ILC Visit – The WHINFELLPARK HERD
The International Limousin Congress will visit Whinfellpark herd on the morning of Monday, August 9th 2004.
|Iain Scott and Colin Soutter|
You can sense the air of excitement and anticipation of things to come as you walk through the large, light and airy cattle buildings at Allan Jenkinson’s farm – Whinfellpark, a few miles west of Penrith in Cumbria.
The buildings were designed by Allan Jenkinsons’s Estate Manager – Nick Scholefield, who also oversaw all the construction work. Attention to detail is obvious, including the pens – easily adaptable, they can quickly be made bigger or smaller to make life more comfortable and convenient for beast and man. The buildings and penning would be the envy of many a livestock farmer.
It is however the Limousin cattle contents of the pens which generate the excitement and anticipation. herd is one of the most recent large additions to the British Limousin Society ranks. The herd was only founded in 2002 and already numbers 100 breeding females, with plans to add a further 50 in the near future. There is also a commercial herd of 30 Limousin cross cows producing 3/4 Limousin calves. This herd may also expand.
Until 2001 the cattle enterprise on this 1,700 acre unit was based on the annual finishing of 650 head of bought-in store cattle. April 2001 this venture came to an abrupt halt as Cumbria was ravaged by Foot and Mouth Disease. “This provided us with the incentive and opportunity to assess our livestock enterprises”, explained Farm Manager Iain Scott. “We calculated that although we had no cow quota, there was a bigger margin in a suckler herd than finishing cattle”. “It costs as much to feed a pedigree cow as it does to feed a commercial one, but with the pedigrees there’s the potential of much higher sale prices. So we decided that when we re-stocked the majority of the females would be pedigree”.
But which pedigree breed? There is a wide range to choose from, each with its own merits. Having considered all the pedigree breed options, the Whinfellpark team boiled it down to two. “It was either Charolais or Limousin”, said Herd Manager Colin Soutter. Since their importation Limousins have always been popular in the Penrith area.
In the 1970’s and early 80’s, when many English and Welsh commercial cattle producers relied on the long-armed Milk Marketing Board A.I. men as Limousin bull substitutes,the demand for Limousin semen at Penrith A.I. Centre was always strong, with Penrith supplying more Limousin semen than any other M.M.B. A.I. centre. In Spring 1981, the British Limousin Cattle Society was girding its loins to host its first International Limousin Congress. In the national A.I. charts, the Limousin breed had just pipped Aberdeen Angus into fourth place and had taken over the third slot – behind Hereford and Charolais. But while nationally the Limousin was still only third at that time, it was most definitely first choice at Penrith A.I. Centre, with Hereford second and Charolais third. A lot can happen in a couple of decades!
Now, 23 years later, as the British Limousin Society prepares to host its second I.L.C., the breed is the most popular of all cattle breeds throughout the land. So when it came to deciding between Charolais or Limousin, the Whinfellpark team acknowledged the strength of Limousin popularity in this part of Cumbria, plus the breed’s top U.K. sale centre at Carlisle’s Borderway Mart just a short drive up the M6. “So with a strong local bull market and Carlisle being so close, we opted for Limousin”, said Iain Scott.
The cattle are just one of several farming enterprises on Whinfellpark’s 1,700 Eden Valley acres. Winter barley and wheat and industrial oil seed rape are grown on 700 acres. The remaining 1,000 acres are down to grass. There is a flock of 3,200 ewes, two thirds Mules and one third Texel, with Texel tups in sole charge of tupping. All lambs are finished and sold at either Penrith or Carlisle auctions, a sales system strongly supported by Whinfellpark. Sheep enthusiasts should note that Northsheep, scheduled for June 1st 2005 will be staged at Whinfellpark.
The man behind this impressive mixed farming venture is Allan Jenkinson who started farming as the son of a tenant farmer on the nearby 171 acre unit, Clifton Moor. In the 1960’s as a 14 year old, Allan hauled sawdust from the local sawmill to bed the Jenkinson stock. Soon he was hauling sawdust by tractor and years time we hope to be able to refine the herd into the type we want”. trailer for neighbouring farmers, hand- loading and un-loading the sawdust. Between then and now Allan identified opportunities for wood by- products far beyond livestock bedding. Currently his company Forest Products handles an annual tonnage well into seven figures, of chips, sawdust, bark and other timber by- products. That explains to those who wondered, why the logo for the Whinfellpark Limousin herd is a pine tree! Allan is strongly loyal to his county of origin – the majority of the 350 Forest Products employees, work in Cumbria.
Despite overseeing the on-going expansion of Forest Products, Allan Jenkinson still takes a huge interest in the day to day running of his farming enterprise. In particular he has retained his enthusiasm and keen eye for good breeding stock. His original pedigree cattle intentions were to have just 20 breeding cows. “But once he saw the first 20, he wanted more!” explained Iain Scott.
While Iain Scott and Colin Soutter were given the enviable task of selecting the foundation animals for the Limousin herd, Allan Jenkinson tried hard not to interfere, but……
“ He kept trying to persuade us to choose animals we didn’t like”, said Colin. “We know what’s coming when he starts a sentence with – “I’m only the back seat driver, but……”
“ In the future we plan to hold on-farm pedigree sales of bulls and females, so one of our aims is to offer something different to British breeders. To do this we’ve brought in quite a number of cattle from France, with two bulls and 43 females being imported last year”. Included in the 2003 importation was Whinfellpark’s main stock bull – Regal, a June 2000 son of Nenuphar. Just one look at this tall bull, which measures 170 cms at the rump, will tell you that Whinfellpark is going for size. As he walks by the sun disappears!
Imported females included a Nenuphar daughter – Revolution, which had won first prize tickets at Paris and Limoges Shows. At Whinfellpark French bloodlines have been blended with some top British cattle, including the March 1998-born bull Ryedale Orion, which had won a bucketful of top show rosettes on the British show circuit, including the Year 2000 Royal Show Junior Interbreed championship. He was snapped up at the Ryedale dispersal sale for 10,500gns. Females include Newstart Shelley, a daughter of Sarkley Nellie, who in 2003 won the Great Yorkshire Show Beef Interbreed championship and the Royal Highland female championship.
It is fair to say that the pedigree Limousin enterprise at Whinfellpark is obviously still in its infancy. But if hopes, dreams and plans come true, in the future Whinfellpark will be a major port of call on the British Limousin map. If success is born of determination and enthusiasm, it is at Whinfellpark.