Over the weekend I took the time to catch up with Annabelle, who at the age of 16 is the proud owner of White Tower Charolais. I have known Annabelle for years and shown alongside her for many, you couldn't meet anyone more passionate about cattle and it was a pleasure to spend the afternoon in her farmyard.
How long have you been interested in cattle and how did you become so involved with them?
I have been interested in cattle for as long as I can remember! My Mum taught me all the breeds when I was young and Dad supplemented this by taking me out in his lorry to the local cattle market and other farms, as well as letting me watch from the sidelines while he sorted cattle. Both my parents were very good at encouraging me to show cattle, and that is when I really fell in love with them; I loved spending time with them and building a bond and caring for them- it is an amazing responsibility!
Annabelle was encouraged to show cattle from an early age.
What made you choose the Charolais breed?
The Charolais always caught my eye in both the sale ring or show ring, they are full of character and presence. A key decider for me was the relationship between Charolais and the beef finisher, as primarily this is where the demand for the Charolais comes from - breeders will be selling the vast majority of their bulls to suckler herds that then breed the beef finishing calves. The Charolais cattle have always acquired a strong demand- they have fantastic growth rates so as a result finish faster, and also have excellent conformation.
Where do they originate?
The Charolais originate from Eastern France, specifically in an area called Charolles, in the region of Burgundy.
Little Darlin, one of Annabelle's Charolais heifers.
How many Charolais do you now have in your White Tower herd?
Currently, I have a stockbull, 6 breeding females and 1 calf.
What numbers do you plan to get up to in your herd?
Ideally, I would like to build up and have 15 breeding females, by retaining female calves that I think will breed bulls to meet the current trends in demand for Charolais, and also, when given the opportunity, buy new bloodlines to improve and compliment my breeding plan.
This year is the first year you have calved, have you found that the Charolais have calved easily and are the natural mothers?
This year, all that have calved so far are heifers, and two out of three calved unassisted. I think it is just a case of experimenting with different bulls and bloodlines for calving ease. All calves were lively and the Charolais are brilliant mothers, rearing them well.
2 week old bull calf Osias with his mother Cloybank Josie.
What do you plan to do with this years calves, do you plan to sell them on to other breeders or retain them for your own breeding stock?
The calves I had born this year so far were all bulls, and will be kept until I think they are at a suitable age and condition to be sold for breeding.
Inquisitive Osias, hiding behind his mother.
You show your Charolais, what do you look for in a show animal?
In a Charolais show animal, I look for breed character. A Charolais should look alert, have big ears, a wide muzzle, masculinity/ femininity depending on the sex, strong legs and good conformation. Alongside this, I also look for an animal that holds itself well and have presence.
What is involved in your show preparation?
My show prep includes training the hair in order to dress with soap, clipping to tidy and enhance features, and washing with whitening shampoo.
Annabelle and I winning the Charolais pairs in August 2017 at The Aylsham Show.
Why do you feel showing is important for you and your cattle?
Showing is important for me and my cattle as it gives me an opportunity to showcase my stock to people who could potentially become customers, and to get my name out there. It is also a good way to socialise with like minded people and it is good to see what is successful in the show ring to get an idea for what people look for – you nearly always learn something new at shows.
What is your favourite thing about owning cattle?
My favourite thing about owning cattle is breeding them. I love experimenting with different bloodlines to see what works. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing cows rear calves and watching the calves change and perform.
What advice would you give someone looking to get cattle?
My advice for someone looking to get cattle is to consider what purpose they will be used for as there is such a variety of different breeds doing different jobs. Different breeds perform differently under feeding also, so it is important to consider breeds that would perform and thrive on the feed you are looking to give them. However, if you are looking for cattle with the ability to finish quickly, that have an ever improving calving ease and super conformation, consider a Charolais!
If you would like to find out more about White Tower Charolais follow Annabelle on Instagram @whitetowercharolais.
I am Izzi, farmer’s daughter and textile designer at IzziRainey. If I am not designing or sewing you will find me out in the farmyard with my cattle. I am constantly seeking inspiration for my prints, not that I have to look very far. Growing up on the farm, I have always been influenced by my surroundings and this combined with my passion for farming is what inspires my designs. I love spending time on the farm but I also enjoy learning about other people’s animals, passions and stories, which are also influential to my design process. I hope you enjoy reading ‘Over the Farm Gate’