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Irish Limousin Cattle Society, Kilglass, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

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Over 400 farmers attended the hugely successful field evening held on Tuesday July 19th on the farm of Margaret and Dermot Lehane and family at Dromcummer, Kanturk, Co. Cork. The glorious sun shine made for not alone a very informative evening but an enjoyable one also. The event was ably chaired by local Teagasc adviser James Fleming, who fielded contributions from herd owner Margaret Lehane, guest speakers; NCBC beef programme manager Rosalish Goulding and Teagasc Beef Specialist Pearse Kelly, and questions from the crowd. The productivity of Limousin genetics when married with precision management was very evident to all present.

At the outset the scene was set by James Fleming who outlined the essence of the Lehane enterprise; 70 spring calving suckler cows. The herd is based almost exclusively on high quality Limousin genetics. Calving is compact in spring (late December to late February) with emphasis on maximising the use of quality grazed grass. Creep feed (concentrate) is not introduced until 6 weeks prior to weaning, which normally occurs in November. Empty rates after 8 weeks breeding run at 10%. Under performing cows are culled. Total replacement rate is maintained annually at 15 to 20%. Replacement heifers calve at 2 years. Efficiency and attention to detail means a gross margin in excess of €1000/ha has been achieved consistently on the farm.

Rosalish Goulding highlighted the importance of using top genetics. Genetics is central to the success of the Lehane operation and to the profit potential of any suckler enterprise. She pointed to the consistency of the Lehane herd, reflecting years of selection. “The ideal suckler cow must have a balance between beefing ability and maternal traits. Two year old calving is only possible if management is right. Heifers must reach 60% of mature body weight if they are to be cycling at 14 or 15 months and calve down successfully at 2 years. Heifer management must be prioritised at commercial level if the efficiency gains being achieved by the Lehane’s are to be achieved in general at farm level”. Rose also stressed the importance of using easy calving sires on maiden heifers. She pointed to the flexibility of AI in that regard and potential of synchronisation to maximise AI usage on heifers and to compact calving.

Margaret Lehane commented “I have been using Limousin genetics for almost 25 years and find it is the one breed that consistently delivers year on year. I want a quality live calf per cow per year. I want an easy care animal that will calve easily and suckle readily without the hassle of assistance. I also want a calf that is marketable and I find Limousin offers a flexibility lending itself to almost any market. Yes, I have dabbled in other breeds from time to time but find none to be as complete and consistent as Limousin. What’s more when I cull my Limousin cows they command a premium also. Limousin is very much an all round breed”.

For the past 3 seasons the Lehanes have finished the Limousin bulls on-farm as 16 month bulls. Heifers not maintained or sold for breeding are finished along side the bulls. Slaughter values presented on the night for animals finished in 2010 and 2011 showed an average carcass weight of 400kg with 64 out of 69 bulls slaughtered grading U or better. In 2011 the average slaughter price was €1525.

Pearce Kelly during his presentation applauded the quality of stock and level of management on the farm. “Output is a key driver and this is influenced by factors like stocking rate, calving rate (reproductive efficiency), calf performance and price/kg. Efficiency of production will depend on grassland management and while less sexy than breeding it is another key component of profitable suckling”. Pearce went on to outline in a very clear way the principals of consistently achieving quality swards which will ultimately drive performance and profitability.

Cork club chairman Michael Pat Murphy made a presentation to the Lehane family to mark the event and to recognise their contribution as champions of Limousin down through the years.

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