|Farming in the heartland of County Mayo, Alan Wood from Crossmolina knows exactly what it’s like to make the best of your land type. On a visit to Alan Wood’s farm in the middle of summer, one may wonder how he produces the top quality cattle he does on the heavy, wet land he farms. The answer to which is good stock and excellent farm management.
The herd is made up of around 60 cows, which includes 12 purebred Charolais. The majority of the suckler cows in the herd are Charolais cross cows which calve down in autumn and spring. Alan started off by buying just one pedigree Charolais heifer weanling and built up his highly regarded Crossmolina pedigree herd from there. One of the herd’s best known products is Dovea AI’s Crossmolina Euro, one of the leading terminal index Charolais sires in Irish AI today. The same AI station has recently purchased another young bull from the herd, Crossmolina Jupiter a son of Prime Roberto.
The herd has implemented 100% AI over the past six years, mainly using top quality terminal Charolais bulls along with a smaller number of Limousin sires. In recent years bulls like Cloverfield Excellent, Prime Roberto and his very own Crossmolina Euro have bred well within the herd. Alan is a firm believer in hybrid vigour and getting the best out of his cattle. One way he has achieved this over the years is by crossbreeding the Charolais and the Limousin.
The herd has been a member of the ICBF Bull Breeder Programme from the outset and Alan is one of those who have led the way in performance recording. All calves are weighed at birth, at 200 days and again at weaning. He also uses a small selection of test bulls from the ICBF Maternal Gene Ireland Programme annually in order to produce some high index replacement females.
Young bulls are usually sold privately at around 10 months of age to repeat buyers who bring them to bull beef. In the past heifers have been slaughtered of the farm. In 2014, 10 heifers were killed at an average age of 24 months, at an average grade of U-3+, with an average carcass weight of 369kg. Recently heifers are being kept on until 16 – 18 months of age and sold on for breeding. Last year Alan achieved the top price of €1890 for a Charolais cross heifer in the ICBF Eurostar index sale in Ballina mart.
Alan has been completing profit monitors for the past ten years showing some very healthy returns with high outputs. This year the herd’s weanling bulls have averaged a daily live weight gain of 1.41kg/day from birth, with the heifer weanlings averaging 1.17kg/day straight of their mother’s. The herd’s calving interval is currently at 395 days, with the number of calves being produced per cow in the year sitting at 0.83. Mortality rates within the herd are also kept to a minimum at 3.9%.
It is hard to believe that Alan turned out cattle this year in the first week of May, a good two months later than many in other parts of the country. The daily live gains of his weanlings and their weight for age are up there with the very best a few months later. Not an easy task, which could only have been achieved with top quality breeding and exceptional management.