Coming in third in the small herds category of this year’s ICCS suckler herds competition is another herd in County Mayo, owned by Frank and James Brennan. Based in Cloonfad, just outside Ballyhaunis, the Brennan’s keep approximately 20 suckler cows. The cows who are predominantly Limousin cross are run with a Charolais stock bull every year. This herd runs a calf to weanling system and was selected for it’s overall efficiency, mostly in terms of cow live weight versus calf weaning weight.

Charolais cross calves on the farm

All cows calve down in late April and May. This means cows with new born calves can get out to grass as soon as possible after calving. This keeps costs down and helps avoid calves picking up illnesses inside. It also helps counteract the problems with land type and weather in this part of the Country. The Brennan’s firmly believe in an efficient cow rearing a cost efficient calf. This is highlighted in the fact that the weight of the cows at weaning in 2020 was 632kgs. The average weight of the calves at 200 days was 307kgs. This means the calves averaged 49% of their mother’s live weight at 200 days. The average daily live weight gain of the calves was 1.31kgs/day. To achieve this, you need milk and excellent calf performance. The average calving interval of the herd is 375 days and the number of calves produced per cow sits at 0.9.

A typical example of a cow and some of the Charolais cross calves on the farm

All the above can only be achieved with the correct genetics. The Charolais bull currently in use within the herd is Ballinphuil Oliver. Bred by Brian O’ Donnell from County Galway, he is a son of Ballinphuil Marcus, out of a Drumcullen Hotshot bred dam. With a calving figure of 4.6% on beef cows and 6.5% on beef heifers, Oliver is the perfect cross for the Brennan’s, who put a lot of emphasis on calving ease. Last year’s weanlings off Oliver were sold at 8-9 months old and averaged €1,005.

 More Charolais cross calves on the farm

It must be noted that the Brennan’s rent most of their land. As well as that, farming on marginal land in the west of Ireland is not an easy task. This means the cattle have to perform as efficiently and effectively as possible to make the farm profitable. Genetics is everything on this farm and it is for this reason, the Brennan’s must be complimented on their management and breeding techniques.  Another great example of what Charolais can do as a terminal sire with another cow type.