Hampered by cold weather, Scottish pastures are not at the stage they would normally be for the end of May. However, the cold weather didn’t stop the Scottish beef farmers travelling in their droves to Mains of Mause, Blairgowrie in Perthshire for the Scottish Beef Association (SBA), Beef Event 2015.

“Beef fom the hills” was the theme for the first national event organised by the SBA. Scott Henderson, Chairman of the SBA highlighted that “emphasis is moving relentlessly towards technical efficiency”.

The Alexander family are putting these words into practice. They are focusing on reducing costs and maximising returns from a hill suckler herd and sheep flock by utilising the latest technologies.

They farm four units, one of which was the venue for the beef event. A third of the total 15,000 acres are ungrazeable, rising to 3,000 feet above sea level. It borders Scotland’s largest ski centre at Glenshee, which still had snow on it last Wednesday.

The Alexanders run 1,020 Limousin cross cows. The largest commercially run Limousin herd in the UK with a stud of 35 Limousin stock bulls. They also have a flock of 2,000 Blackface and Scotch Mule ewes.

Having exited suckler production in the 1980s, sheep numbers were increased to 4,000 ewes and a cattle finishing enterprise was introduced. When they recognised the potential of breeding their own calves, the Alexanders got back into cows again in the mid 1990s. Starting with 40 cross bred cows and a purebred Limousin bull, they have grown to where they are today.

Making no apologies for paying what some might perceive as over the odds for stock bulls, the Alexanders said buying top quality down as being critical to the success of the herd. According to Peter Alexander, they like to “buy bulls out of milky cows because our priority is the female qualities of milk, temperament and feet”. You can see the impact of a focus on milk as you walk through the herd.

“The black Limousin genetics all came from North America and they are very much based on commercially desirable traits” said Peter. They are now using black Limousin for an outcross. Putting their faith in the latest technology to detect peak heat and the optimum time to serve, they have used AI on the farm for the first time. Some 300 cows and heifers have been inseminated.

The Alexanders have also taken the step of measuring the pelvis of heifers at 14 months of age. This allows them to take the decision to keep them as replacements to calve at two years of age or to finish them for slaughter. “We have to embrace new technology and I believe this is the way ahead,” said Peter.