• James McKay goes forward to National Final 

Details of the winning herds in the regional finals of the 2011 National Limousin Pedigree Herd Competition have now been announced by the British Limousin Cattle Society (BLCS).  The National Limousin Pedigree Herd Competition is a one-off unique event and is being held as part of the British Limousin Cattle Society’s 40th Anniversary promotional programme. Supported and sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health, this new event is an extension of the coveted annual herd competitions held annually within the nine Limousin regions around the United Kingdom.

The regional competitions, open to all pedigree Limousin herds in the respective areas, saw the appointed judge in each region put forward an overall winning herd.   With regional judging completed through August, the nine winning herds now go head-to-head in a National Final judge-off to determine the 2011 National Limousin Pedigree Herd Overall Champion.  Currently moving around the UK and judging the National Final is noted breeder, and current Hon BLCS President, Mr Sam Coleman of Glarryford, Ballymena, N. Ireland.

Commenting on the task at hand Mr Coleman said: “It is a great honour to be judging such a prestigious event and it is clear that the level of competition is of the very highest order.  What I am looking for is a combination of such things as the overall presentation of the herd, the up-and-coming youngstock, the breeding policy, sires used, the breeding females, herd health, and herd successes.  Herd size won’t be the overriding determinant.”

James McKay, who farms at Kilrea Road, Upperlands, Maghera won the Northern Ireland section which was judged by breeder and Irish Limousin Cattle Society Chairman Mr John McInerney, Clonmoney West, Newmarket On Fergus, Co. Clare who commented: “Standing out was the Ampertaine prefix of James McKay, home to a fantastic herd of Limousin cattle with exceptional quality evident through out all the different groups. James left me hugely impressed with his knowledge of each individual animal and his clear vision of the type of Limousin he endeavours to breed. From the oldest to the youngest, the quality and consistency of type was truly remarkable.”

Judge Sam Coleman, William Sherrard (Pfizer Animal Health) with James McKay (Ampertaine)

The Ampertaine Limousin herd was once a one-cow herd within a commercial herd but the final target was always to have only pedigree Limousin cattle on the farm. Not only has that target been achieved but tremendous bull prices of 32,000gns; 29,000gns; 24,000gns and 20,000gns have followed.

Mr McKay runs a herd of 100 pedigree cows plus followers.  In addition to bulls sold at Society sales, he sells 35 to 40 bulls each year to both pedigree and commercial herds. Females are largely retained within the pedigree herd with the occasional animal sold for pedigree breeding, the stated aim being to build up to completely pedigree status. It would be James’ intention to run sales of pedigree females sometime in the future..

An unusual feature is the lack of a stock bull on the farm – AI is used exclusively. James has a number of reasons for this policy as he can:

  1. Have access to top quality genetics immediately the semen is available.
  2. Choose from a wide range of bulls to complement individual cows within his herd.
  3. Maintain a closed herd and he does point out that a lot of females in the herd are descended from that first cow that his father bought in 1984.

The herd calves all year round and he aims for a reasonably sized calf at birth but one which will grow rapidly from then. Creep feeding is introduced at an early age and continued until weaning at six months of age. Females get no meal feeding after this just grass and silage. The bull calves receive meal feeding to appetite and are weighed every 100 days to ensure that they are on target and are sold at 15 to 18 months of age. Calves are straw bedded in winter while the older animals are divided between solid floors with sawdust or cubicles with mattresses.

Farm records and production costs are monitored closely. Clover has been introduced into swards to reduce reliance on bagged nitrogen fertiliser and detailed breeding records are maintained for the entire herd. The physical and financial performance of the farming business is benchmarked annually.

The farm is registered as a Focus Farm to provide farmer led education for other farmers. This means being willing to discuss performance figures with other farmers and accepting visitors to the farm who are anxious to learn from you. James McKay said: “Other farmers were calling anyway to discuss the farm system and see the cattle so it was easier to formalise it and control the biosecurity conditions etc. under which they visited.”

The top bull prices in recent years highlight the quality of the genetics, management and temperament of the Ampertaine herd and the fact that James McKay’s cattle are constantly in demand. The herd is also in the SAC Health Scheme whereby it is tested annually for Johne’s and BVDv plus the herd is vaccinated for leptospirosis.

James added, “Health management at housing also includes a three pronged pneumonia prevention strategy where older calves are weaned, wormed and vaccinated for viral respiratory disease prior to housing. Obviously creep feeding in advance of weaning also reduces weaning stress.”

William Sherrard from Pfizer Animal Health added that given the current value of all livestock, and pedigree stock in particular, it makes sense for farmers to discuss with their veterinary surgeon how to minimise the impact of respiratory disease in calves. Rispoval® 3 provides up to 6 months immunity against RSV, BVDv and PI3 virus following two injections 3-4 weeks apart. If additional protection against IBR is required, Rispoval® IBR marker live can also be included in the vaccination program although bulls for AI station must be completely free of antibodies to IBR.

So the final question – Why choose Limousin?

James said: “A pedigree Limousin herd is as easy to run as a commercial herd. The breed is easy calving, has growth potential, milks well and can provide herd replacements. The only extra cost I have over a commercial herd is the extra cost of expensive semen!”

When the final judging is completed, the Overall Winner of the 2011 National Limousin Pedigree Herd Competition will be announced, by Mr Coleman, at a dinner being hosted by the British Limousin Cattle Society and Pfizer Animal Health in Carlisle on Friday 14th October.  The dinner, at the Shepherd’sInn, Borderway Mart, is being held on the evening prior to the Society’s 2011 October Bull Sale at Carlisle.



East Midlands                                 RM Hazard & Sons, Mereside Herd
Judge: Richard Bartle, The Cottages,Upper Dinmore, Dinmore,Hereford

Scotland                                           Mr J Nimmo, Maraiscote Herd
Judge: Brian Jones, Bailea, Sennybridge, Brecon, Powys

NW Midlands & N Wales               Messrs KI & E & HI Jones, Garnedd Herd
Judge: John Phillips, Esgerddeugoed, Cwmfelin-Mynach, Whitland, Carmarthenshire

S Wales & Mid West                       ED Griffiths & Co, Mynach Herd
Judge: William Cowx, Hudscales, Hesket New Market,Wigton,Cumbria

South East                                       Buriton Estates Ltd, Miscombe Herd
Judge: Jim Bloom, Scorborough, Driffield,East Yorks

South West                                      Messrs EW Quick & Sons, Loosebeare Herd
Judge: Martin Bull,  Warminster, Wiltshire

Northern Ireland                             WJ & J McKay, Ampertaine Herd
Judge: John McInerney, Clonmoney West,NewmarketOn Fergus, Co Clare

North West                                       Messrs Ridley, Haltcliffe Herd
Judge: Derek Hulme, Randalstown, Co. Antrim, N.Ireland

North East                                        Messrs JM & SP Cooper, Tomschoice Herd
Judge: Gary Swindlehurst, Procters Farm, Woodhouse Lane, Slaidburn, Nr. Clitheroe, Lancs