Plas Hafod Y Maidd, in North Wales is home to the Ellis Family, a herd of 40 sucklers, 550 cheviot ewes and an exciting bull beef unit finishing Aberdeen Angus bull beef.
This relatively new venture started when 10 bull beef calves were bought as a trial to see if rearing, growing, and finishing bull beef would be viable. Since then, the farm has erected a purpose-built beef shed which houses 150 bulls. The shed is split into 6 pens of 25, which coincides with an all in, all out system. “We buy 25, 4-6 week old calves every month, and they stay in these batches throughout, helping with bull management,” Tomos comments. The farm has also noticed that some calves from specific sources perform better than others, highlighting the significance that the first few weeks in life can have on lifetime performance.
Using the hoppers which hold approx. 2.5T of blend enables them to offer an adlib feeding system allowing them to push the animals to get them to a required target of 600kg, within a relatively short turnaround (12-13 months). “We aim for the animals to have 12 months on farm and to reach 600kg liveweight” Tomos mentions. “Which they are doing well!” adds their NWF Regional Sales Manager, Huw Lloyd Roberts.
From 4-6 weeks old the calves are fed milk replacer, pellets and straw and weaned around 8-10 weeks. Then they are transitioned gradually to a youngstock blend at around 12 weeks of age. At around 7 months old, these are then moved to the new shed and fed a bespoke, NWF Bull Beef blend.
The beef bulls are put through the crush regularly, where they are weighed and health checked whilst the pen is cleaned and bedded. This helps with workflow and easy management. “We enjoy what we do and making things as easily as possible whilst promoting growth and performance is always a positive” Tomos mentions. “The last shed average daily gain (ADG) was 1.9kg, this takes into account the 7-month-old animals up to the 12–13 month animals” Huw added!
Tomos and his family are highly conscious about animal comfort, investing in self-activated water drinkers to ensure the water is fresh, and recently installed fans to support animal health during hot spells. It has been suggested that losses can exceed 5% when under heat stress circumstances. “We also put full straw bales in the pen as some enrichments” adds Glyn, Tomos’ father.
The cattle are fed a quality NWF bespoke 14% protein, 45% DM starch and sugars blend containing Yea-Sacc®; a live yeast to support and maintain rumen function which subsequently helps health and therefore performance. Previously a 12% protein blend was used and since increasing the protein, the animals are getting better confirmation scores from the abattoir as well and gaining weight quicker. This just goes to show how breed and genetics supported by a healthy environment play a key roll in animal performance, in addition to correct nutrition. “If we had the likes of Black and White Friesian bulls, the 12% would have been enough” Tomos comment.
The plans at Plas Hafod Y Maidd for the near future is to double what they are doing now, putting up another, similar, shed which can hold a further 150 animals. “This will allow us to have increased economies of scale with similar amounts of work” Tomos added.
NWF Agriculture would like to thank Tomos and the Ellis Family for giving us an insight into their beef enterprise.
For further information on maximising your suckler herd, get in touch with your NWF Sales Specialist or click HERE to view our Beef Feeds & Associated Products.