Philip runs the reputed Norbreck Genetics company from his farm near Cockerham in Lancashire, and he is proud that his bulls consistently sire more show winners and high priced animals than any other company.
Philip started the business when he was just 14 after buying a Belgian Blue embryo from a pedigree herd in Cheshire. That embryo turned out to be a prize-winning heifer and from that, Philip moved into other genetics, breeding a number of successful bulls. Initially these were marketed through Scottish Livestock Services, but today the business markets sires for the dairy farmer through SEMEX UK, whilst bulls suitable for pedigree breeders are marketed directly, resulting in livestock, embryos and semen being sold to customers across the globe.
“We breed cattle with great conformation, focusing on mobility, vitality and growth,” Philip explained. “15-20 years ago the Belgian Blue did not have the greatest reputation for locomotion but that is changing now and the British Blue we breed is recognised for easy calving, functionality and performance.”
The breeding programme at Norbreck focuses on six brood cows that are flushed for embryos, which are then implanted into around 30 beef x heifers each year. Some of these are sold pregnant, whilst around 15-20 are kept, with the calves then being reared.
Philip’s aim is to produce calves that have good genetic merit and rapid growth rates rather than looking exclusively at muscling. And his feeding system reflects these aims.
“We feed young heifers and bulls from 12 weeks old on Carrs Billington’s Taurus Beef mix, supplemented with coarse hay or big bale silage,” he explained. “They get fed twice a day with 1.5kg/head – we push them but they are not on ad lib concentrates as we want them to maintain good functionality, so we want the frame to grow as well as flesh to develop.”
At 12 months of age bulls and show heifers then get transferred to Carr’s Champion Bull mix to help achieve perfect fleshing and condition.
And it is no coincidence that both of these diets contain Actisaf® live yeast, something that Philip has included in his feed from the very beginning. He believes this is critical to maximise intakes, feed conversion efficiency and growth rates whilst ensuring that rumen health is good.
“We don’t get any problems with acidosis and the feed is very balanced,” Philip said. “We don’t have any real health issues and the animals grow well – something that is important when we are marketing stock to others.”
“British Blues make up 75-80 per cent of AI beef sales on the UK dairy market and they are the only breed that can consistently produce an easy calving animal and that will put muscling on a Holstein cross,” Philip concluded. “We are confident that Norbreck animals will deliver maximum growth, vitality and mobility and Actisaf® plays an important part in helping us to achieve that.”