Canadian perspectives on sustainable suckler cow production

Suckler farms will be welcoming a Canadian visitor this month as part of an initiative driven by the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) to assist English suckler producers to adapt to change.

Advice will be given to farmers
Advice will be given to farmers

Arron Nerbas, of Nerbas Bros. Aberdeen Angus in Canada will join AHDB and the Aberdeen Angus Society for three on-farm events to discuss what makes a suckler system profitable, including how genetics, selection and management pressure can be used to breed a cow that fits and performs well.

Beef production is a major enterprise in Canada and producers have had to tailor their systems over recent years to increase production while ensuring sustainability and profitability. Nerbas Bros.

Aberdeen Angus is a multigenerational business which has developed a business model based on regenerative and holistic farming methods, with low inputs and cattle that thrive in a forage-based system.

With the use of artificial insemination (AI) to select the right genetics and rigorous culling criteria, the cows they produce have evolved to thrive on their desired low input system. In terms of maternal performance, the herd has a 55 day breeding period allowed, with 60% calving in the first three weeks and assisted calvings at less than 2%.

Arron says: “Barren cows are pulled out when we handle the cattle for the calves first vaccination. We usually pull 5-10%, some of which will have calved and lost them.

"Having a short breeding period like this, keeps the selection pressure for fertility on constantly, it also keeps the calf crop uniform and the system simpler.”

At weaning, the cows are kept as one group and put on bale grazing for roughly four months until the next calving.

“We don’t split our cattle according to body condition score (BCS). If they can’t hold their condition correctly, then they don’t suit our system,” says Arron.

The breeding goals of Nerbas Bros. Aberdeen Angus are extremely clear; by applying strict selection pressures that fit with the system and sticking with the overall goal for the business, Arron and his family have been able to produce a cow that works for them in a profitable way.

Arron will be at the 75th British Cattle Breeding conference in Telford (January 23-25) and to deliver three on-farm events, as part of the AHDB Maternal Matters campaign, kindly supported by the Aberdeen Angus Society.

To find out more, visit

This article is from Emma Steele, knowledge exchange manager for AHDB Beef and Lamb

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