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

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Helen Ryan and her son Eoin are farming in Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry nestled between the heights of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the cliffs of the Western shoreline.

When you walk into their farmyard the first thing you will notice is the stiff but fresh wind that rolls in from the Atlantic. The second thing you will notice is the red and black of Limousin through suckler herd composed of 50 quality cows all with smart, shapely calves at foot. The third thing you will notice is the enthusiasm that Eoin and Helen have for the Limousin breed - As far as they are concerned, Limousin are the best!

Eoin & Helen Ryan

The herd’s role is to consistently produce U grade cattle that offer market flexibility. Some are sold at local marts of Cahirsiveen or Milltown to finishers from the midlands that frequent the area for quality cattle and some are slaughtered at 12-13 months. Either way Eoin and Helen are convinced that Limousins are the cattle for the job.

The Ryan’s always kept suckler cows on their 150 acre holding and were initially based on Shorthorn bloodlines. In 1992 a decision was made to clear out the old and bring in the new. At the time there was strong trend away from the traditional breeds towards continental breeds. They choose Limousin because predominantly of their calving ease but also because a mature Limousin cow is not as heavy as Charolais or Simmental – lighter cows are more suited to marginal ground that predominates the area. The foundation females were generally the products of Limousin – British Friesian cross sourced from the local marts. Eoin considers this to be the best cross because they are guaranteed to have plenty of milk but he is concerned about the reduction of dairy herds in the area and the increase in Holstein genetics in those that remain, which may make it difficult to source replacements. Teagasc advice leans towards heterosis but according to Helen “the closer to the purebred the higher the grades will be” and it allows us to consistently produce high value cattle.

Eoin is looking forward to the era post-decoupling and he intends to increase his suckler herd to at least 70. Expansion means investment in wintering facilities but he is unsure whether to invest in buildings or an outwintering pad. Limousin are an extremely adaptable breed with low maintenance requirements and will survive and thrive even if out wintered.

Limousin commerical cows

Limousin commercial cow and calf on the farm of Helen & Eoin Ryan

The calving pattern on the Ryan farm is split between Spring (mid January to mid March) and Autumn (mid August to mid October) with the autumn calvers calving outdoors. The stock sire is a son of Hortensia purchased and was selected for his calving ease and high muscle conformation and muscle index. Eoin uses the BLUP index system to his advantage and he feels that it provides valuable information when selecting a sire for his females. “In the last 3 years I only lost 1 calf at calving and the calving jack is now redundant and rusting in the corner”. Eoin feels that Limousin calving ease and calf viability is the key to the success of the breed in the area.

Creep feeding is introduced at an early age starting at 1kg/head. Eoin much prefers to feed a calf a kilo of concentrates than to feed 6 kilos to a finishing store. The philosophy is to maximise the growth potential of the young calf with lower concentrate input rather than pumping a large animal with concentrate at high cost.

Limousin commerical cows

Limousin commercial cows and calves on the farm of Helen & Eoin Ryan

On the farm the Limousin breed allows you to make profit from both sexes. Bulls provide the flexibility for finish at 12 or 24 months and the heifers are demanded by butchers, factories or as suckler replacements. Whether the Ryan’s chose to sell their stock or keep them their Limousin cattle are likely to maintain their reputation of being some of the best beef animals in the region.

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