Nerewater Friesians has been crowned British Friesian Herd of the Year. The new award that was first introduced in 2021 is aimed at recognising the top performing British Friesian herd each year, based on a combination of classification and production.
Richard and Joanne Bell’s pure pedigree British Friesian 70 cow herd boasts over 26 EX and multiple EX cows, 24 VG cows and 10 GP (of which some 20 plus are multiple BFE) with rolling averages being 8,540kg at 4.31% fat and 3.37% protein with a calving interval of 402 days, all of which are factors that have helped them achieve having the highest average number of points and win the award.
The farm runs across some 155 acres with much of the work achieved by Richard and the help of one part-time member of staff, while Joanne is responsible for all the paperwork. Father Willie is also often on hand to offer guidance.
Relying predominantly on grass and home-grown forage, Richard believes one of his key drivers of the high production from his British Friesians is the quality of silage. Having his own mower to cut as-and-when the grass is ready is essential. The first cut is ensiled with a forage box (which is predominantly fed to the milking herd) with second cut a shorter finer chop (for mainly young stock and dry cows) ensuring a recipe for success in terms of making milk and maintaining components.
Richard and Joanne have always felt it was important to keep the pedigree status and add value to the business from it. Everything is bred to British Friesian and again 100% purebred. Classifying the cows is seen as a worthwhile practice with the goal being to have a strong-boned and robust cow that can cope in the hard-wet conditions on this North West Cumbrian coastal farm situated on the Solway Firth.
Richard is quite clear he likes a tall wealthy British Friesian which can milk and last and he is ruthless in his selection. Each year in the region of 15-18 stock bulls are sold as young breeding bulls for other herds, with other surplus bulls sold at three months of age.
Over the years, bulls which have been successful in shaping the herd include Marshside Lancelot 4, Marshside Performer 4 and Marshside Rocket 3, Richard has also used a number of his own stock bulls, in conjunction with AI. Breeding bulls to sell and carrying out planned mating’s for AI companies is an integral part of the business. Current sires in use include Nerewater Launcher and Nerewater Jackpot.
Testament to the success of using the herds’ homebred sires is that the herd today includes many BFE and VG Launcher daughters and, at the time of writing, there are five Rio Mission daughters that have completed their first lactations to average 7,580kg at 4.35% fat and 3.23% protein, with many more in the pipeline.
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