ICCS Suckler Herd’s Competition Winner 3/10/2015

ICCS Suckler Herd’s Competition Winner 3/10/2015
Hubert Nicholson Suckler Farm Report

This year’s Irish Charolais Cattle Society suckler herd’s winner is a prime example of a herd focused around the maternal traits of the Charolais breed, and what a fantastic example it is. Managed by Hubert Nicholson, the herd is based in Slane, Co. Meath overlooking the well-known Slane Caste. It was established about 23 years ago and today consists of 116 breeding females. The herd is a 100% spring calving, with about 90% of those cows being Charolais cross.

Approximately 60 cows are AI’d each year to top maternal Charolais bulls. When selecting bulls in AI, the focus is solely on selecting bulls to breed replacement females. Hubert has been participating in the ICBF Maternal Gene Ireland Programme from its foundation. The majority of the bulls used in the herd over the years have been bulls that were being tested through the programme. Hubert recalls some of the early test bulls like Mandela Veron and Dromiskin Viceroy, two bulls which had very positive impacts on the herd. This year bulls from the programme like Coom Indurain and Heracles are being used heavily.

As well as using AI, there are two stock bulls in use on the farm. The first bull is Dreena Bevis, a 9 year old sire who has a calving figure of 4.3% and a 5 star replacement index. Bevis is a son of Vera Cruz out of a Doonally Olmeto bred cow.  The second is a young homebred sire, Fennor’s Inferno. This young bull is sired by Rancard and he also boasts a 5 star replacement index. Both bulls were selected for their ease of calving and their maternal traits. Hubert was quick to highlight the huge emphasis put on easy calving, milk, fertility and most importantly docility. Over the years sons of bulls like Repair, Meath Alcazar and Urtillo BP have been used within the herd. The majority of the cows on the farm today are bred down from these lines.

The system of production in place on the farm is calf – weanling for the bulls, and calf – yearling for the heifers. The bulls are sold privately of the farm to repeat buyers annually who then bring them to bull beef. The majority of which were slaughtered last year under 16 months of age. The heifers are sold in early spring as yearlings, with the top 25-30% being kept as replacements.

The herd boasts some impressive performance figures, with this year’s weanlings averaging a daily live weight gain of 1.21kg/day from birth, solely on their mothers of grass. The herd’s calving interval in 2014 was 393 days with the national average sitting at 412 days. The average number of calves produced per cow in the herd in 2014 was 0.89, which was well above the national average of 0.79. Hubert also pointed out that before 2013, his calving interval was much lower and expects it to lower well below 380 days in 2015.

This herd demonstrates exactly what can be achieved when you have cows with milk, cows that calve every year, calves that are vigorous at birth and have a will to survive. But most of all it is a wonderful example of what the Charolais breed can produce as a maternal type animal. The Charolais cross cows on this farm really have to be seen to be fully appreciated.

Typical Charolais cross cow and calf on the farm
Some of the suckler herd out at grass
An example of the Charolais cross cows on the farm
One of the young Charolais stock bulls on the farm sired by Rancard
A Typical batch of Charolais stock in the herd
Another prime example of the type of Charolais cross cows in the herd