The third-generation Yorkshire farmer with bulls that have a touch of magic

When your pedigree breeding bulls carry names that convey magical powers and enigmatic qualities it can sometimes be deflating when they don’t come up trumps, but that’s most definitely not the case for farming couple Stuart and Gail Currie of Beautry Farm, Rathmell, deep in the heart of Craven.

The first Beef Shorthorn bull ever bred from their 150-acre farm, that now sees them as completely pedigree oriented with Texel and Beltex sheep also, scythed through his opposition in the show and sale rings over a decade ago, living up to his mythical name of Beautry Excalibur, and this year Stuart has high hopes for 12 month old, junior bull Beautry Talisman.

“We started with two in-calf heifers purchased from the inaugural Beef Shorthorn Society sale at Skipton Auction Mart in 2009.

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"We’d been looking for a breed to go into that was quiet and easy to manage, but what had swung it for me at the time was that whilst I was on a day’s shooting at Coniston Hall I talked with a buyer for Woodheads abattoir that supplies Morrisons who told me that they were going to try Shorthorn beef as a special brand in their flagship store in London.

Farmer Stuart Currie with his herd of pedigree Beef Shorthorns. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer,  James HardistyFarmer Stuart Currie with his herd of pedigree Beef Shorthorns. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer,  James Hardisty
Farmer Stuart Currie with his herd of pedigree Beef Shorthorns. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer, James Hardisty

“I felt that was surely good for the breed going forward and combined with being reasonably inexpensive to keep because they mostly eat grass, their easy calving ability, safe to work with and the fact they ticked the sustainability box we made the decision to go with them and haven’t looked back.

“We were fortunate that one of those first in-calf heifers was carrying a bull calf that turned out to be an amazing bull winning at the Agri Expo in Carlisle in 2011 and five years later Breed Supreme Male Champion at the Great Yorkshire Show. That was Beautry Excalibur.

"He took our herd forward and his influence is still here now. We bought three of four more females and then 20 heifers out of Scotland from a breeder’s dispersal. Excalibur ran with all of those and we sold a selection of them with calves at foot the following year at Skipton.

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“They all did really well and we kept three of those heifers. The core of the herd still goes right back to them and our two originals which came from Croxton Park near Cambridge. We also bought a couple from Gerald Turton at Upsall Castle. Excalibur set us on our way. He ran with ours as long as he could, we then sold him into Sussex, and then he came back to us.”

Gail and Stuart Currie on their farm in the heart of Yorkshire. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer,  James Hardisty.Gail and Stuart Currie on their farm in the heart of Yorkshire. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer,  James Hardisty.
Gail and Stuart Currie on their farm in the heart of Yorkshire. Picture By Yorkshire Post Photographer, James Hardisty.

Stuart is now on the board of the Beef Shorthorn Society that will be holding its National Show at this year’s Westmorland County Show in September.

“We enjoy showing,” says Stuart. “But it’s more than just that with the Beef Shorthorn Society. It’s the friendliest society I’ve ever been involved with.”

Last September Stuart and Gail held a reduction sale that Stuart says was a tremendous success.

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“We are trying to take things a little easier and we find that the smaller number we have the greater we concentrate on quality. We calved 40 last spring and sold 20 cows with calves at foot at Skipton.

"It was a hell of a sale, in a good way, averaging over 4000 guineas per outfit. The sale also included four young bulls.

“Our three-year old cow Beautry Desiree Portia, that was also a winner in the show ring, topped the sale on the day at 6400 guineas.

“Our ideal number of breeding cows is 20 and we start calving the heifers at two years old. We’ve just finished calving 18 cows this time and we’ve nine heifers coming into the herd for this year.

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"Our cows have given us eight heifer calves so far, but we’re still not aiming for more than 20 breeding animals overall. We have 53 head of stock on at present.

“We’ve hopefully got quite a smart bull to enter at the Great Yorkshire and the Royal Highland, Beautry Talisman. He won at the Darlington Calf Show last autumn, champion male at the Northern Area Beef Shorthorn Club Show.

"We’ve kept him on with a view to taking him to Stirling next February. If he covers himself in glory at Harrogate and Edinburgh it would be a good advertisement.”

Stuart says the Beautry principle is that anything they keep has to be very good.

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“Anything that we feel is not going to make a pedigree breeding bull will go as a store bull to Bentham Auction Mart at 9-10 months of age.”

It’s a similar story with Stuart and Gail’s pedigree Texels and Beltex.

“My dad Duncan, who we sadly lost last summer, got Texels in 1979. We ran them alongside the dairy herd we had at the time and we did very well showing those. We held the world record price for a female Texel at one time at 8,500 guineas sold at the North West Texel Breeders Club Sale at Chelford. We also topped the averages at Lanark a couple of times with tup lambs in the mid 80s.

“We then had a bit of a quiet spell until our enthusiasm really got going when we sold a gimmer shearling at Worcester for 16,000 guineas in 2016. It’s still the record for a Texel female there.

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“We used to have 200 ewes at one time but as we increased the Beef Shorthorn herd we reduced our sheep numbers and now only have 20 breeding ewes made up of 15 Texels and five Beltex that we started with in 2006. We realised that they don’t do as well for us if we have too many, and the less we have the better we can do with both cattle and sheep.”

Stuart and Gail have the farm in a Higher Level Stewardship scheme that is currently on a rolling year to year basis. Stuart says he’s not looking to take up on the new SFI schemes at present.

“We have traditional uplands meadows across 25 acres, wetlands near Long Preston and SSSI land on river banking. I’m not going into an SFI scheme unless they improve the offer.”

One of the largest contributors to Stuart and Gail’s farming enterprise today comes from a move they made in 1991. Stuart says that both he and his father have always responded to changes in farming.

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“I’m the third generation. My father took on the tenancy when he was just 17 when his stepfather died early. It had 30-40 dairy cows and 150 breeding ewes. When I came back from studies at Askham Bryan College in 1981. I took on the reins in a family partnership with my mum Joan and dad milking 110 pedigree Holsteins.

“We came out of dairy farming, selling the cows in 1990 and converted the dairy into an equine veterinary clinic with operating theatre and examination room and put up a rehabilitation centre for horses with a hydrotherapy pool. We took on two tenants, farrier and vets, and ran the rehabilitation centre ourselves until recently.

"We’ve also converted a barn into a holiday cottage. Our tenants currently are Northern Equine Therapy Centre and North West Equine Vets.”

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