It is the Limousin breed’s ability to provide a return on investment which makes it the number one beef breed choice for Crosserlough, Co. Cavan-based dairy farmer, Thomas Maguire.
Milking 75 cows in a spring- block calving system, Thomas says he has tried other beef breeds, but none of them produce calves with the ability to deliver premium prices week-in, week-out and produce a return on the inputs they receive.
And while both the traditional beef-bred calves and the Limousin-sired calves received the same treatment in terms of nutrition and management, the Limousin-cross animal leaves more money in Thomas’ pocket.
“Whether the calves are grazing or inside over the winter, you know the inputs you’re putting into them are being used to add value to the stock. They are efficient, economic cattle which earn good premiums at market,” he explained.
Calving from early February, Thomas uses a Limousin bull after initially artificially inseminating (AI) to dairy sires.
“We average about 10,000L/head across the herd and are selective about which cows we breed replacements from; some will get more than one chance of being AI’d to a dairy sire, whereas others will only get one AI straw and then be put to the Limousin bull,” he said.
“The great thing is we know there is a ready market for our Limousin crosses which we sell as store cattle at 15-16 months-of-age having grazed for their second summer,” Thomas continued.
“Calves are on milk replacer for 10-12 weeks, before being weaned and turned out to grass. With meal fed at about 1.5kg/head/day until housing when they move into a slatted shed and are fed good-quality silage and meal at about the same rate.
“Then come spring, they’re back out to grass as soon as ground conditions allow and run at grass until sold later in summer.
“Both steer and heifer calves receive the same management, with the aim to grow them efficiently and economically and they run as one group from weaning onwards.”
And while the dairy herd is paddock grazed and moves on a daily basis, Thomas tends to set stock the store cattle, moving them less frequently to ease the workload. “They tend to get a block for a week-to-10 days and then move on after that.”
Stores are sold via the Cavan farmer’s local market, with many of the heifers in demand as breeding replacements for suckler herds, while the steers are equally well sought after for finishing.
“The last batch sold achieved €1,270 at 520kg [2021 prices]. That’s a price that reflects the quality of the cattle and the extra shape and conformation the Limousin adds to these dairy-cross stores,” said Thomas.
“I don’t believe another breed brings the same benefits and ability to add value to our system as the Limousin can. Calves are easily born and then thrive right from the start, really rewarding any investment we make in them.”
As a suckler cow, Thomas believes the Limousin-cross from the dairy herd is hard to beat.
“She has the shape and style needed to produce top-quality calves, with the milkiness to rear them well and make a great job of them,” he added.
When it comes to bull selection, he says he focuses on a bull with plenty of shape without being too tall and with a good bit of length too.
“We have good size in our cows, so we don’t necessarily need that in a bull. What we want is a bull to add shape and carcass to the calves to ensure they catch buyers’ eyes in the market,” he added.
“Crucially, I want a short gestation bull. The last thing I want as a dairy farmer is a bull with a long gestation with calves which get too big and cause calving issues. That impacts on the cows too much and results in lost milk,” Thomas said.
Strong early growth is also important, he added: “The quicker these calves grow the better, with natural, easy fleshing also being a key consideration in ensuring they respond well to feed and forage inputs.
“I was using Limousin semen to AI cows before buying a sweeper bull and it was the quality of the calves coming from the AI sires that convinced me it was the right move for me.
“Having a fit, mobile and fertile bull to cover any cows not holding to dairy AI takes some workload away and means I can leave him to get on with the job.”
What’s really noticeable about having Limousin cross cattle is that the longer you’re able to keep them, the more value you can add to them, he said.
“With some breeds there is an optimal time to sell them to maximise value. However, with Limousin crosses you can almost guarantee to be able to sell them at any age and still be adding value to them as they get older,” said Thomas.
“Buyers know the quality a Limousin will give them, either as a finished animal or as a breeding replacement and are willing to pay significant premiums for them,” he adds.
As a small dairy herd, this added value from Limousin-cross calves is an important extra income stream for Thomas.
“I could expand the milking cow numbers, but don’t currently plan to and the store cattle are making a good margin on top of the milk income,” he concluded.
Looking for a Limousin bull?
The Irish Limousin Cattle Society will hold its Premier Bull & Heifer Show and Sale at Roscrea Mart on Monday, May 2, at the Tipperary-based mart. The show will be live streamed on the Irish Limousin Society website and Facebook page for those that are unable to attend the event.
There are a total of 41 bulls and 12 heifers catalogued and it can be viewed here.
Roscrea Premier Bull and Heifer Show and Sale details:
- Show commences at 9:30am;
- Sale commences at 12:30pm;
- Buyers of all bulls achieving a minimum price of €4,000 in the sales ring will receive a voucher of €400 (€500 voucher for UK buyers);
- All animals are export ready on the day of sale;
- All bulls are fertility tested and come from high-health herds;
- All animals are from herds that participant in CHECS Johne’s Accredited testing;
- Easy-calving bloodlines;
- Free transport to central locations in Northern Ireland;
- All bulls sold under society fertility insurance scheme (ROI buyers only);
- Finance available: contact the society office to spread the cost of buying your Limousin bull.
For more information on the Irish Limousin Cattle Society spring sales, email: [email protected]; or call: +353 (0)25 85036.