Today our member profile comes from Tim Roberts and family of the Onley herd of Salers.
We are Tim and Lara Roberts, we have four children, Archie 15, Rupert 10, Jemima 9, and Hugh 7.
We currently share farm on about 400 acres in east Herefordshire, extensive organic beef and sheep with a little arable. We are running around 30 pedigree Salers cows, 40 pedigree Beef Shorthorn cows and 400 pedigree Lleyn ewes.
The Shorthorn herd which we have expanded was here when we moved in nearly six years ago. We have been breeding Salers since we bought our first three in calf heifers at Castle Douglas in 1997. We went to have a look at the breed having read and heard of their easy care and tremendous production traits. We admired the quality of the cattle there, the Cuil heifers in particular still stick in the mind. The herd started at the then family farm in Warwickshire, Onley Fields Farm, we have taken the Salers with us from there, they have moved three times since the start.
Our first heifers came from Preenbank, Mieklewood and Ty Newydd. We went back the following year and came home with an in calf heifer from Rigel. Apart from the purchase of a heifer from the Ty Newydd dispersal in 2007, we have not bought any other females. We have always used A.I. Bulls in a small way alongside natural service, but for the last three years we have used mainly A.I. alongside home bred young bulls. Although we have not used a Cuil bred bull, we have been lucky to have purchased two ex Cuil stock bulls, Sacha and Cleuchhead xerox. Over the years we have also used semen purchased from the McClymonts. We have used a Seawell bull, Virtue, and recently semen off Ultra, imported by Seawell. Recently we have used Manor Lane Krypton, who works well on the xerox daughters. We have calves by Baron and Gulliver on the ground this spring, alongside some Krypton and Onley Mervyn progeny.
The last few years we have had a go with some polled bulls, Cumbrian Royal, and Upplands Banker, with great success, so our latest move is to go further down the polled route with use of more Cumbrian Royal, and Rigel Mojave.
We aim to keep raising the bar on quality, with the cattle and are now in position to be able to be more selective. We also focus strongly on herd health, and are members of the SAC health scheme. We constantly question every aspect of nutrition, health, genetics and management to try to do the best we can on our simple, low input system.
We do enjoy showing our cattle at summer shows, mainly locally, but it is good to get to the Royal Welsh to be able to compete in breed classes, rather than the “any other breed “ classes. The cattle are managed very commercially, Salers being ideal for this system. Heifers are calved at 23-25 months and we do not creep feed. All cattle are housed from from November, partly to preserve grass for ewes and also to prevent poaching on this heavy red soil. We calve February/March and aim to finish and turn out in early April in time for the start of lambing. We also have a small group calving outside in September.
Being organic, we are very sparing with the feed bag, at £400/t, so we aim to make silage off red clover leys at around 20% CP to feed to weaned calves and fattening cattle. Lambs are finished off these leys in the autumn/winter. We have been selling some male calves as steers at around a year old, and keep only one or two bulls from each crop to sell and use. We finish a few of the smaller end, and any freemartins etc. The plan is to finish all progeny ourselves in future to make full use of the organic premium, currently around 60-80p/kg deadweight.
We sell any breeding females at around 15 months old privately off the farm. All females are halter broken.
The Lleyn ewes are lambed outside in April, zero concentrates are used on the sheep. Around half are bred pedigree for replacements and to sell on as yearling ewes. All male progeny are sold finished. The other half go to Hampshire Down tups bred by Richard Davies to produce fast growing, easy finishing lambs. All finished lambs are sold deadweight into an organic outlet.