Maurice Brady is a suckler/beef farmer based in Laragh, Co. Cavan, who is farming 40ha of both owned and leased land.
The Laragh man is vice-chairman of the Cavan Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) branch, and represents Cavan on the IFA’s Animal Health Committee.
Maurice runs a suckler herd of 30 cows and also keeps a number of beef heifers alongside the suckler enterprise.
Calving season on the farm generally gets underway from March 1, and is generally wrapped up by the end of April.
He explained: “I would have calved cows earlier in the past but I ran into problems with scours and not being able to get cattle out in time, so a March calving seems to suit me here.”
Generally, cows and calves are turned out to grass from St. Patrick’s Day onwards – once conditions allow.
Cows are wintered in a cubicle shed and are then moved into calving pens adjoining the cubicle house as they are expected to calve.
Once calved, they are then moved into a dry-bedded shed and kept there until conditions allow for them to be turned out to grass.
The cow type is primarily a red Limousin but Maiurice noted: “I have a few Simmentals, Charolais and Angus cows also. I’d favor the red Limousin, they seem to work well,” he noted.
Commenting on replacement heifers, he explained: “You need to watch what one you’re keeping. I try to breed replacements off artificial insemination (AI) but you need to be sure to pick heifers off cows with good milk.”
“Every year, I try and breed maybe 10 cows to AI, hoping to get maybe five heifers to use as replacement heifers.
“I have a Charolais stock bull also and he seems to work well with the Limousins. You get a good Charolais calf with impressive growth rates and a bit of colour as well.”
The weanling bulls are sold from the end of October and into November and all the heifers are kept on for beef.
Silage feed for the suckler farm
Maurice feeds all round-bale silage on the farm. He said it allows him more flexibility when making winter feed.
“I try to make very good silage for weanlings and the cattle i’m trying to finish. Then, during the summer, I make heavier silage to use as dry-cow feed over the winter.
“Last year, I made high-quality silage and it worked great because I fed only 1-2kg meal to the heifers I had for the winter and come April, the heifers were finished and some were sent to the factory and others to the mart, and all weighed very well.
“You couldn’t have good enough silage for finishing cattle.”
The talk is that meal will be very dear this winter so I’ll definitely be going with that system again of high-quality silage, and cut back on meal.
Maurice fetches premium price when selling his weanling bulls at the mart. He said: “Weanling bulls last year secured up to €3/kg liveweight, so I’d be hoping to do better than that this year with the increase in prices.”
He explained he has no set timeline for selling cattle and said: “If they’re still thriving, I’ll keep them on.
“The better quality cattle – I let them grow into 650-700 kgs and sell them in the mart. If they’re over or under 30 months I’m not panicked. There’s a great outlet in the mart for that type of stock.”
Cull cows are fed meal and when fit to go, are sold at the mart.
Schemes for the suckler farmer
Like most suckler farmers, Maurice is involved in the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the in the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP).
“They’re a good addition,” Maurice explained. “I weigh cattle regularly, I weighed bull calves last week and they were almost 300kg average and have done 1.4kg/day from birth. I’m very happy with how they done. Weighing cattle provides great information.”
Weanlings were treated for parasites last week and received their first pneumonia vaccine on the farm.
Commenting on the housing date for suckler stock, Maurice explained: “I don’t mind bringing weanlings in earlier when weather turns to get them on meal.
“If weather conditions allow later in the year, I often let them back out to land during the winter when they’re semi-weaned and it seems to work fine.”
Commenting on the idea of rearing dairy-beef calves, an area which has been receiving a lot of attention recently, Maurice said: “Personally, I wouldn’t be interested in dairy-beef whatsoever.
“‘I’m always of the opinion that you need to start on the base price on the grid and try and work up rather than try and fall down back ways.
He believes the dairy beef model is unfair in the sense that “the beef farmer has to take all the risk. You’re buying a calf, rearing it for two years and hoping to break even”.
“Suckler-bred stock is a safer bet because you can bring out that good animal and sell it at any time. You can bring it out as a calf or a nine-month-old or a 2-year-old and it’s a seller.
“With the dairy beef, you’re losing on the grid so I don’t see it as being a runner at all,” Maurice concluded.