Continual improvement and giving commercial beef producers the best genetics possible is the driving force of one Moray farming family.
The Greens are known across Scotland for breeding and showing award-winning Simmental stock from their Corskie Farm at Garmouth, near Fochabers.
The family – Iain and parents Jimmy and Nan – bought their first pedigree Simmental 28 years ago.
Now they are busy preparing a group of 10 bulls for the prestigious Stirling Bull Sales, which takes place from October 18-20.
Included in the lot are the first three sons of Bel Dhu Capercaillie, which the Greens bought at Stirling in February 2013 for 45,000gn.
Bred by Billy and Anne Macpherson, of Blackford, Croy, Inverness, he holds the UK record for the highest priced Simmental and had a successful summer showing where he stood interbreed champion at Echt and Keith, breed champion at New Deer, Nairn and Turriff and reserve interbreed champion at the Black Isle.
There will also be three sons of the 22,000gn Dirnanean Bradley, which was bought in October 2011 and had great showing success in 2014, and four sons of Greencap Ace which the Greens bought privately in January 2011.
Iain says the family used to use Simmental bulls on its then herd of Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford cross Friesian cows.
“We were really pleased with how successful the animals had turned out and the excellent suckler cows they made. We then decided to purchase some pedigree Simmentals,” said Iain.
The pedigree herd now stands at 160 cows, while the family runs a commercial herd of 350 Simmental cross cows.
A dedicated pedigree stockman – Robert Taylor – oversees the pure stock and prepares them for shows and sales, which the family views as their “shop window”.
Iain said: “The aim is to try and give our customers the best possible genetics and the aim is to never stand still. You can never stand still in the breeding industry – that’s why we recently imported a heifer calf and in-calf heifer from Denmark with polled genetics.”
He said only the best bulls and females are kept to be sold, with the rest fattened and finished on farm.
“We are looking for good locomotion, good conformation, length and width,” said Iain, explaining the family did performance recording for Estimated Breeding Values with the Simmental Cattle Society.
“Anything that does not walk properly or does not have good locomotion is gone.”
All bulls are semen tested “naturally” before sales – the semen is collected when the bulls have “jumped” the females.
This, according to Iain, gives the edge because it shows the bulls know how to work.
The family has been going to the Stirling Bull Sales since the early 1990s, when the sales were then held in Perth and known as the Perth Bull Sales.
Iain recalls a memorable sale in 2002 when his father Jimmy called from the pre-sale inspection to say he had spotted a “bull that would do the job” when looking for a new stock bull.
After travelling down to see the bull, leaving in the early hours of the morning, Iain was tasked with buying the bull.
Following much bidding the hammer went down on Popes Laird for 12,000gn.
“It was a big investment in 2002 but he really clicked with our cows,” said Iain.
“His genetics really suited our herd and we went back in October 2004 and sold his first son for 11,000gn and another for 10,000gn. We then went back in February and sold another one for 10,000gn.”
The highest price achieved at a sale by the Greens was 18,000gn for Corskie Callum in October 2012.
So what bulls are worth looking out for at this month’s sale?
Iain says it is impossible to know what will sell well, but he is optimistic about the first three sons of Capercaillie, include Corskie First Caper which was shown during the summer.
The charm is the unknown, he says.
“There’s so much adrenalin when you sell. When you get into that rin you really don’t know how much that bull is going to make until the hammer goes down. You get a tremendous buzz doing it,” he said.
And on plans for the future, he says the herd is at the ideal size so the focus will be on continually improving the genetics on offer.
He says this wouldn’t be possible without his “fantastic team of staff” on the farm and input from his family.
His three daughters – Laura (18), Jemma (15) and Hannah (11) – are also involved in the farm with Laura particularly interested in cattle and Jemma showing a keen interest in sheep.
Corskie Farm stretches across more than 3,000 acres with nearly 1,600 acres of land in cereals production.
As well as running commercial and pedigree herds of cattle, the Greens have a 400-sow indoor pig unit to produce breeding gilts and fattened pigs, as well as a flock of 550 Highland Mule ewes and a small pedigree flock of Texels.
The family also runs a haulage business running 25 lorries and employing 29 members of staff. The farming side of the enterprise employs 11 people.
New sales format
This month’s Stirling Bull Sales, which will see 730 pedigree bulls and females go under the hammer, has a redesigned format.
Organisers United Auctions says the new format will better suit sellers and buyers at a busy time of the year.
The event will now run on a more compact timetable with pre-sale judging of the Aberdeen-Angus and Shorthorn cattle taking place on Sunday October 18 at 1.30pm and 3.30pm respectively.
Monday will see the show of Limousins start at 8am with the sale of Angus at 10.30am. The show of Simmentals will start at 12.30pm, followed by the sale of Limousins and Salers at 2pm and the sale of Shorthorn females at 2.30pm.
The day will also feature a sale of the entire herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle from the Weeton herd from RJ & D Loftus of Preese Hall, Preston.
The final day kicks off at 8am with the show of Charolais cattle, followed by the sale of Simmentals at 10.30am.
The day will conclude with the sale of Charolais bulls and females at 1.30pm.
United Auctions sales director, John Roberts, said: “The new format ensures we meet the needs and demands of our customers, making the best use of their time away from the farm.
“While the number of bulls is slightly down on last year, we’re particularly excited about the quality.”
The judges are:
Aberdeen-Angus – Brian Clark, Duncanziemere Farm, Lugar, Cumnock.
Beef Shorthorn – Ian Neish, 2 Craigeassie Farm, Forfar.
Limousin – Peter Kirton, Severn Lodge Farm, Buttonbridge Lane, Kinlet, Bewdley.
Simmental – David Donnelly, Atlow House, Moss Lane, Hulland Ward, Ashbourne.
Charolais – Andrew Hornall, Falleninch, Stirling.