April 11th 2012

Feature: Hugh McFetridge

Ease of management and natural fleshing ability, coupled with a substantial bonus at slaughter, are just a few of the reasons why Aberdeen-Angus is the first choice for Garvagh suckler farmer Hugh McFetridge.

The County Londonderry herd owner farms over 200 acres and has been using Aberdeen-Angus stock bulls for more than seven years. The 55-cow herd comprises of cross-bred Limousin, British Blue and Simmental cows, and is managed alongside a flock of 250 commercial ewes.

Michael Lagan, vice chairman, NI Aberdeen Angus Club, pictured with Garvagh suckler farmer Hugh McFetridge

“I like a good growthy cow and the Continental crosses have good sized frames, hybrid vigor and plenty of milk,” said Hugh McFetridge. “Difficult calvings and a high number of caesarean operations prompted me to change my farming policy and switch to Aberdeen-Angus. It has been the right move as the cattle are easily managed and easily calved, which significantly reduces overhead costs and veterinary expenses.”

Hugh purchased his first black bull from the neighbouring Baronagh herd, but his two current stock bulls are the November 2009-born Deveron Latimer son, Lakeside Lord Jupiter and the two-year-old Denamona Black Idalot K915, a son of the 6200gns Blelack Prince Camelot F588, purchased in February at the NI Aberdeen Angus Club’s show and sale at Dungannon.

“When buying a stock bull I am looking for a growthy bull with good conformation, sound legs and feet, and good hindquarters. My decision is largely based on visual appearance, but good figures are a bonus,” explained Hugh.

Aberdeen Angus calves are spritely and lively at birth

The herd is spring calving with the majority of cows calving indoors. They are turned out onto rough, sheltered ground, and are then moved onto good quality grass from mid-April onwards, depending on the weather and grass growth.

“My farm is a one-man operation, and thankfully most of my cows calve on their own with no assistance. The fact calves are polled also eliminates the need for de-horning, which reduces labour and routine management tasks.  The Aberdeen-Angus calves are spritely and lively at birth and the ease of calving reduces the stress on the cow which in turn influences fertility.”

Creep feed is introduced shortly before weaning, and the calves are taken off the cows in October before they are housed for the winter. During the winter months they are fed silage and creep feed, while the cows get a diet of grass silage.

All calves are finished off the farm with cattle slaughtered at Foyle Meats under the Aberdeen-Angus Quality Beef scheme, or through another producer group operated by Dunbia in Dungannon. Prior to slaughter bullocks and heifers are fed a TMR ration of home-grown barley, maize meal, distillers grain. Heifers receive 3kg, while the bullocks get 4-5kg/head/day.

Aberdeen Angus cattle are economical to finish and attract substantial bonuses at slaughter

Heifers and bullocks leave the farm aged between 18 and 24-months.  “The Aberdeen-Angus cross cattle are naturally finished, and reach appropriate slaughter weights more cost effectively than their Continental counterparts. “

Both Foyle Meats and Dunbia are currently sourcing Aberdeen-Angus cattle which have been sired by a pedigree registered Aberdeen-Angus bull, and achieve deadweights between 280kg and 380kg. They are paying a bonus of up to 32p/kg over market beef price, for all carcasses which meet the criteria.

Hugh McFetridge’s heifers usually weigh around 280kg to 330kg, while the bullocks reach deadweights of about 330kg to 380kg.  “It takes a really exceptional Aberdeen-Angus beast to make a U grade, but the majority of my cattle attract R grades. On average the bonus works out at between £80 and £106/head, which is very satisfactory,” concluded Hugh.

Dungannon April sale of Aberdeen-Angus

Dungannon Farmers’ Mart is the venue for the native breeds show and sale on Tuesday, April 17.

The catalogue for the one-day event includes 26 pedigree Aberdeen-Angus bulls and six pedigree heifers from many of the Province’s leading herds. Judging commences at 10.30am, followed by the sale at 1pm.

Bulls range in age from May 2010 to April 2011, and entries have been received from the following herds: Camus, Carmean, Coltrim, Denamona, Drumgar Lodge, Drumhill, Drummeer, Glenhoy, Granabeg, Hazeldene, Jian, Lana, Old Glenort, Prospect, Railview and Woodvale.  Heifers range in age from January 2010 to August 2010, and are on offer from the Macknagh Mills, Carmean, Drumhill and Railview herds.

Catalogues are available on request from Dungannon Farmers Mart on Tel: 028 8772 2727.