FLAMINGO LAND has lions, tigers, elephants, giraffes and still has pretty flamingos but Jane and Mark Hayhurst who live in the shadow of the big dippers and adrenalin-fuelled rides have their own very special beasts.
Great Carr Farm borders the theme park on the edge of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire, and is where the couple has built a solid reputation for their herd of pedigree Whitecliffe Charolais cattle.
Last week Jane was one of many exhibitors at the Beef Expo event held at York Auction Centre. Jane had taken one of their two three-year-old bulls Whitecliffe Highlight and was delighted with the response from Charolais breeders and others who were considering the breed.
“We took him to show potential future breeders what a modern Charolais looks like. The breed characteristics have changed since we started with them and we now believe that the Charolais has all the attributes that pedigree and commercial beef farmers are looking for.
“It is a finer boned beast but the number one box it ticks is that it provides an easy calving animal, which is essential. You can have the best conformation cattle in the world but they’re no use to anyone if you can’t get the calves out.
“What is vital for a breeder of any form of livestock is to come up with what the purchaser is looking for. I like a really good top on a bull with good length, loin and muscle, a good set of plates at the back and a full round back end, but it’s not all about what you want, it’s about making sure that your end product is something that others want to buy.”
Jane comes from the Greenheld farming family in Rosedale where her parents Brian and Sheila still farm today. It was her granddad John from whom she found her love of the Charolais breed.
“He only had four but they were always my favourites on the farm because they had a nice placid nature. They were always going to be our choice when starting a herd.”
Mark grew up in Kirby Misperton and while not coming from a farming family always leant towards life in the countryside. He spent two years on farms as a YTS student before starting his own business in the building trade including working on roads, sewers and groundworks throughout Yorkshire. He and Jane met in the Milburn Arms in Rosedale.
When Jane left school she worked for Wells Cundall in Kirkbymoorside before moving to their Malton office and then opened a ladies’ clothes shop in Pickering that she ran for around eight years.
“We’d always thought it would be good to have our own farm and we started with a seven-acre field about two miles from here in 1991. We had ponies and sheep initially and began buying other parcels of land that came up when we could afford them. It was Mark who decided that he would like some cows and it was a mutual decision to go for Charolais cattle 16 years ago.
“Our starter herd was bought from Borderway Mart in Carlisle and the one bull we bought up there is the only bull we have ever bought. All of our others have come as a result of using AI or breeding our own through the stock here on the farm. We also bought one or two additional cows and heifers from Perth and that brought us up to 15 head of cattle.
“We bought this farm in 2002. It runs to 250 acres and we have a further 40 acres at Cliff Barns between Great and Little Barugh. Around 100 acres are cropped and we grow wheat, barley, oats and beans with the aim to be as self-sufficient as possible. The rest is down to grass for grazing the cattle and silage, hay and haylage. The wheat variety is currently Santiago; the barley is Cassia; and the oats are Dalguise. We sometimes sell a little surplus grain and some horse haylage but since we now have a herd of 100 cows, that with followers means we have around 260 beasts, we’re using just about everything we grow.”
Although Jane and Mark have built a good name for their pedigree Charolais herd they are also conscious of the commercial beef benefits of the cattle and their 100 cows which include first time calving heifers: 70 pedigree Charolais cows and 30 Charolais X Limousins.
“We like to produce beef cattle because we show our prospective purchasers that we know what we’re talking about in both pedigree and commercial stock,” says Mark.
“Our two first time service bulls that you see here on the farm today are Whitecliffe Highlight and Whitecliffe Harlequin. They have both been put to commercial and pedigree heifers and cows so that we can see how each has calved to the various types of cow we have. It’s important to see that kind of thing and to be able to talk with confidence about what they can do especially when we’re selling semen from them right across the country.
“We’re always looking at how we can improve and to try and fix up the best potential breeding between AI, bull and cow or heifer.
“In our opinion nothing converts and puts weight on like a Charolais. At a time when there is so much pressure on farming to turn things around faster this breed does what it says on the tin, it gets them converted quickly. Our aim is to finish beef bulls at around 13-14 months and we like to patronise both the liveweight auction market and the deadweight system as both have an important role to play in the beef industry today.”
The Hayhursts also buy in 150-200 Suffolk or Texel X store lambs in September from Malton livestock market that they over winter and then sell once again at Malton in spring. Much of their land is heavy clay but still provides a healthy yield of up to four tonnes per acre.
Pedigree stock is sold either privately from home or at Carlisle and sometimes Stirling. Among their proudest moments so far have been selling a Charolais bull for 31,000 guineas at Carlisle and winning an Eblex Improved Charolais herd award.