Mark Maxwell Suckler Farmer Report 1/07/2014

Mark Maxwell Suckler Farmer Report 1/07/2014
‘Charolais’ the ideal terminal sire for calf-beef at 24 months

Mark Maxwell from Ballynagore, Co. Westmeath runs a 100 cow suckler herd focused on finishing progeny at 24 months. The herd is split 50-50 between autumn and spring calving. The cow types on the farm are predominantly Angus, Hereford and Simmental cross cows closely linked the Dairy herd. Mark’s cow type is very much focused on good maternal traits, in order to achieve maximum weight for age at weaning from his progeny. The breed of terminal sire used is always Charolais through stock bulls and AI. “I want cattle that are as heavy as possible at 2 year old, and the Charolais gives me this” says Mark.

At present male progeny are killed as steers at an average carcass weight of 420kgs and the heifers are killed at an average carcass weight of 320kgs. However Mark’s aim in the future is to slaughter all spring born steers at 24 months and heifers at 22 months. Mark is achieving at present a 400kg carcass at 24 months from his charolais steers, comparable with some bull beef systems. This system is also allowing Mark to benefit from the carcass grids that have been put in place by the meat factories and the QA bonus.

Sire selection is based on targeting Charolais sires that add size, shape with good growth rates. The two stock bulls on the farm at present are ‘Rathbeg Ewan’ a son of ‘Rathbeg Casper’ and ‘Rathbeg Dean’ a son of ‘Rathbeg Amazing’. Both are very easy calving sires with calving figures of 7.1% and 6.4%. Two stock bulls that bred well for Mark in the past were sons of ‘Prime Roberto’ and ‘Major’. It must be noted that “40% of the herd is crossed with Charolais AI bulls every year in order to get better calves with higher growth rates” explains Mark. Charolais bulls that have bred well for mark in AI are CF 85, Limkiln Bosco, CXY, Crossmolina Euro and Prime Roberto. “They give me great growth rates, with outstanding weight for age.”

The last batch of 22 steers to leave the farm were killed at 27 months at an average carcass weight of 422kgs, with a grade average of R=3+. If Mark was to kill these steers at 24 months out of the shed like what he has been doing recently, they would leave him with a net margin in the region of €459 per head. The last group of 12 heifers that were killed averaged 314kgs carcass weight with a grade average of R=3+. Mark also killed four bulls last year at an average age of 19 months. They killed out at an average carcass weight of 468kgs with a grade average of U=2+. Mark’s liveweight output (kg/ha) was 504 in 2012 and is set to increase to 763 in 2015. Once again this highlights the efficiency and performance that the charolais as a terminal sire brings to the herd. With a gross margin/ha of €630 in 2012 and a target of €1000 in 2015, there is no doubt the system Mark has in place is giving him the returns he’s looking for.  It is also a reminder of what can be done in calf-beef systems even in such difficult times for beef farmers.

A young Charolais cross calf at grass on the farm