Roger and Adrian Rundle
THE FARM: Kestle Mill Farm, Kestle Mill, Newquay, Cornwall. 120 acres owned and 60 acres rented
THE LIVESTOCK: 50 pedigree South Devon cows and 2 bulls. 45 pedigree Hampshire Down sheep (Treworthal flock)
One of the oldest South Devon herds in existence, the Kestle herd is steeped in history and runs in the blood of the Rundle family. With father and son, Roger and Adrian, at the helm, the herd is certainly in safe hands.
Roger’s great grandfather established the herd in the late1800s and registered it in the herd book in 1905. The family have therefore seen the breed evolve over the years. ‘From the 1970s to the 90s it became a beef breed, now they are the number one suckler cow,’ says Adrian. ‘Put any bull on the South Devon cow and it will produce a fantastic calf.’ Showing has always been a big part of the family’s lives. ‘My grandfather started showing in 1961 – he used to put steers on the train at St Austell to travel up to the Royal Smithfield Show in London,’ says Roger. And it remains an important part of their purpose with the herd. ‘A lot of people don’t think showing is commercial, but it is a real shop window for the breed and individual herds,’ says Adrian. ‘It’s a great way to benchmark and to make sales.’
The Rundle’s system relies on grass and forage. ‘Our cows calve in the spring then they’re straight out to grass, and our two-year-old heifers are out-wintered on kale and hay – they don’t receive any concentrates,’ says Adrian. ‘We want them to build frame as yearlings, we don’t want them too fat.’ They keep about 20 steers to sell as stores at 12–15 months – these are sold mainly to local finishers who will fatten and sell them on to local butchers or regular buyers from restaurants. ‘We make a decision by the autumn which bulls we want to keep entire – we only keep the very best bulls for breeding,’ explains Adrian.
They keep most of the heifers for breeding or sale, either at pedigree society sales or direct to commercial breeders. ‘They go on to make excellent suckler cows in crossbred herds,’ he adds.
Trevassack Apollo was the first bull that Roger bought in his own right. ‘Since then we’ve used Juniper Winston and Lumbylaw Leo, who bred two national show winners on the trot, then Goff Cave Sturdy Away,’ says Roger. ‘We’re now using Welland Valley Dominator and Blatchford Harper, both are myostatin zero – we are very pleased, we’re getting some fantastic calves.’
When picking a bull the pair look for strength in breed character, with an excellent top line and good bone. ‘We don’t solely buy a bull based on figures, we tend to use them as a guide,’ says Adrian. ‘We would rather buy a bull we like the look of, with good feet; you shouldn’t need to be trimming young bulls’ feet.’
But they like to mix things up a bit. ‘You need to keep the strength and power, go for something modern then something more traditional.’
There have been plenty of highlights during their South Devon careers, so what moments really stand out? ‘We had the female champion at the first National Show, at Royal Cornwall, with AI Kestle Tulip 79, then won the Championship and Native Interbreed Champion with Kestle Dahlia 60 – a two year old heifer – at the National Show in Norfolk; she went on to win several other championships as a cow,’ says Roger.
Kestle Dahlia 46 was also a memorable cow. ‘She was breed champion at the very last Royal Show – which meant a lot to us. She won 16 breed championships and multiple interbreed championships – she was a special animal,’ says Adrian.
The family also hold the breed record price for heifers sold at society sales with Kestle Tulip 86 (£7,140) and second record price with Kestle Buttermaid 84 (£5,250).
So where should the breed go from here? ‘I think we need to capitalise on the strength of the South Devon suckler cow,’ says Adrian. ‘With Brexit and the uncertainty over our markets there’s no doubt the South Devon can perform on a grass based system – it’s one of the most efficient breeds and they produce the finest beef out there.’