Glympton Farms, Glympton, Reading, Berkshire, UK

The Glympton herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle is well known in the world of cattle breeding. But such respect does not come without a great deal of skilled selective breeding, top class management and attention to matters of the diet The word immaculate is not a word to be used loosely or indeed where words with greater accuracy can be employed - such as neat and tidy. But for the stock section of Glympton Farms, with its acres of concrete, modern cattle housing and cosseted inhabitants, immaculate on this occasion would appear to be an entirely appropriate word.

undefinedFor it is at Glympton, in the west of Oxfordshire that one of the country's most respected herds of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle reside; where the trophy board is covered in winning certificates as evidence of numerous successes at major shows and where offspring have buyers almost before the day they are born. It follows then, that the man charged with managing this herd - and ensuring its standing is maintained - has a task that would be the envy of most stockmen but at the same time one which for many, could be overtly demanding. Andrew Robinson is clearly a perfectionist - from what his Aberdeen Angus cattle eat, to what they are bedded on to almost the very air that they breathe, Andrew is looking at ways of improving their performance. "We are always trying to do things better," he says. "And by doing so the cattle we produce will hopefully be better for it.

 "The Glympton herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus comprises 55 cows split into three groups - one group calves in January, another in March/April and a third in September/October. "For the cattle we want to show the January calving group is obviously the most important due to showing rules taking the age from that month - irrespective of the month they are actually born in," Andrew explains. The offspring - both bulls and heifers are eventually sold for breeding. Andrew reports that the vast majority are sold privately off the farm - such is the reputation of the Glympton herd.

undefinedIt's not all breeding stock, however. Running alongside is a herd of 90 Aberdeen Angus cross bred bullocks which are bought in as stores and finished either in the yards or later out at grass. Providing the correct diet for the breeding herd and the fattening bullocks has been a prime challenge for Andrew who is the first to recognise that nutrition plays an important part in the development of the required confirmation. "The farm invested in a new Shelbourne Reynolds mixer wagon last autumn - a 13 cu metre Powermix ll - and this has allowed us to create mixed rations rather than just dropping bales of silage into feeders and watching the cattle pull them to bits," he says. The Powermix was specified with an optional 30cm auger extension with an extra two blades in addition to the seven blades on the lower part of the mixing auger.

"Since it arrived we have used it to mix big round bales of silage and straw for the cows and have been delighted not only with the speed of processing and mixing but also in the quality of the finished feed which is chopped but not over chopped so that result is a good fibrous texture." Andrew adds that the bullocks, which receive just chopped silage, have performed well to the point that, for the first time, about 30 of them will be finished in the yard this year allowing for the purchase of another 20 or so for finishing on grass.

"In terms of growth rate the bullocks have averaged a weight gain of 0.76kgs/day, the breeding heifers 1.1kgs/day and the bulls 1.23kgs/day," he says. "Figures I am reasonably happy with." He also adds that he is pleased with the overall performance of the Powermix and points out that feeding time is now down to less than two hours and is a one man job. Maintenance has been minimal with only two shearbolts needing to be replaced when Andrew concedes he was a little keen in dropping three silage bales into the mixing hopper with hardly a pause between them. "The automatic lubrication system is a real bonus," he says. "Stock farmers are not renowned for their machinery maintenance and this system ensures all the key bearings are properly lubricated." One of the most praised features of the machine is the Digi Star scale system which is not only used when ingredients are added to the mixer but also when feeding out to ensure each pen of cattle receive the right amount of feed. "By keeping an eye on the weight figure as the hopper empties and altering the opening of the feed out port its possible to be very precise on how much feed is delivered," he says.

So for the Glympton Estate's herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle selective breeding, informed management and a correct approach to matters of nutrition would appear to ensure a profitable future.

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