NBA Beef Expo - Young Famer Focus, Beef Shorthorn - Kirsty Leigh

27th March 2024

Kirsty, aged 28, is a fourth-generation farmer in Worcestershire, and has recently been appointed a Board Apprentice for the Beef Shorthorn Society

Kirsty who describes herself as being ‘someone who likes to shake things up’, attended Reading University to study for a Degree in Agricultural Business. After spending her sandwich year working for ACT as a feed specialist, she decided to continue with her working career as it was her dream job.  

Since the age of 16, she has been running the family’s Alandale Farm near Wolverley in Worcestershire. “I took up the farm from my grandfather, since my parents who were busy working on their aspects of the business were too busy to run it themselves.”

Kirsty, now aged 28, has grasped opportunities, worked exceptionally hard, and has taken both the farm and her diversified business from strength to strength. She runs her own on-farm butchery, Leigh & Co, and has her own herd of 12 pedigree breeding Shorthorn cows under the Follyfox prefix.

“I bought my first breeding shorthorns from Stanford Park Farm Beef Shorthorns in January 2021, from Tina Russell and Simon Bradley.”

When choosing her shorthorns, for Kirsty, there is only one main trait – Milk. The first two cows she purchased were out of a bull which had one of the highest milk indexes in the breed at the current time, a bull bred by Tina Russell and Simon Bradley, from Stanford Park.

“I wanted young, in-calf cows, which had been put to a bull which I knew would also produce something suitable for today’s consumer in terms of meat.

“Growth rates are also key and EBV’s are studied in detail,” Kirsty describes herself as a nerd on the genetics side, “I believe genetics are so important.  Looking to the future I would like to go into breeding something different, using a combination of our British Genetics and perhaps New Zealand or Canadian Genetics.”

Kirsty breeds all her own replacements and today the Follyfox herd comprises of 12 breeding females plus stock destined for the butchery. She currently has some quality females which she would like to sell for pedigree use, through one of the supportive Shorthorn sales at Welshpool of Melton Mowbury later this year.

Since she purchased her first cows, Kirsty has heavily invested in the farm’s infrastructure and has built her own on-farm butchery. In the early days this had taken precedence over purchasing cows, however, now the butchery is up and running she has resource for buying more stock. The intention is to keep developing and growing the herd to support the growing demand for her Shorthorn Beef.

“I want everything to be Shorthorns and currently I need more stock to supply the butchery, which only sells Shorthorn Beef. All prime cuts are heifer meat and the meat from the steers and economy cuts from the heifers are used for burgers and minces, which we use both for our own butchery and sell to local wholesales, and food outlets.”

Kirsty attributes Tina Russell as her greatest mentor, “when I first decided I wanted Shorthorns, I posted a request on a Facebook Group and Tina invited to me to visit her, she didn’t just try to sell me cattle, she wanted to find out what I wanted out of my pedigree herd. Her input has been invaluable, she has supported me along my journey and has also helped me with show preparation and showing cattle.”

“I always try to grasp every opportunity! The biggest challenge I have currently, being at the beginning of a business start-up, I am sure like many others, is cashflow.”

On becoming an Apprentice Board Member for the Beef Shorthorn Society,  Kirsty says, “I wanted to get involved within the society as I believe that there is a place for a Beef Shorthorn on any farming enterprise and I want to help spread the word and to give something back to the society which has supported me.”