A weekend break in Northern Ireland produced a surprise outcome for a Northumberland farming family.
David and Kate Dickinson, from the top of the Rede Valley in the Northumberland Borders, are successful beef farmers, having just this summer won the North of England section of the Hereford Societies commercial herds’ competition.
The couple also run the pedigree Mallowburn Hereford herd which they established about 10 years ago with nine cows bred by John Douglas, Ervie Herefords.
The Dickinsons bought Chattlehope House Farm seven years ago, a hard and wet hill farm at Catcleugh with a reservoir in the centre.
Originally the farm was just bare land with little in the way of facilities but since then the couple have invested and built three sheds and a farmhouse.
Each year David & Kate have a “farmer’s holiday” based around a Hereford cattle sale and last year they decided to visit Northern Ireland with good friends and fellow Hereford breeders Tom and Di Harrison of Moralee Herefords.
A couple of visits to Hereford herds were on the itinerary but by chance the group called in on James Graham for a quick look at his Richmount herd of pedigree Herefords at Portadown.
Plans were drastically changed – and David found himself going home with a much lighter wallet and as the proud owner of the top Hereford bull in Northern Ireland.
The Dickinsons were so impressed by the Richmount cattle that two further visits took place and the Northern Ireland Bull of the Year, Richmount 1 Hermes, was purchased for an undisclosed sum.
This young sire – a coming three-year-old and bred from the successful Graceland 1 Colin – has dominated the summer show circuit, taking a string of breed and interbreed awards.
David said: “We saw a super bunch of cattle at Richmount but were most impressed by Hermes. He is a tremendous animal – we have never seen such a well-muscled Hereford.
“We were not looking for a bull at the minute, but simply could not miss the opportunity to purchase a sire like this. He is exactly what we want for our breeding programme – we are looking to produce well-muscled, easy-fleshed cattle from our suckler herd and have been using Hereford bulls for 10 years or so.
“The breed suits the hill environment we are farming and we value the temperament and ease of management of the Hereford cross.
“Our male calves are sold as stores through the local market while the heifers are in keen demand for breeding. Hermes will also enhance the genetic base of our pedigree female families.
“The addition of Hermes to our herd has come as a bit of a surprise. His show career has obviously been phenomenal but unlike many show champions, this is the type of bull to produce the commercial animals which the market is looking for.
“The beefing quality is what took us by surprise – we just hadn’t seen a Hereford like this before.
“When we heard that James was prepared to sell the bull, we knew we had to have him.
“A further visit to the Graceland herd was arranged to look further into the Hermes bloodlines and we were really pleased to see the strength of his pedigree.
“Our weekend break turned into an intensive (and expensive) business trip.”
Not to be left out of the action, travelling companions Tom and Di Harrison from Stocksfield, Northumberland, also made purchases from the Richmount herd.
Their Moralee herd of pedigree Herefords was established two years ago and they are in the process of building up a herd of quality females from the best bloodlines available.
Tom said: “We had not expected to find such quality in such a small herd but James’s Herefords really appealed to us – the sort of strong functional cattle the industry needs.
“We have been working to develop the breed in our area and have been successful in having Hereford classes included in our local Northumberland show.
“We were pleased that James agreed to sell us two of his young heifers and we are very much looking forward to competing with our new purchases on our local show circuit next year.”
Former owner James Graham said: “Richmount 1 Katie Perry by Greenyards 1 Dougie and Richmount 1 Kylie by Graceland 1 Colin are two quality females – they have great breed character and strong pedigrees.
“I’m pleased they will fly the flag for Richmount across the water. I wish Tom and Di every success with their purchases.”