Iomroll Highlanders and Longley Whitebred Shorthorns
A Brief History
After saying goodbye to my beloved Ayrshire dairy cows I made
the decision which was to control my life, that was to get
involved in and breed Highland cattle. In the early years probably
due to beginners luck I managed to develop a good record. I
marketed my surplus heifers in Oban and enjoyed a market average
in excess of 500 gns. Which was a very good price in the early
1970’s. all was going very well until one particular
Oban spring sale when which three of the best heifers I have
ever bred I was unable to receive a bid in excess of 300 gns.
I can remember the disappointment and the questioning on what
was a very long journey home. An experience like that served
to focus my mind on what to do next.
|Cross Highland Heifers
In the early years I had come to know and appreciate the capabilities
of the Highland cow, her maternal instinct was way in excess
of anything I had worked with before. She seemed to be able
to regulate her output of milk to the demands of the calf and
to give birth without assistance in any extreme weather condition.
With all these superior attributes it struck me that if I could
find a compatible sire I just might be able to produce a suckler
cow all my neighbours were looking for. Thus I started my crossing
Being a life member of the Rare Breed Survival Trust, I turned
to their lists for my first attempt to find a crossing sire.
The Longhorn being my first choice , but concluded that the
Highland and Longhorn breeds were too alike as the off spring
did not improve on either parent. I decided to try the traditional
beef breeds and started with the Hereford, followed by the
Aberdeen Angus and went on the Lincoln Red Beef Shorthorn and
Luing. All of these produced a steer carcass with a good conformation
and increased growth potential. However I seemed to finish
up with what I could call a non-descript female a plain red
heifer with no improvement to her mothering qualities.
Just at this time , the invasion into the UK of continental
breeds was in full flow headed by the charolais so I decided
to give them a try, I was impressed with my first charolais
calves and as they grew I was even more impressed. The improvement
however was definitely on the male side.
It was at this time that I learned a very important lesson.
I realised that it was no good trying to improve a breed without
reference to where it was going to live. My farm was 300m up
the Pennine Hills and all my cattle were out wintered. I grew
kale for the steers and I remember my first winter comparing
pure Highland steers with Charolais cross steers, and on many
a snowy day the Charolais cross steers would spend their time
hiding behind the stonewalls surrounding my fields whilst the
Highlanders were out reaching under the electric fence for
another mouthful of kale. This was no good for me so it was
back to the drawing board.
|Longley Cows & Calves
||Longley Holly and
It was about this time I reviewed my crossing programme and
came to the conclusion I could improve the Highland steer with
almost any breed but I was not producing the suckler cow I
was looking for, there was no uniformity in any of the female
I had produced so at Carlisle in 1977 Nether Oakshaw Tom was
When the calves came in the next spring I took my first look
and asked myself
“What have I done”?
The cross calves were very small and looked a dirty grey colour,
it seemed as though I had taken a step backwards! All I could
say was that the first 14 cows I had tried, had calved very
easily, the calves were fast to their feet and had suckled
whilst still being wet. Of the fourteen calves only three were
heifers. By the time my three cross heifer calves were ready
to wean I had decided I had found what I was looking for… They
had developed into well grown, square looking cattle and possessed
an attractive strawberry-roan colour.
They looked a picture, but could they perform
as well as they looked?
|Cross Highland Heifers
At every stage of their development I was delighted with my
Whitebred Shorthorn cross heifers and impressed with the relaxed
and placid approach they had to everything I did with them.
When it came time for them to produce their first calf, they
all calved within a week of each other, completely unaided
with big Simmental cross calves.
Looking back into records, number one had twelve calves, all
alive at weaning, in twelve years of breeding with calving
dates between 15th March to 27th April and an average weaning
weight of 315 kilos. Number two had fourteen calves again all
alive at weaning in fourteen years of breeding with calving
dates between 19th March to 8th April and average weaning weight
of 285 kilos. Number three had 15 calves with one year in the
middle of her life with none, the fifteen again were all alive
at weaning with a calving variation date between 31st March
to 16th May and an average weaning weight of 315 kilos.
The answer to my question: Could they perform?….
I would say an emphatic yes!
My Whitebred Shorthorn cross Highland heifers excel in every
aspect of modern suckler calf production. With their tremendous
hybrid vigour they can calve to any breed unaided, have low
feed requirement, regular calving intervals, enhanced milk
yield, improved conformation, an ability to survive outside
all year round, an average life expectancy of fourteen years
with a placid temperament and display an attractive colouring.
Tel: 01383 832812
the Longley Herd website