsteins just did not work, they could not walk the distance, this is a hilly farm and with the Organic system cutting down our feeding options we struggled to fill the cows and capitalise on their potential.”
Seven years ago in an effort to move away from the Holsteins Malkin’s strayed into the MRIs, as “we liked the fact they were hardy cows” and felt that they might be more suited to our farm. “Primarily the first Holstein x MRIs were a great success, maintaining type and a good milk performance, the fact that bull calves were averaging £250 at market was an added bonus. However the second crosses were extremely disappointing through the parlour and we were forced to look to another breed”.
Chris remembers that growing up there had always been one or two Shorthorns on his family farm in Macclesfield and he appreciated the durability of the breed. So on a trip to the Beeston mid month in 2011 Malkin’s purchased their first pedigree blended Shorthorns from Graham Madeley and subsequently asked to go and buy privately from the Rodway herd a few days later. “Shorthorns have a good performance in the dairy and suit our system they exceed the capability of the Holsteins and MRIs because they are better feed converters and we have not had to use any shackles as they are so much better on their legs and feet”.
“We’ve been buying Shorthorns ever since”. Malkin’s are only allowed to buy cattle from Organic herds and the Rodway, Strickley and Sky high herds plus a maiden heifer from Marleycote have settled into the farm very well. In fact the family has managed to buy in some top-notch family lines as a building foundation to their own these include; Petals, Starlet, Lady Laura’s, Lisbet, Geri and Claribel to name but a few. “We are trying to build numbers up to 120 milkers and maintain that number but TB is a persistently heartbreaking problem. Eventually we would like to be in a position to introduce additional value to the business by selling pedigree surplus heifers and we feel that the Shorthorn offers us this possibility.”
Everything is bred to a Shorthorn now and there are three bulls on the farm; Hooton Fair Attempt, Rodway Lance and Rodway Milo plus numerous straws of semen in our flask: Drisgol Watzon, Mapleton Zumba, Lemongrove Bellagio, Treeton Pimp, Treeton Pingerly, Strickley True Perfection, Marleycote Blizzard and Panorama Landmine. “We have had a decent run of heifers lately and our youngstock is mainly by Hooton Fair Attempt and Cotonhall Mr. Frosty but the AI heifers are starting to come through now”. Malkin’s do register all their animals with the Shorthorn society and are grading up all their other cattle by incorporating Shorthorn bloodlines.
Malkin’s seem to have found a passion for the Shorthorn breed and this is certainly something that is instilled into both sons, Rob and Tom. Tom definitely has an interest in the showing side, attending Shorthorn judging days at Drisgol, Cotonhall and Rantonall that he has “thoroughly enjoyed and when we are able I would like to start showing our own animals ”. The family has also entered this year North Midlands herds’ competition placing fourth in the Small Herds class, which is extremely encouraging.
The future for Malkin’s seems to be red, white and roan. “We are looking to breed a resilient animal that will milk well and the Shorthorn works for us”.