FARM SMART: How this Tipperary farmer manages his sucklers at home and abroad

Farming in Tincurry, Cahir, in the parish of Ballylooby, Co. Tipperary, Brian Reidy and his father run a suckler-to-weanling enterprise on 80ac of land.

A new shed for storing machinery and straw, alongside some pens for his pedigree Charolais cattle, was constructed recently; a paddock system is implemented on the farm.

The Tipperary-based farmer operates a 50:50 spring and autumn-calving system. Artificial insemination is used in the autumn and a stockbull runs with the spring-calving herd.

In conjunction with the large suckler herd, Brian works off-farm as nutrition consultant. This involves working mainly with dairy farmers in the south of the country and requires some international travel also.

Brian is no stranger to technology, as this helps him to run both businesses smoothly. Herdwatch was adopted on the farm for the past five years and – whether Brian is at home or abroad – he has access to his herd’s information.

On top of this, Brian’s father also has access through the Herdwatch app on his phone and on an iPad. This provides access to the herd information without the need for phone calls when Brian is busy off-farm.

The suckler farmer also uses the Herdwatch app when it comes to the breeding season – which is fast approaching on the holding.

“When it comes to breeding, I use the feature that tells me the cows that haven’t come into heat since they have calved. So, once they’re gone more than 42 days, we will look at intervention where I will scan those cows to see why they didn’t start bulling at that point.

“When a cow does come into heat, when I go into Herdwatch, it’s easier just to record the serve off rather than have to go through all the herd,” he explained.

Brian also finds the watchboard feature extremely useful.

“I find the watchboard feature very handy because it’s pin-pointing to me what animals are likely to be repeating in the system and – as well as that – it pin-points the animals that are closest to calving, so I can pen them separately while they are inside the shed.”

With this feature, a notification will appear on ‘watchboard’ during the breeding season. This indicates what cows are due their first serve or due a repeat.

Similarly, with AI, on-the-spot recording of when an animal is inseminated is made easier.

The adoption of the Herdwatch technology has also made the recording of remedies for Bord Bia inspections more streamlined.

“Recording the remedies with Herdwatch is so easy. You can scan the barcode on the box and that will extract all the information – the expiry date and the withdrawal period – straight onto the app.

“When I’m using the remedy, I can attribute that remedy to a batch of animals or to individual animals as is appropriate,” Brian explained.

The ability to order replacement tags on the Herdwatch app has sped up this process and made life easier on the farm.

“When you are strolling around the field and you see a cow is after losing a tag, you can put it into Herdwatch that she has lost it or if you see it on the feed passage during the winter, you can order replacements tags through Herdwatch.”

The Herdwatch app is linked to the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF).

“In the last couple of weeks, the replacement index value is down at the bottom of the homepage of the animal; you don’t even have to click the ICBF link to see the replacement value – especially the heifers.

“It’s great the way it links so you can see all the information on the animal,” he added.

Commenting on his father’s uptake of the app, he said: “My father uses the app all the time.

“If I’m away and he wants to access information, he can see exactly what I can see. He can see when a cow was inseminated and if she’s repeating.

“When we have scanning information, we can see what cow is in calf too and whether it’s going to be a bull or heifer, if we were able to scan at the appropriate time; so it can pin-point a more difficult calving.”

Brian outlined also that the Herdwatch customer care team is very helpful.

“I give feedback every so often and there’s always a very quick response to it and they are appreciative of the fact that you are trying to improve the app for themselves – never mind for yourself.

“Since I started using Herdwatch, the blue book has been made redundant inside in the filing cabinet,” he concluded.