Time is money for busy contractor Paraic Hetherton, who says it's an absolute must for his herd of suckler cows to perform without excessive management requirements.
The Hetherton farm is situated in Virginia, Co Cavan where it is possible to grow lush swards of grass with an extended grazing season due to the top quality land. Paraic works full time away from the farm, while managing to successfully run a herd of sucklers numbering in and around the 30 cow mark.
The cows are a mixture of Limousin, Blue, Charolais and Blonde cows which are then inseminated with Limousin bulls. Paraic spends time researching which bulls would marry up best with each cow, and in particular has had great success with Hauteclair (HCA). This bull is rated 5 star for maternal traits and have high milk figures in addition. The progeny has been very pleasing with a number of heifers retained for replacements.
Heifers are served to calve down at just over two years old with the majority AI'd to Ozeus (OZS) for ease of calving. The majority of these calve unassisted with the calf up and suckling within a short time.
Paraic has found that breeding his own replacements is working best for him as he is confident not only of their quality, but also their health status. The herd is split into two with a batch calving down in the spring, and the remainder in the autumn. All of the cows are vaccinated for lepto, and they are given All Trace bolus prior to calving.Â Fertility within the suckler enterprise is good, with the majority of cows and heifers holding to first service. Paraic attributes part of this to tail painting which means that he never misses a heat cycle.
It has not be necessary to feed any concentrate to the calves when at grass, and Paraic uses a unique system to wean his calves. "I bring the cows in and restrict their feed, while the calves can slip to an area of fresh grass, and return to the cows periodically. This is then phased until the cows are shut away altogether from the calves. I have found that the cows never look behind them by weaning them this way."
Sons Connor and Jason will then often accompany their father into the local mart when they take their weanlings out for sale. The boys have a keen interest in the stock, and find the cows docile and easy to manage. Demand for their calves is exceptional with the majority being shipped each year.
The plan for the herd is to continue sourcing and using the very best bulls available in AI. The results so far have been impressive resulting in a pleasing bottom line.