The ’Dairy Beef Index Series’ is a collaboration between Agriland Media and the Teagasc DairyBeef 500 team.

Farming in Carrickedmond, Co. Longford, are father and son duo, Kevin and Enda Farrell, who are milking over 160 cows on a 52ha grazing platform.

With a calf to beef enterprise having been previously operated on the farm, Kevin and Enda both agree that it is important to produce a calf that has the genetic potential to perform well from birth, right through to slaughter.

The land type which would be typical of the area, contains predominately excellent clay type soils, as well as a small portion of heavier clay type soil.

Prior to 2020, Kevin operated a suckler and sheep enterprise. In the years leading up to 2020, a calf to beef enterprise was incorporated on the farm.

The farm is currently part of the Teagasc/Lakeland Dairies Joint Development Programme and work closely with programme advisor, Owen McPartland and local dairy advisor, John Conway.

The farm consists of predominately black and white Holstein Friesian type cows. Since entering into dairying in 2020 the Farrells have placed strong emphasis on breeding and improving the genetic merit of the herd.

The ideal cow for the farm is one with the potential to achieve over 520kg MS/Cow, delivered of 4% protein, and 5% butterfat, calving in February each year for more than six lactations.

To achieve this, the top cows and heifers in the herd are selectively bred to high EBI bulls.

Replacement heifers on the farm are synchronised and get sexed semen of the highest EBI bull’s available specially targeting fertility and milk sub-indexes. The current EBI of the herd is €229, which places the herd in the top 10% nationally.

In recent years the cow size in the herd would have reduce slightly. The herd has currently has a maintenance sub index of €17 and a beef sub index of -€20 across all cows meaning the herd sits at the lower end of national average in terms of the beef merit.

In recent years, high merit Angus and Hereford stock bulls have sired the majority of the beef bred calves on the farm with AI making up the but the remainder.

With the dairy heifer replacement strategy for the farm mastered, this year a high emphasis is going to be placed on beef breeding.

Table 1: Stock Bulls used on farm

SireBreedDBICalving diffGestation lengthCarcass weightBeef sub index
Termon Lord Harry (AA165)AA€1482.7%0.17 days15.6 kg€120
Allowdale RamboHE€855.5%-0.96 days13.6kg€98

Enda was cautious of using bulls that could cause difficult calvings, but was confident more mature larger famed cows in the herd had the scope to take a beefy bull within reason.

The team of bulls selected in had a calving difficulty ranged from 3.3% to 6.5%. This allowed the Enda to pick suitable bulls to match the cow depending on her age and size.

Longer gestation bulls were used in the first three weeks of the breeding season, with the plan to use a number of limousine straws in suitable cows that showed signs of heat a week before the main breeding season kicked off.

The criteria that the bull needed to get on the team, was they had to be superior to the stock bulls presently on the farm.

For the cows, a calving difficulty of less than 6.5%, gestation length of less than three days, a beef sub index of no less than €120 and a carcass weight of greater than 16kg was desired.  

Table 2: Heifer repeat sires

SireCalving diff (heifer)Gestation lenghtCarcass weight Beef sub indexAI company
AA40896.5-3.6 days9.7kg€102NCBC
Dungimmon Valentino8.30.82 days11.2 kg€106Stock bull

Table 3: 2024 beef breeding plan

Week -1Week 1Week 2Week 3Week 4Week 5Week 6Week 7Week 8Week 9Week 10
BB5562BB5562BB5562 BB562

Dairy Beef Index Series