|25 years crossing Charolais bulls on Dairy cows
For nearly 25 years now George O’ Connor from Mullinavat, Co. Kilkenny has been using charolais stock bulls on his dairy herd. He runs a 50 cow herd made up of Holstein and British Friesian cross cows. The current stock bull being used on the farm is a son of “Pirate” which has proved to be an extremely easy calving bull. George explains “I rarely have to pull a calf out of this bull; he leaves great calves that are easily born. The only time I have to touch a cow at calving is when a calf is not coming correctly.”
A new charolais bull has recently been purchased to replace the retiring Pirate bull. “Knockmahon Henry” a son of “Vera Cruz” out of an “Adamstown Hubert” dam. George is quick to point out the importance of buying the correct charolais bull. “You need an easy calving charolais bull, by that I mean a bull with an easy calving pedigree on both the sire and dam side. Then the bull has to look like he’s not a hard calving bull, not big boned or rough shouldered. The ICBF calving figures can also be a help if the reliability is high, but the pedigree and physical appearance is so important.”
So the big question is why use charolais bulls at all? Well George’s answer is simple, “I get a lot more for my calves.” At present George sells his Charolais X Frisian calves at 12 months old at an average weight of 400kgs, this year they averaged €900. He pointed out however that when quotas go he will probably change to selling his calves at 3-4 weeks old. “I sold a number of my charolais calves last year at 3 weeks old and averaged €500 for them. It’s great money but because I’m over quota at present I use the calves to get rid of my surplus of milk, that’s why I keep them on.”
George keeps an excellent compact calving pattern with all his cows calving between February and March. The calves are taken of their mother at birth and given milk for 12 weeks. They are then weaned of milk and fed on a diet of hay and a 16% crude protein ration. From September onwards they are transferred on to a diet of silage and kept on the same level of ration. For the last 10 weeks before being sold they are put on diet of maize and silage. “It is a simple and cost efficient system. Their cost of production is very small, and they give me great returns. My milking time is not affected in anyway either, the cows are back milking the day after they calve.”
There is no doubt that this system is proving to be extremely successful for George. His charolais cross calves are giving him remarkable returns, and with quotas going in 2015 dairy farmers in general may become more dependent on their calf sales. It is for this reason that dairy farmers must really consider such an option.