The words ‘expanding’ and ‘suckler’ are rarely seen side by side these days but one farmer, John Kelly from Longford, is looking grow his business in the coming years and outlined his breeding strategy at the Teagasc National Beef Conference.

Kelly presently runs 90 mostly ¾-bred Limousin cows on 90ha in Moydow Co. Longford. Selling his weanlings from June onwards, Kelly targets his cattle for the export market. Angus male calves and heifers are kept and slaughtered at 16 months.

Kelly outlined that he has kept 90% of his heifers over the last few years and plans to increase his herd to 120 cows.

Since starting farming Kelly stated that he has four key objectives for his calves:

  • Try and get one calf from each cow every year;
  • Cows calve in as short a time-frame as as possible to reduce labour input;
  • Cows back in calf as soon as possible each year; and,
  • Breed heifers to have god milk and fertility traits.

“When purchasing stock bulls I use the Replacement Index as an essential tool in conjunction with the physical appearance of the bull. The new index should give us the confidence to pick bulls on their genetic evaluations and it is there extra tool for all suckler farmers to use.

“In my opinion we must use every tool available to us when making decisions on buying a bull or using AI.”

Breeding with good genetics is cumulative according to Kelly. “This means that if I cross a five star bull with three/four/five star heifers that my heifer breeding and performance will improve year on year.”

He uses the ICBF herd reports to identify less fertile cows and culls them. “I do this on the basis that I will have better replacement heifers coming into the system. As suckler farmers we have to aim to get one calf per cow per year.”

In 2013, Kelly outlined that his herd produced 17 calves per 100 cows more than the national average. He said this is worth €15,000 in monetary terms.

“We must also try and have quality calves for sale but also breed heifers that will be fertile and have enough milk to rear a calf.”