Coming out on top in the large herd category of this year’s ICCS Suckler Herds Competition was the overall winners from 2021, Brian and Jim O’ Leary from County Clare. The pair run a calf to weanling system that can only be admired. The sheer quality of the weanlings on this farm is nothing short of exceptional.

Jim and Brian O’ Leary 

The herd comprises of approximately 100 suckler cows which are predominantly Limousin, Belgian Blue, Saler and Charolais crosses. In the past the cows would have been first generation cross cows from the dairy herd. However, in recent year’s they have moved to all second-generation cross cows from the dairy herd. Brian explains the reason for this ‘the type of the dairy cow has changed and for that reason we needed to move another step away from the first cross to keep the quality in our calves’. The cows are crossed with Charolais stock bulls every year. AI is also used within the herd to keep a small number of replacement’s coming on. Cows calve down in the Spring and Autumn, mainly to spread out the workload at calving, as Brian also work’s off farm.

One of the Charolais stock bulls on the farm

The two stock bulls used on the farm up until this year were both sired by the well-known AI sire Fiston, out of a Lisnagre Elite bred dam. Both bulls crossed excellently on the herds various cow types. It is clear to see that they bred calves which were easily born and develop rapidly after birth. The O’Leary’s aim to breed U grade weanling’s and sell most of their weanlings off farm to repeat customers every year. These customers have been putting these weanlings to beef for years with fantastic results.

Cows with Charolais cross calves on the farm

The quality of the calves on this farm are one thing, but the performance and efficiency of the herd is the real standout. The average calving interval of the herd is 379 days. Mortality at birth is 0%. Mortality at 28 days is 0%. The number of calves/cow/year is 0.96, compared to the national average of 0.87. Impressive performance for a herd of this size. Grassland management is also very important to the Clare men, evident in the strip grazing techniques implemented on the farm.

A Charolais cross weanling heifer on the farm

The first two batches of Spring born weanling heifers were sold off farm recently to repeat customers. The first group averaged 356kgs and sold for €1,230. The second group averaged 340kgs and sold for €1,100.  The first batch of weanling bulls averaged 380kgs and sold for an average of €1,420. One of the most impressive things about this herd is the consistency of the calves. They are likes peas in a pod, which is proven in their sale prices.

A typical Charolais cross weanling bull on the farm

Just like in 2021, this herd was selected for its overall consistency, efficiency, and sustainability.  What’s even more impressive is the fact that the O’Leary’s farm on all rented land and continue to turn a healthy profit every year. The herd exemplifies what can be achieved with the correct management techniques, genetics and grassland management. Most of all, it illustrates what Charolais stock bulls can do on a range of cow types.