|“Mothering ability of my Charolais cross cows is exceptional”
In the 2011 newsletter we reported on suckler farmer Tom Halpin from Carlanstown, Co. Meath. At the time Tom was operating a calf to weaning/store type system from his 70 suckler cows. The cows were made up of predominantly Charolais X Simmental or Charolais X Limousin, with a Simmental bull used to breed replacements and a Charolais bull used on the rest of the herd. The crosses were working exceptionally well for Tom at the time with the majority of the weanlings going straight for the export market. The weight gain of the calves on their mother’s meant Tom could get his weanlings up to 400kgs very quickly at low costs.
Today the herd is made up of 90 breeding females, most of which are bred from Simmental and Charolais sires with good maternal traits. The cow type on the farm today is the same as it was back in 2011. One bull that has had a major impact on the herd was the previous Charolais stock bull, a son of ‘Organdi’. Tom explained ‘he left outstanding weanlings that were great sellers and wonderful cows that could calve themselves with lots of milk.’ The stock bulls in use on the farm at present are a Limousin bull with good maternal traits that was purchased to breed replacements and a Charolais bull by ‘Nelson’ which is crossed on the rest of the herd.
Heifers are either finished of the farm or sold as forward stores. As mentioned before most of the male weanlings go straight for shipping meaning calf quality must be of a very high standard. Male progeny is sold in two groups, with spring born bulls being sold in December at over 400kg and summer born bulls sold in early July under 500kg. Last year’s spring born bulls which were born in April 2013 averaged 360kgs live weight in October at weaning, meaning they had an average daily live weight gain of 1.61 kg/day from birth to weaning. The heifers which were also born in April 2013 averaged 286kgs live weight in October at weaning giving them an average daily live weight gain of 1.28 kg/day. This year’s spring 2014 born calves most of which are by the current ‘Charolais’ stock bull were weighed on the 26th of July and had an average daily live weight gain of 1.62 kg/day from birth.
There is no doubt that the weight for age and quality of the calves on the farm are excellent. However cow performance on the farm is also of a very high standard. The herd has a very tight calving pattern with a calving interval of 365 days. Calf Mortality on the farm is well below the national average at 0% and calves born per cow per year is 0.92, which is way above the national average. It must also be noted that the gross margin per hectare of the cattle enterprise on the farm has risen from €575 in 2011 to €767 in 2013.
One can attribute the progress and performance of Tom’s suckler herd to a number of factors including grassland management, herd health, stockman ship and so on. However the role played by both his previous and present Charolais stock bulls must be acknowledged. The quality and live weight gain of their calves at grass are exceptional, not to mention the wonderful mothering ability of their daughters.