Angus beef from a Friesian dairy herd: a farmers’ experience
In Focus: Alongside my wife Geraldine and our four children, we farm just over 100 ha in south Kilkenny, of which 84 ha is owned and a further 16 ha leased.
The land is split in three divisions. The soil type is a podzolic and acid brown earth. The farm is situated 600 feet above sea level in rolling hill countryside; there is 44 ha on the grazing platform for the dairy cows. Approximately 80 ha of our farm would be dry with the remaining 20 ha is a little heavy in parts.
We milk 90 Friesian dairy cows which are all spring caving to supply Glanbia. We breed all our own replacements from AI bulls and use an Angus stock bull after we have enough replacements bred. All drystock are brought to slaughter and are usually slaughtered by ABP Group. We also grow 10 ha of spring barley which we use to feed the stock.
One of the main focuses on the farm over the past five years has been to drive up output and reduce costs through increasing stocking rate, improved grassland management, compact calving and financial control.
By working closely with my local discussion group and Teagasc we have managed to make great strides to achieving our goals. It was with the adoption of better grassland management practices along with a reseeding programme that has improved our output based on the extra grass that the farm is growing since we started and our improved management skills.
Calving 120 plus dairy cows into a herd every year ease of calving is paramount for us. Getting the cows to calve and move into the milking parlour as soon as possible is our number one priority. In spring, with a lot of cows calving over a short time, the angus bull suits our system as they require little or no assistance.
Short gestation period
We use AI Friesian for the first seven weeks of the breeding season followed by six weeks of Angus bull. The later calving cows are bred to Angus which have a shorter gestation period in order to maintain our compact calving. The lighter Friesian heifers also receive as Angus bull to aid easier calving and improve their ability to go back in calf earlier the following year.
We find Angus calves from our dairy herd as strong healthy which need little attention and fit our system very well. They are quickly on there feet and suckle their mothers readily, with young heifers makes for easier management.
Polled Angus calves require no dehorning which is one less job for the spring on our busy dairy farm.
We find the stock to be quite and easy to manage, there is no different to them and our Friesian cattle.
Angus Friesian cross
The Friesian cow and Angus bull make an excellent cross with the Friesian cow giving the size and the Angus giving the beef characteristics.
We finish our Angus heifers at 22 month and the bullocks at 26 months. The lighter carcass of about 350 kg is what is required by the meat processors. This is very achievable with the Angus stock.
An addition benefit is the extra price premium of up 20 cent per kilo which is available through the Angus scheme.
Calves are fed twice a day using teat feeders for the first six weeks and once a day for the next four weeks, and all calves are weaned by 10 week. Calves receive five litres whole milk a day, reduced to three litres on once a day. Calves get access to hay and meal at all times. They are turned out to grass at a month old with a runback to a loose shed.
Calves are vaccinated for IBR and RSP at three weeks old. Cows and calves receive a selenium injection. We adopt a leader follower system for the calves ahead of the yearlings. The weanlings are treated with ivermictin for summer worms and we also treat them with a multi Vitamin for B12 imbalance.
Weanlings are housed from early November with a white drench and a fluckicide a few weeks later and are treated for lice as required with a pour-on. Weanlings are fed silage and home mix of our own barley, beet pulp and soya at a ratio of 45 : 40 : 15 split plus minerals and are cut out meals four weeks before turnout.
Yearlings are turned out in early March and are grazed in a paddock system of six divisions due to water constraints and they get fresh grass twice a week. Year-and-half cattle get a worm treatment at housing alongside a flukicide. They get silage only up to 100 days from finish then they get transferred to a meal and straw diet only. The meal is own Barley 4 kg, Beet pulp 4 kgs, Maize meal 2kgs and soya 0.5 kgs. with straw and minerals. Angus cattle are finished in this diet from early spring on.
Plans for the future
With the future abolition of milk quota we see an expansion in dairy cow numbers. The intention is to sell Friesian bull calves. The replacement heifers and Angus heifer and angus bull calves will be reared on the out-farm. With the further development of sexed semen we see breeding our replacements from our best dairy stock and selecting male Angus semen for the remainder. The Angus stock bull will remain for ease of management and to tidy up the herd at the end of the breeding season.
By Seamus Phelan, Smithstown, Tullogher, Mullinavat, Kilkenny. He will be speaking at today’s Teagasc National Beef Conference in Kilkenny.
Calves on grass. Photo O’Gorman Photography