‘Our calving interval was 364 days; 85% of the cows calved within the first 6 weeks’

Farming in Crosshaven, Co. Cork, Billy and Niall Nicholson operate suckler-to-beef and tillage enterprises.

The duo, who are in partnership together, bring all their male progeny through to slaughter at 16 months-of-age, as well as weanling bulls that are purchased off-farm.

The pair breed their own replacement heifers; however, any heifers that don’t make the grade for breeding are finished and sent to the factory at 22-23 months.

Recently, a batch of 16-month-old bulls were sent to the factory and killed out at roughly 407kg (carcass weight), on average. The majority of the bulls fell into the U-grade category, while there were also a few R-grades as well.

Furthermore, a group of heifers were also brought to the factory. Those heifers killed out at roughly 340kg (carcass weight). According to Billy, the majority of the heifers were R-grade, with a handful of them falling into the U-grade category.

The calving interval on the Nicholson’s farm for the calving season gone by was 364 days, with 85% of the cows calving within the first six weeks.

The Nicholsons have been part of the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Pilot (BEEP) for the past number of years.

According to Niall, being part of these schemes has massively helped them to focus in on the replacement index, in order to make sure that they are only breeding off four and five-star animals.

They put a keen focus on that (replacement index), as well as data from the BEEP. According to Niall, it is showing them which cows are actually performing.

Niall explained: “We want high-producing four and five-star animals because economically they deliver the goods. These type of animals keep our farm system profitable and they’re making sure suckler farming here on this farm is sustainable.”

Biodiversity

The farm is currently in the Green, Low-Carbon, Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS). Before that, the Nicholsons were in the Rural Environment Protection Scheme (REPS).

Speaking about the changes that have come about on the farm over the years, Billy said: “We sowed trees a number of years ago. We also incorporated 250m worth of hedgerows as part of the GLAS three or four years ago.

“I am very interested in nature. I love to see the wildlife around the farm.”

Niall added: “We are very focused on biodiversity because it is important to maintain what we have on the farm.

“As farmers, we are custodians of the land. So, we try to do the best we can for nature, as well as from a production point of view.”