Country Crest is a family-owned business based in North County Dublin. Brothers Gabriel and Michael Hoey founded the business back in the early 1990’s. However, it all started with their grandparents, William and Theresa Hoey, who worked the very land that they farm today. At present, the Hoey’s farm approximately 3500 acres, with over 400 employees’, all working together to provide fresh, great-tasting healthy food.

A typical Charolais cross store heifer at Country Crest

As part of their business, the Hoey’s buy in about 1,500 top quality heifers a year. Farm manager Niall Maguire explains that the farm operates two systems, heifers bought to go straight on to the finishing diet, and heifers bought as forward stores for grazing before entering the shed. Heifers bought for grazing are a minimum of 420kg, maximum 545kg, ranging from 14 months of age upwards. Heifers bought to go straight on to the finishing diet are a minimum of 550kg at an average of 21 months. The majority of heifers are finished at 24 months, with all cattle gone before reaching 30 months of age. The majority of these heifers are sourced in Marts along the western part of the Country.

A Charolais cross heifer in for finishing

The breed of preference when buying in heifers is always Charolais. Niall explains the reason why, ‘Charolais heifers have serious potential for finishing, they have superior weight for age, higher daily live weight gain, better feed conversion efficiency, and an unbelievable ability to grade’. It is not always possible to source all Charolais heifers, so the farm does buy in other breeds. However, Niall points out ‘over the last three years, Charolais have typically come out on top in terms of overall performance when you look at the average of the whole system. As with any breed, a superior animal will always perform well, but looking at the average performance, Charolais typically come out on top’.

One of the Charolais cross heifers prior to slaughter

The outstanding performance of the heifers on the farm are illustrated in the kill outs achieved in recent years. The average carcass weight of all heifers killed last year was 395kg with 82% of the heifers grading U. One load of heifers this year averaged €2,380, with some heifers reaching €2,700+. When asked is it getting more difficult to source top quality heifers, Niall’s answer was clear ‘Most definitely. The quality of suckler bred animals has seriously deteriorated in the last few years, and we are finding it increasingly difficult to source suitable heifers for finishing. We are having to travel further, buy smaller numbers in more places and therefore build up batches over a prolonged period of time’.

Another example of the type of Charolais heifers purchased by Country Crest

The North Eastern Charolais Club recently held a farm walk at Country Crest. A Charolais cross heifer slaughtered on the farm was used for a barbeque at the event. She was bought in at 540kg and over a 90-day finishing period weighed in at 692kg at 25 months. She was on farm for 100 days to allow for an adaption period to her diet. Her performance over the 90-day finishing period averaged 1.53kg/day. She graded a U + 3 =, with a carcass weight of 413kg and a kill out of 59.5%, which is above the system average of 58%. Niall concludes by saying ‘A straight easy fleshed heifer, with great width, length and shape, but not hard muscled or lean, that’s our ideal heifer. I think it’s safe the say the eating quality was exceptional, with all in attendance giving great feedback’!