|Going Polled in the South East
It never easy going into unknown territory and trying something different, no matter what business you are in. A few weeks back the South East Charolais Club visited pedigree Charolais breeders Francis and Seamus Whelan who recently decided to introduce polled Charolais cattle into their long established horned herd. The father and son team have run a 35 cow pedigree Charolais herd alongside their Dairy herd in Foulksmills, Co. Wexford for quite some time now. The decision to introduce polls into the herd was made with an aim to obtain the polled gene, insure easy calving and maintain quality in the cattle.
Their venture took them across the water to the Cockerington herd in Lincolnshire were they purchased a bull, a cow and two heifers. The bull they purchased was ‘Cockerington Gary’ a heterozygous Charolais bull, which in simple terms means that the bull is bringing half of his calves polled and the other half of his calves horned. The Whelan’s have crossed their new stock bull on the herd over the past two years and have enjoyed two seasons of complete easy calving and optimum calf performance in return. They have used their new sire on cows and heifers, and have never had to assist an animal at calving. The average birth weight of his calves to date is 44kgs.
The average daily live weight gain of the new stock bull’s calves was 1.1kg/day at linear scoring. It must be noted that these calved were only creep fed for about 3 months of the year after being let out to grass in the spring. The young bulls being prepared for sale are sold straight of grass. The Whelan’s aim in the future is to supply both suckler and dairy farmers with good quality, easy calving Charolais bulls that have the polled gene. This spring saw the first batch of bulls coming forward for sale by the new sire and so far the demand has been good. The Whelan’s have built up a strong customer base in the area and have always sold their bulls straight of the farm.
It should also be noted that the herd is part of the Gene Ireland Maternal Bull Breeder Programme and many of the cows in the herd rank in the top 10% of the breed on the Replacement Index. The first bulling heifers of the new sire are coming on stream now and are being AI’d to a homozygous Charolais bull; Alwent Hitman P. Hitman is a full polled Charolais bull that ranks in the top 1% of the breed in the UK for easy calving. The objective here is to obtain full polled Charolais calves in the near future.
The Club’s farm visit was certainly an eye opener to many who were there of the quality and performance of the cattle on the farm so far. The Whelan’s could not emphasise enough the management ease they are experiencing since introducing their new stock bull. They have enjoyed two seasons of easy calving, good conception rates, and good calf performance. There is no doubt that these types of Charolais cattle have a lot to offer both suckler and dairy farmers in their varying farming systems.