Carving out a niche in the pedigree cattle breeding world can take many years especially when entering what is already a competitive and popular market place but Claire Garside of Millington Heights appears to be making solid headway with her Aberdeen Angus herd.
Claire and husband Adam started out with four cows they bought from a farm in North Wales in 2004 and have now grown their herd to 25 cows that will go to the bull this year. They sell their fat cattle at York and Selby livestock markets with anything else going for boxed beef that is sold to locals.
Next week Claire will be heading back to York Livestock Centre where auctioneer Scott Ferrie will be hosting the second special spring sale of multi-breed pedigree cattle. She attended the inaugural event at the 11th hour last year and was very pleased with both the attendance and the price her bull attracted.
“I only found out about the sale at the last minute and managed to get hold of Scott on the morning of the sale day. I knew I had a bull that was too good to go to the fatstock sales and the sale came up at just the right time. The one thing with a breed such as the Aberdeen Angus is that usually I have to go to Borderway Mart in Carlisle to sell pedigree stock on to other farmers. That’s why the sale at York really appealed to me as it saves on cost and fuel. We don’t have many pedigree sales for cattle in Yorkshire and that inevitably means we all have to travel quite a distance. It was such a good turnout on the day and my bull made £2,000 so I was very happy. I’m taking two bulls this year.”
Claire has lived in and around Millington all her life apart from a couple of wanderlust years after having studied biology at Sunderland University.
“Mum and dad had a sheep farm in the village and farming was all I ever did as a child and all I ever wanted to do. I didn’t follow the normal route of going to an agricultural college because at that time I just felt that there were limits about what I could learn that I hadn’t already found out from working on our farm. We bred our own Mules, so we had Swaledales and Blue Faced Leicesters and put the Mules to the Suffolk tup to produce fat lambs. At our height we had 250 breeding ewes. The funny thing I remember is that before putting the tups in with the ewes dad would always find out when the Easter school holidays were so that he knew my sister Kate and I would be around for lambing. We didn’t mind at all. We loved it.
“When Adam and I came here we settled on cattle, even though I still love sheep, because Adam had more of an interest in them. I’ve always liked native breeds and I wanted a breed that would prove both easy to calve and handle. They’re exactly that and as we creep up in numbers I’m able to cull out what I’m not happy with. I don’t delude myself that we’re up with the big boys yet but we’re making progress. When you go to the bigger pedigree sales you do get a reality check because of the quality that you see from a much wider area. I’m not saying our cattle cannot compete I just like to keep my feet on the ground. I’ve already sold two bulls privately in Yorkshire this year so we’re doing okay.”
In their ten years at Millington Heights, and nine years of marriage as of next week, the couple have managed to extend their farming enterprise considerably, including increasing their land ownership.
“We originally purchased the farmhouse and two-and-a-half acres and have since bought a 35-acre field around us and followed that with another 20 acres. We now have a small rotation of crop that means we’re self-sufficient in straw and silage. We’ve been growing wheat for the past couple of years but this year we’re growing barley. We’re also fortunate that we have 35 acres in the valley facing the village which provides excellent grazing for our girls in summer.”
Adam’s mum and dad had a farm in Bielby and he has always worked with farm equipment. His time is spent largely on repairing agricultural implements such as cattle crushes, trailers, gates, forks and buckets. He started up AWG Fabrication 12 years ago and next month sees the opening of another new business called Wolds Agri, a shop for farmers.
“A few years ago farmers began cutting back on buying new implements and started holding on to what they had for longer. That’s been great for us as Adam can usually sort out anything. When he makes something or welds what is needed his work is robust and lasts. The idea of Wolds Agri is to provide an outlet where farmers can come and buy their rural and agricultural hardware. We will be stocking all manner of spares from brackets, blades and tines. If there’s a wearing part then we will have it here. It’s about having what farmers need on a day to day basis so they can carry on working without too much of an interruption when something needs changing or mending.”
Claire and Adam have two young children Penny, eight, and Henry, six, and they’re looking to provide for their future with the various concerns they’re building at Millington Heights. Claire also runs an agricultural bookkeeping and farm secretarial service and has several clients.
“It’s a big bad world out there and whatever we can do to help both of them get started is why we are pressing ahead on all fronts. We will buy more land if we can. At present my ideal number of Aberdeen Angus cows would be 30 but that’s only because we don’t have any more grass.”
Their farm operation is fast developing into a varied agricultural business and they love life in Millington. Claire’s considerable travels took her around the world after university but there’s only one other country where she could live: “I enjoyed everywhere I went but my favourite place hands down was New Zealand. The south island particularly is very agricultural and the people have such a nice attitude.”
- The Special Spring Show & Sale of Multi-Breed Pedigree Cattle is at York Livestock Centre on 13 March, 1pm.