Construction of beef herd requires close attention

WHEN CHRIS Page competes with his cattle at the Great Yorkshire Show in 10 days’ time he may be a hunted man.

Chris Page, pictured with his champion Lincolnshire Red at Oak Tree Farm. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Just under two weeks ago he escaped over the Humber Bridge and back home to the East Riding clutching silverware from the Lincolnshire Show. He won it fair and square but having clinched it with his Lincoln Red bull Saint Fort Rolex there may have been some diehards who will at the very least be looking for their county’s revenge at Harrogate.

Chris runs his cattle breeding enterprise on nearly 44 acres at Oak Tree Farm, Newport just of the M62, where he has built a reputation for quality pedigree stock, initially with Aberdeen Angus and now also Lincoln Reds. He’s not moving away from the Angus, it’s just that right now he has the bit firmly between his teeth with the Reds and his approach to both is paying dividends in the show ring and when selling stock.

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“I’ve watched the progress of the Lincoln Reds for the last ten years. Their breeding programme has seen their growth and shape come on in absolute leaps and bounds. Since I started with them four years ago I can honestly say I’ve never had anything that converts on grass like them. They’re absolutely brilliant and the cows are great mothers and very easy calvers.

“Last year I had a Lincoln Red bull that stood overall junior champion at the Great Yorkshire. He went on to become Native champion at Driffeld Show the following week and then repeated the feat at Stokesley Show at the end of the season before I sold him.

“Saint Fort Rolex is a bull I bought from Fyfe. He’s already been responsible for producing some marvellous calves for me and he will definitely be coming to the Great Yorkshire Show along with Westacre Bianca who was Reserve Female champion at Lincolnshire Show.”

Chris breeds his cattle for other breeders rather than for meat and on his limited acreage he believes quality is the only way forward.

“The only way to make money on a small acreage like ours is to pay attention to detail and breed the very best you can. If you can sell a beast for £1,000 more than you would sell it as a fat beast in Selby market then I equate that to selling ten fat cattle profit wise. I sell both privately and at society sales and have regular customers who come back to me time and time again for Aberdeen Angus bulls and heifers. We’re now experiencing the same with the Lincoln Reds.”

Unlike the Angus which attracts premium prices for its meat through beef schemes with Dovecote Park for supermarket sales, the Lincoln Red doesn’t at present. Chris understands why but feels this could be addressed.

“There just isn’t the quantity of Lincoln Red beef to go on to these schemes at present but if the quantity was there I’m sure the premium would be there too. One way of getting it on with the schemes that are available now would be to put an Aberdeen Angus on to the Lincoln Red cow.”

Success with his Lincoln Reds will come as no surprise to those who have competed alongside him with Angus cattle. In 2003 he had Female Champion and Supreme Champion in the Aberdeen Angus classes at the Great Yorkshire Show and has regularly stood in the top three at shows throughout Yorkshire.

“We started showing cattle in 1989. It was George Redpath of Dacre who I will forever be grateful to for his time and experience. The first show we ever went to with Angus cattle was Wetherby and that’s where I met George. He would impart a little bit more knowledge every time I saw him such as how to make beasts stand well and the right feed to give them in preparation for show time. I listened and learned. About four years later I had a beast that beat his and he didn’t tell me anymore, but what he had given me has stood me in good stead ever since.”

What may come as a surprise to some though is Chris’ background. It’s a lesson to all who attend agricultural shows that you really can be there yourself one day if it’s your passion.

“I’m not from a farming family. I grew up in Holme on Spalding Moor. My father came to Yorkshire to fly Buccaneers and my mum had the local DIY shop. I worked on farms as a kid and from 10-11 years old I would always help farmers Maurice Batty and Freddie Burley in the village. Maurice had cattle and Freddie had pigs. I went into the building trade and it is my building side that has allowed me to buy land and build this house. I’d always wanted to have cattle right from working with Maurice and when we bought a little farm at Blacktoft in 1988 we started with a suckler cow herd using Simmentals. I bought my first pure Angus cows in 1989.

“While the building trade has allowed me to farm, our cattle business pays its way. We had £21,000 to build this house and it ended up costing £21,800 so I sold two heifers to make it right.

“In two years of selling Lincoln Reds we have sold a bull for 5,800 guineas at the society sale in Newark and weaned heifers at £1,500. We’re currently trying to build up the female side. At present we have seven breeding Angus cows and 13 breeding Lincoln Red cows plus followers.”

Chris is married to Sharon and they have two daughters - Korina and Melissa.