The Sportsmans herd owned by Charlie Boden, near Stockport, has been recognised by EBLEX as the Most Improved Herd of British Limousin cattle in England for 2012.

The award is presented by the EBLEX Beef Better Returns Programme (Beef BRP) to the recorded herd that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial characteristics over a 12-month period.

The Boden family has been farming at Mellor Hall Farm near Stockport since they bought the farm in 1955. The 324ha (800 acres) are 245-380m (800-1250ft) above sea level and home to two herds of pedigree cattle; 45 Charolais and a young British Limousin herd runs alongside a commercial flock of 1,000 sheep and a smaller flock of pedigree Texel ewes.

Sportsmans Ferguson, from the Sportsmans Herd of British Limousin cattle – EBLEX Improved Herd Award Winners 2012

The Sportsmans Limousin Herd is a young herd first established in 2007 by Charlie Boden. He chose the breed for its easy calving and low maintenance characteristics and finds it an easy-fleshing, modern beef breed producing the type of carcases modern butchers are looking for.

He started by buying a herd of females with good Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs), looking specifically for big cows with a large pelvis that were easy-calving with good milking ability.

“As it is still a relatively small herd we manage the Limousins alongside the Charolais herd – usually calving in spring,” explains Mr Boden.

“And because of the size of the herd, we use artificial insemination – selecting proven sires with similar EBVs to the dams, but also look for high beef values and good figures for eye muscle.”

It is still early days for the herd, but already it is making good progress. The strategy for the future is to expand to around 40 cows, introducing new bloodlines through selective breeding through AI and embryo transfer.

Most of the progeny are sold to other pedigree breeders. One bull – Sportsmans Ferguson, was reserve senior champion at the British Cattle Society sale in May 2012 at Carlisle, selling for 14,000 guineas.

Samuel Boon, EBLEX Breeding Specialist says:

“Charlie is to be congratulated on his success so far. The main way to change the genetic potential of a herd is through careful sire selection, and this farm provides a good example of where it has been done well.

“High EBV sires should be selected in a balanced manner, taking into account not just growth and carcase traitsbut also those that influence characteristics such as ease of calving and maternal performance.

“The bull selection decisions made today will still be influencing the herd in ten years’ timeso a little time spent studying performance records now is time well spent. Bearing in mind the long-lasting impact of genetic selectionthis year’s win bodes well for the future of the Sportsmans Herd.”