Top industry award for most genetic improvement for Fenland farming family

Charles and Sally Horrell, top Shorthorn herd

Charles and Sally Horrell, top Shorthorn herd - Credit: Submitted

A PEDIGREE herd of Shorthorn cattle run on former Roman earthworks in part of the Fens has won a top industry award for achieving the most genetic improvement.

It was 16 years ago that Harry Horrell bought the nucleus of his new Podehole herd on the family’s farm at Thorney.

It has now been recognised by Eblex – the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry-as the most improved herd of Shorthorn cattle in England for 2013. The award, for each of the 10 British breeds, is presented by the Eblex beef better returns programme to the recorded herd that shows the greatest genetic gain for commercial characteristics over a 12-month period.

Harry’s parents, Charles and Sally Horrell, who had moved to Podehole Farm in 1990, also established a flock of pedigree Hampshire Down sheep two years later.

It now numbers 50 head and the flock is performance recorded.

Although the overwhelming majority of the 1,200-acre farm is arable with oilseed rape, wheat and sugar beet, there is about 200 acres of permanent grassland.

When their son started showing an interest in cattle in 1997, the Podehole Shorthorn herd was established. Later in the same year, they were joined by cattle from Tofts with additions from Derryage and Wenmar herds. These early lines have formed the mainstay of the herd, which now numbers up to 60 cows plus followers.

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As they sell breeding cattle to both pedigree and commercial producers, their potential purchasers want to know accurate background performance information.

“The figures give important guidance to what’s going on beneath the skin,” said Mrs Horrell. “The fact that we’re performance recording shows that we’re taking the job of producing breeding animals seriously.”