As the fifth generation of his family farming at Coxons Farm, Tom Carlisle is determined to maintain and build on a longstanding reputation for selling high-quality livestock.

Located in the Yorkshire Dales, their system is traditionally low input, producing prime lambs and home-bred store cattle to be sold through Skipton market.

Over the past year, the spring calving suckler cows have been the focus of attention, with Tom looking specifically at pre-calving nutrition as an area for potential improvement.

“I did my research and there seemed to be good evidence to support the use of feed supplements in the one or two months before calving to improve colostrum quality and calf health,” says Tom.

“I did have some concerns about overfeeding the cows in late pregnancy, and increasing the risk of calving problems, so it was important to use a product designed for the purpose.

The Northern Farmer: Tom Carlisle uses feed supplements on his farm in the Yorkshire Dales

“We introduced Rumenco’s CalverMaxx buckets last year and we’ve seen significant benefits, with nice easy calvings and strong frisky calves up and drinking quickly. It’s really noticeable how good the calves look this year and how well they are growing on.”

Read more: Report says farming needs future leaders to take industry forward

Newly launched by Rumenco, CalverMaxx is a high magnesium, low calcium feed and mineral lick designed specifically for dry and pre-calving cattle. With a full mineral, vitamin, and trace element specification, it is very palatable with a high sugar content that provides a readily available source of energy.

Providing pre-calving cows with the correct nutritional inputs from CalverMaxx will also support calf growth, calving, lactation, and future cow fertility. It also enhances colostrum production.

“I was particularly keen to check colostrum quality following the introduction of CalverMaxx, so I’ve used a refractometer to test the antibody levels myself,” says Tom. “All the cows tested had colostrum antibody levels higher than the recommended level of 22 per cent, with some up as high as 45 per cent.

“This is the kind of improvement I was hoping for and gives the reassurance that we’re giving our calves the best possible start in life.”

The suckler herd at Coxons Farm is based on a dairy cross British Blue cow put with a Limousin bull and all replacements being bought in. Store cattle sold at 18 to 20 months can often be three-quarter Limousin and are highly regarded in Skipton market.

With the main herd calving indoors in April, cattle are turned out to grass as soon as calves are suckling well and have been tagged, typically within the first few days. Grazing ground is relatively high, low-input permanent pasture, so Tom has for the first time this year introduced Rumenco’s Maxx Cattle Booster high energy and protein buckets, to ensure cows are in optimum condition before the bull goes in.

Read more: Organisers all set for another Agri Expo this month

“It’s something else we’re trying, to supplement what may not be the best-quality grazing, to improve overall efficiency and performance,” adds Tom. “So far, all the heifers we’ve had PD’d are in calf, so there are positive signs that this is going to be another good step forward.”

A bought-in creep feed is introduced to supplement the calves as grazing availability declines in the autumn, and weaning typically takes place as the cattle are housed in October. The growing cattle then go onto a diet of ad-lib haylage supplemented with a bought-in beef nut.

“We make quite a dry haylage from a single cut of traditional hay meadows once a year,” adds Tom. “It’s diverse grassland, with plenty of nutritional value, but we have it analysed to ensure we know what we’re feeding and how we should supplement it.”

The cows will receive their haylage allocation through the winter months twice daily, with the morning ration fed alongside straw for the ‘scratch factor’ value.

All the cows receive a routine mineral drench once a year and are wormed prior to turn-out. Tom is also keen to ensure high herd health status is maintained, so sticks to a discipline of vaccinating against BVD and leptospirosis.

“As with the sheep, we’re doing everything we can to produce top quality as efficiently as possible, and that includes practical measures like staying on top of any lameness and ensuring the nutrition is right at all times.

“The feed buckets have been a simple and effective way to improve nutrition and we’re seeing the benefits in the quality of calves this year.”

With such a strong focus on continually improving, Coxons Farm seems set to continue a reputation earned over five generations of hard work. For Tom Carlisle and his wife Aimee, there is no bigger incentive than to create a legacy for their baby son William, who could one day become the sixth generation of this family to farm in the Yorkshire Dales.