The Abberton herd of Aberdeen-Angus was established by Alec and Catriona Sutherland in 1995 when they started farming together at Manor farm, Abberton, Worcestershire.
The farm extends to about 260 acres with arable crops occupying most of the land and the cattle occupying most of the time and interest.
The nucleus herd of four in-calf heifers and two cows originate from Catriona’s mother and father’s Nightingale herd also in Worcestershire.
The herd, which at present has 30 cows, 90% of which derive from the six original females, has been run as a closed herd since that time with the exception of using AI sires and the purchase of Stoddard Marybelle 001 in 2002 at George and Jenny Simpsons dispersal.
Marybelle 001’s first son, Abberton Marshal Beau 84, became at 14 months the junior male champion, overall male champion and the native interbreed junior champion at the Royal Show 2005 at Stoneleigh.
He then became reserve junior champion at Perth October sales where he was purchased by the Wedderlie herd, Berwickshire. Recently, however, new cow families have been introduced through embryo transfer minimising any risk to herd health.
Throughout the years the herd has been managed along strict commercial lines concentrating on growth with easy-care. No breeding female is fed concentrate, with heifers calving at two years old.
All progeny are performance recorded and are scanned for carcass characteristics at 400 days old. At present 100% of bulls and heifers born are sold for breeding purposes, be it into dairy, sucker or pedigree herds, with most bulls being sold while outside at about 14-18 months without the need for high concentrate input or housing. Recent years have also seen the herd export a number of cattle to Germany, France, Spain and Ireland.
With the exception of embryo transfer progeny all females retained in the herd are homebred, often with the same animal appearing in the pedigree several times, consolidating traits.
Sires for the herd are selected, be they AI or homebred, only, once detailed information reveals not only estimated breeding values or actuals, for weight, frame score, carcass traits, but also once visual assessments have been carried out on structural soundness, functional ability and not forgetting breed characteristics and temperament. The importance of relatives in a pedigree is paramount at Abberton and is never ignored.
Curernt herd sires include Abberton Dunkirk N301, Abberton Mr Buccleuch R350, Abberton Dazzle G160 and Nightingale Pirelli M365.