Stewarding the cattle classes at Nottinghamshire County introduced me to the Salers breed. I realised I had finally found what I was looking for – a breed that could be crossed with my dairy herd and produce a calf with real market value, easy calving and a good temperament was the top of the shopping list.
The breed also had to have the potential of becoming my ‘commercial hobby’ so needed to be competitive in the show ring and I had to be able to afford them! Finally they had to be something I wanted to look at when I got up in the morning.
After purchasing a Salers bull to run with our dairy herd in 1998, I was so impressed that I decided to invest some money my granddad left me into a pedigree heifer – much to the amusement of family who thought I was crazy, I think have had the last laugh though!
I have to admit it was a steep learning curve going from dairy to beef sucklers!
The Manor Lane herd was established in 2000 to run alongside the dairy cows. From the start I knew I wanted quality over quantity so set about choosing my foundation animals carefully. Having always enjoyed breeding high quality animals with longevity and I wanted the same from the Salers. I was also keen to put what bit of spare time I had into showing to follow my childhood dream.
I was lucky enough to purchase heifers from the Campsmount and Coland herd who have both done an excellent job for me.
When my daughter suffered a life threatening illness the dairy herd was sold and I decided to run the Salers as my main enterprise. Having always maintained high health and welfare for the milking cows I had the Salers tested to become high health status. Apart from 2 older cows who had been vaccinated with non-marker IBR all passed with flying colours so I was determined to become an elite high health herd once these 2 eventually left, they were far too good to just get rid of to achieve this earlier.
The cows get grazed grass or forage along with quality minerals. Young stock are lightly creep fed until weaning when heifers just get a little feed to encourage halter training. Bulls are either summer grazed onto breeding bulls or if they don’t come up to expectations are sold as stores.
The system is very simple as having the dairy cows on a paddock system taught me the value of managing grass – it cost the same to make top quality silage and hay it does to make bad so it’s worth the effort for the best possible!
Salers are excellent at converting grass so ideal for this management.
Being able to AI my own cattle has been a great advantage, serving at the optimum time gives a very good conception rate and I’ve found the Salers to hold exceptionally well. Having the opportunity to use a selection of bulls and pick and choose for individual cows when you have a smaller herd is a major benefit. It has also meant an easy way of using French genetics without importing bulls.
Some of the young home bred bulls are used before selling alongside the AI. Taking straws off the best home bred bulls maintains their genetics and is a good insurance policy which I now do.
Along with my partner Paul we have achieved good success in the show ring. We are both quite competitive so often the biggest competition is against each other!
All the cows in the herd now have won championships over the years and many have been Salers animal of the year including Manor Lane Diva winning it 3 times. She has been the most successful female so far and has bred excellently.
2018 was probably our favourite year when we took out home bred Manor Lane Logic and Manor Lane Mischief. They both had an excellent season but Logic achieved our best record with 15 championships and 5 interbreeds, plus res junior beef interbreed champion at Great Yorkshire show. He was a complete pleasure to work with and now look forward to seeing his offspring in the herd he was sold to.
One of my early highlights was that I was lucky enough to compete at the Royal show before it finished and though I was new to showing I went out on a high in the very last year with Salers reserve show champion.
In 2017 Manor Lane Krypton was sold to Cogent which a bonus. I am very pleased with the heifers from him and will hopefully be part of a future show team when we get going again!