Farming outside Drumkeerin, Co. Leitrim, Ciaran Clancy is a part-time suckler farmer and the current chairperson of Leitrim Macra na Feirme.

As part of this week’s Beef Focus, Agriland visited the Clancy’s farm in Co. Leitrim.

Ciaran explained that he and his wife are both part-time farming alongside Ciaran’s father.

The Clancys farm in the region of 180ac. Ciaran explained 90ac of their land is mountain-type land and the other 90ac is marginal-type land with “heavy daub-type clay and a lot of lying water”.

He outlined: “We breed our own replacement heifers and we also buy in suck calves and rear them every year.”

Commenting on the selection criteria for replacement heifers, Ciaran said: “We try to keep the best of them. Anything that has good shape and is out of a dam with good milk is kept on.”

“We sell our weanlings at the end of November/start of December and any weanlings which are a bit lighter are fed on for the winter and sold around February or March time.

The suckler cows kept on the farm are primarily Limousin, Angus and Shorthorn breeding.

Ciaran said: “We keep a fairly traditional cow, an easy-fed cow that is weighing roughly 600kgs. We don’t tend to keep any heavier-type cows.”

He admitted: ” I would like to breed a little more power into the cattle” and outlined that the better-performing cows on the farm were leaving up to “€100 extra” when their weanlings were sold.

Ciaran currently has plans to build a 3-bay double that will hold “in the region of 35 to 40 cows which is an idea of the kind of numbers we want to get to,” he explained.

He noted that winter housing is currently limited on the farm and when the new shed is built, it will allow more animals to be housed over the winter.

He said that any of the lighter, hardier weanlings which are being kept on for the winter are out-wintered “for as long as possible”.

As the land-type is more marginal, Ciaran explained that the aim every year is “to try get one heavy cut of silage on around June 10”.

“Some of the better-type meadows on the farm allow for a second cut,” he added.

Commenting on the calving pattern on the farm, Ciaran outlined that “a few heifers which were bulled early would calve in December/January and everything else calves in approximately mid March.

Continuing, Ciaran outlined that cows which calve early and have good, hardy calves spend the summer on their mountain-type land but are brought down from it in the winter as the area of ground “is too open and cold for the winter”.

I would prefer to see younger cattle out-wintered regardless of what farming system I was in. If I had my choice and the land to support it, all our young cattle would be out for the winter because they come back in February and March in great condition.

Weanlings being out-wintered are given a mineral bolus in September and again in March and Ciaran believes this is key to the good health status of his out-wintered cattle.

He noted: “The cattle come back in March (after being out-wintered and they are healthy, fit and have great, shiny coats.”

Commenting on the main farming-type in the area, Ciaran said: “Suckler farming is the bread and butter here, but in the region the average suckler herd size is probably only 10-12 cows”.

Commenting on his plans for the future, Ciaran outlined that he hopes to get a new shed built for winter-housing cattle and said he plans to continue to improve the genetic merit of his suckler herd.