- the functional and profitable breed for the future - Rob and Sue Morgan believe in grasping opportunities; it’s an approach that’s enabled them to grow their farming business within the last nine years from a 24 cow start-up herd to their current dairy enterprise featuring 400 cows. Further expansion is on the horizon and blended Dairy Shorthorn genetics are at the heart of their plans.
“When opportunities come along, we believe in running with them and progressing if they’re going to help us to get to where we want to be – and that’s farming a sustainable family business,” Rob explains. “We’re now in a position where we’ve not only achieved a sufficient number of cows through the parlour, but we’ve also found the right genetics for us to continue herd growth. We are currently swapping our black and white herd for our Morwood herd of blended Dairy Shorthorn which is averaging 7,275 litres at 4.27% butterfat and 3.38% protein.
“Blended Dairy Shorthorns are proving to be functional cows demonstrating that hardiness and wear ability. They’ve got hybrid vigour. We’re expecting an average six lactations, a level of performance that’s got to cost effectively exceed a 10,000 litre Holstein lasting just three, particularly when you take in to account a heifer costs £1,000 to rear to first calving. We’ve also found that they are better feed converters; they have smaller intake requirements compared with the black and whites.”
He continues: “Dairy Shorthorn is not just for us. Our four young children have become real enthusiasts, and we’ve been able to support and help them towards achieving success in the showring.”The couple took over the tenancy of Woodend Hall Farm, Coton, Shropshire, then a 68 acre holding back in 2003. “We started from scratch milking just two dozen black and whites. Right from the start our ambition was to grow the herd and we gradually expanded to 250 milking cows. Five years later Rob and Sue managed to buy the farm as sitting tenant and add a further 40 acres. However it was an encounter in 2008 with Graham, Shirley and Rachael Madeley which was the catalyst for introducing Dairy Shorthorn,” Rob explains.
The Madeleys asked the Morgan daughters, Katie, Hannah and Lucy to lend them a hand in the showing ring with calves from their Rodway herd. To continue their interest in Dairy Shorthorn, Rob and Sue bought each of the girls and son, Tom, a calf from the Rodway herd for Christmas, and from then on the rest is history.
“Rodway has pioneered blending and importing international genetics and we admired the herd and its performance. These cows were not only producing milk efficiently but they were also hard wearing and long lasting. At around the same time, I had the chance to import 50 red and white Holstein Friesian heifers from Holland – we needed to grow the herd and again, we found they demonstrated the efficiency we were seeking. Following on, the big question we had to answer was, which bull do we use next?
“We agreed to introduce a red and white blending strategy by buying in Dairy Shorthorn genetics annually from Graham Madeley and from the Dee dispersal. In fact we ended up buying 20 cows at the Rodway dispersal in 2012 which gave our herd a great boost, alongside the introduction of Roger Stockton’s Westonia herd. Roger also offered us a half-share in his six heifer calves and Westonia Marie 6, which in our opinion is currently one of the breed’s star animals. While she’s not too extreme, she averaged 10,000 litres in her first three lactations.” Marie also secured the National Dairy Shorthorn Breed Championship at Cheshire show this year.
“At the same time we were keen to continue expanding the herd. Our neighbours were retiring from milking cows so we had the chance not only to buy their 150 cow herd, but also agree an arrangement whereby they contract rear all our youngstock, from 12 weeks to pre calving at two years. It’s a win win solution. They’ve the skills and resources and we’re able to comfortably carry 400 cows on the land which we’re farming which has grown to 550 acres.
Type and production is top of the Morgan’s sire selection criteria. Successful bulls so far across the red and white herd include Nejay Ernie, Nejay Royalty, Rodway Rueben, Drisgol Madonna’s Prince along with the Australian sires Treeton Pimp, Treeton Pingerly and Glenbrook Tornado. Rodway Osbourne and Rodway Bomber have both been running with the heifers, including the black and whites.
The couple also plan to take more milk from forage and for the first time grow fodder beet to add to a TMR diet. “We’re aware that the Rodway herd was achieving just under 7,000 litres from an organic extended grazing system with cows averaging seven lactations and we’d like to test our cows’ potential. We’re targeting 3,300 litres from forage.”
In the future, the Morgans plan continued herd expansion to 500 cows and beyond. “Our next step will be to find another unit where we can lay off the dry cows as we continue to develop a blended herd comprising up to 50% Dairy Shorthorn genetics and the remainder a balance of red and white Holstein, Ayrshire, Danish Red and Illawarra. As more and more red and white replacements enter the herd, we’ll eventually sell the black and white cows.
“Eventually we would like to be in a position to introduce addition value to the herd with surplus pedigree heifers for sale to meet with the fast growing demand for red and white genetics.”
He adds: “To manage a dairy business you have to have drive and ambition. We would like to establish each of our four children with their own businesses, and if they wish to farm, then we hope red and white genetics will play a major role.”
The Morgan family’s enthusiasm for the showing with calves has earned them fistfuls of rosettes.
Katie, 17 and currently studying an ND Agriculture at Walford College: “Dairying’s future is bright – the breed has to got to be red and white.
Lucy, 14 years: “I really like stock judging, training and preparing the calves for the ring, and winning too!”
Hannah, 12 years: “I’ve made a lot of new friends at Young Dairy Shorthorn Breeders’ Club.” Tom, eight years: “I’m saving up all my prize winning to buy my own calf.”