Page Bros at Lodge Farm, Elkington in Northamptonshire is where Frank Page, this year’s commercial section judge at the National Limousin Show has lived all his life. Working in partnership with his brother, who looks after the arable side of the business. Frank, his wife Caroline, children George, (10) and Gabriella, (7) look after the livestock side.
The farm is 530 acres in total between the two farms, which is made up of 200 acres of arable and 330 acres of grass, with a further 100 acres of rented grassland.
Frank first started farming by bucket rearing calves, moving onto buying British Blue x Friesian heifers. These were artificially inseminated with the Limousin bull Maudelyn Scoobiedoo, “which produced some super calves and great milky females,” says Frank.
The reason he chose to AI these heifers with Limousin was that he soon realised Limousin sired animals were winning numerous shows and topping the trade at markets throughout the UK.
The first Limousin bull was purchased at Banbury Market in 1990 from the well-known Sarkley herd of Messrs Pennie, the bulls name was Sarkley Daylight.
Livestock on the farm now number 140 cows of mainly Limousin x British Blue or British Blue x Limousin cows, with around 10 pedigree Limousin cows in amongst them. These are served by 3 Limousin bulls and 2 British Blue bulls.
The farm also run 350 ewes, 150 pure Texels or Beltex x Texels that are put to Beltex tups and the remaining 200 are Suffolk x Mules put to the Texel, all of which are crept once weaned, finished and sold through Rugby Market.
Two of the current bulls were purchased from Carlisle mart at the premier society sales. Investing heavily in the quality he was after on both occasions, resulted in the purchases of Pembridge Delboy £14,000 and Heathmount Frenchconnection £15,000. The other Limousin bull, Coachhouse Illyria, was purchased last year from the Limousin Day held at Newark Market.
“IM PLEASED FROM THE RESULTS I’VE BEEN GETTING AND I HAVE NO ISSUE IN SPENDING GOOD MONEY ON THE RIGHT BULL AGAIN.”
Heathmount Frenchconnection was intermediate and reserve overall champion when purchased. “I was real impressed with his natural fleshing, loin and width all the way through his top.” Proving to be yet another great purchase by “going that extra bit for a bull that I really wanted,” admits Frank.
This has resulted in last year alone winning the prestigious championship at the Royal Smithfield Show with the heifer French Kiss. Frank won the beef carcase competition at the last ever Smithfield and this was the first time he has shown live cattle at the event. Sired by Heathmount Frenchconnection and out of a cow sired by Pembridge Delboy, the champion went on to sell for £6,400 to Chris Bustance, Spalding. The win marked a cracking double for Frank Page who only five days previously had lifted the Carcase Championship at the English Winter Fair.
“Calving takes place in two periods, 40 cows in the autumn and 100 in the spring. This split not only helps cash flow and marketing of the progeny but also spreads the workload for the bulls, allowing them to be used more heavily,” says Frank.
“Cow management is critical for calving,” says Frank but “fortunately the Limousin bulls purchased calve well generally.”
Once the cows are calved, the plan in to turnout towards the end of April or beginning of May. The autumn born calves are creep fed throughout the winter but then receive nothing when turned out to grass. Any potential stars that are selected to be shown either through the summer or for the autumn are weaned off their mothers before turnout and kept inside to be halter trained and prepared.
The spring born calves get creep fed during the summer months whilst out at grass and are weaned when the cattle are brought in for the winter. They are then stored through the winter months, fed on silage and are then fed throughout the summer when turned out, with the intention for both the spring born and autumn born calves to be sold from October through till February. Frank says, “I try and sell all the cattle during this time to try and hit the peak trade in the run up to Christmas and just after.”
With Page Bros being a family affair, the farm is run as self-sufficient as possible with Frank’s brother growing Barley and Beans which are rolled and fed to the cattle and Oats to the sheep. The general ration is made up of Barley, Beans, a bought in protein pellet and molasses, fed in different quantities to calves and finishing cattle. Round baled silage, which is more like haylage is made for the cows during the winter months along with hay, weather permitting. All the cattle are housed in straw yards during the winter with dry cows being fed straw and a small restricted amount of silage.
Cattle are kept out as long as possible, last year for example a group of 40 cows and calves were only brought in a week before Christmas as they were in an old rig and furrow field which lays dry.
“For the last 10-12 years, we would sell 12-15 show calves privately off the farm but last year was the first time everything was prepared and sold by myself and my son George.”
All bull calves are castrated and for the heifers, the aim is to retain 12 spring born and 5-6 autumn born heifers annually, with the remaining ones fattened and sold through Newark.
“I don’t like to keep the real muscly show type heifer calves for breeding,” Frank says.
Frank is and has been a live market man all his life, as he feels this is the fairest way to sell your cattle. All cattle not destined for showing are sold through Newark Livestock Market, with Frank regularly topping the steers or heifers and sometimes both when a load are finished and ready for market.
Throughout the years Frank has won numerous shows throughout the country with last year being his 40th year showing cattle! “I showed my first animal when I was 12 and have not missed a year since!” An achievement all in itself and what Frank says he really enjoys doing, seeing his homebred cattle go from being born, grown and fed and presented against other top showmen and onto the finished product. Not only a great enjoyment away from the farm but now Frank takes even greater pleasure with his young son George helping out as he did when he was similar age preparing and showing cattle. Therefore, starting last year the plan moving forward is to show the selected cattle themselves instead of selling selected ones privately off the farm.
No stranger to having judged at shows throughout the UK, as well as judging the Baby Beef section at the Welsh Winter Fair in 2011 and the Baby Beef section at the English Winter Fair 2015. Honoured to be asked to judge the commercial cattle at the National Limousin Show on 29th July later this year, Frank will be looking for “well fleshed, stylish, correct cattle with good conformation.”