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

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What is the ideal Suckler Cow ?

What is the ideal Suckler Cow ?

The Grange Derrypatrick Herd Project must be seen as long term and is looking at

  • Cow Type
  • Grass Utilisation
  • Stocking Rates
  • Herd Health

The unit operates at a high stocking rate of just under 3 LU/Ha, Bulls are brought to slaughter at 20 months, Heifers are finished at 22 months, the herd is March calving and the aim is to achieve as much output from grass as possible

Key points from the Open day included

1. Breeding policy has not yet been formed. The study on cow type is an incomplete exercise. Early results point to a Limousin Friesian mix. No fertility figures are available yet. The next logical step is to take some of the better Limousin Friesian cows and cross back again, something akin to this is the intention and ICBF are developing a new maternal index.

Grange Results: Offspring performance by Cow Type

Cow Type

Limousin Friesian

Other

Calving Date

March

March

Calf Birth Weight (kg)

45

44

ADG on milk (kg / day)

1.18

1.03

Live Weight at Weaning Nov (kg)

316

277

Yearling Bulls ADG at grass (kg / day)

1.54

1.35

Of the other cow types, those with Limousin blood performed best.

Conclusion : Offspring from Limousin cross cows performed best to weaning and continued to perform best post weaning.

Grange Open Day Report-1

Yearling Bull out of a Limousin Friesian Dam at Grange

Grange Open Day Report-2

Limousin Friesian Dams at Grange with calves at foot. Calves from the Limousin cows looked the best, were thriving the best and had the best bloom of all the calves from all cow types.

2. Bull Selection has been driven more by a desire to use a sire different to the dam types than any replacement breeding strategy or strategy to produce the best quality offspring, the focus being on the cow. There has no doubt been sire selection mistakes resulting in reduced herd performance.

3. Stock management mistakes have arisen which again has affected herd performance. However this should not be the sole focus of attention, this is a long term project and the suckler performance factors that the project is looking at are very worthwhile.

4. A Calf per Cow per Year is a key profit driver in any suckler system, important factors identified here were

  • Cow condition, an easy care cow is best
  • Calving ease, difficult calvings are the source of all sorts of problems, a cow with a square box like pelvic structure is best and choice of sire must be sensible
  • Herd Health, good herd health is vital
  • AI v Stock Bull, it is very difficult to work with AI alone a good stock bull is a must

5. Output from Grass is another key profit driver, here the focus must be early grass, grass quality and stocking rates

6. Every farm should have a Herd Health Program

Future Project Focus

The research program will focus on the main drivers for suckler and beef profitability

  • Identify a cow type that will deliver milk and weight
  • Select cow type for ease of calving, fertility, easy care and longevity
  • Increase output and reduce costs….focus on profit (Euro per Hectare)
  • Grassland management
  • Genetics

ICBF Figures and Stars

ICBF are going to launch a Maternal Index later this year, this index will be a cow index and focus on maternal traits. It can be used as a guide when selecting replacement heifers and cows for breeding. Both Teagasc and ICBF stressed the importance of looking at the reliability figure for all indices including this new one. Any ICBF Rating is their best guess of what an animal will deliver on a particular trait based on ICBF data. Any figure is subject to change but if the Reliability is low that figure is definitely more vulnerable to change.

A very useful suggestion was that Stars and Figures be colour coded like a traffic light system, red for low reliability, amber for medium and green for high. Also animals from herds within which there is a lot of data recording should be highlighted as such. This sort of system would allow potential purchasers make a much more informed decision.

New Feed Efficiency Research

Feed accounts for 80% of the variable costs in beef production. Researchers are trying to devise a system to identify cattle that are more feed efficient, the drivers for this research are both economic and environmental.

The research has found a correlation between Feed Conversion Efficiency and the amount of N15 in the animals blood (less N15 more feed efficiency).

This trait is heritable (Tully trials show Limousin to be the leader in Feed Efficiency).

Grange Open Day Report-3

Tully Feed Efficiency Trials (ICBF April 2011)

 

 

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