FBD €uro-Star €200 Commercial Beef Finalist – High levels of data recording working well in Tipperary herd

Thomas Hogan runs a suckler to store enterprise on 55ha just outside Nenagh Co. Tipperary. The herd consists of 55 suckler cows, 12 replacement heifers and 27 steers. Steers are sold in the mart at around 18 months along with surplus heifers. The store system works well for Thomas as it allows him to run cows and calves in the one group.

The overall herd Replacement Index has seen a gradual increase from €79 in 2015 to €99 in 2020. Thomas has been using the HerdPlus service since 2014 and is actively engaged in high levels of data recording which can be seen through his involvement in the Beef Data & Genomics Programme (BDGP) and the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme-Sucklers (BEEP-S).

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Replacement Index: Cows €99, Heifers €140, Calves €118

Calves/cow/year: 0.97

Calving interval: 364

6-week calving rate: 58%

Heifers calved 22-26 months: 100%

% AI usage: 90%

In recent years, the herd has increased AI usage. The 2020 calves were sired by a team of 13 bulls.  While the two main breeds on the farm are Limousin and Simmental some Charolais and Saler bulls were also used. Improving weaknesses in the herd is done by carefully matching specific bulls with specific cows. The traits most important to Thomas when selecting bulls are milk, fertility, calving, docility, and carcass weight.

While Thomas predominantly uses AI, he purchased a Limousin Stockbull In March 2020 which is used for “mopping up” and can be used on heifers if required. It was important to Thomas to buy in “A good all-round bull.” Coraghy Nigel, is genotyped and currently 5 stars on both the Replacement and Terminal index.

Thomas selects replacements based on their indexes, the performance of their dams as well as their physical appearance and weight gain. Heifers need to be ready for bulling at 13/14 months and in good enough condition to calve down at 24 months.

Thomas’ grass management is excellent, ensuring cows are grazing optimum covers. Regular grass measuring and soil sampling is standard practice on the farm. This is crucial for making certain that his cows are fertile and perform in his system. All cows in the herd wear Moocall collars to aid in heat detection along with regular visual checking.

Thomas has confirmed that he will be participating in the BDGP 2021 rollover as he found huge benefit to participating in the original programme. The BDGP programme requirements were essentially actions that he was already completing on farm. The genotyping component of the scheme has played a significant role in the herd, particularly when selecting replacement heifers. Genomics has allowed for a more informative breakdown on individual traits. It also “improves confidence when purchasing an animal.”

As part of the BEEP-S programme Thomas weighed his cows and calves and opted to complete fecal sampling and meal feeding as additional actions. Thomas commented that he was very happy with his most recent Weaning Performance Report. The average cow liveweight was 690kg, with an average weaning efficiency of 42%. The highest weaning efficiency was on a 4th calver at 52%. The average 200-day weight was 273kg for females and 306kg for males.

In terms of environmental awareness, Thomas plans to join to the new REPS scheme. The farm is home to lots of trees and hedgerows as well as a fenced off wet area for wildlife.

Going forward, Thomas will continue to focus on the genetic merit of his herd by selecting replacements from his best cows as well as choosing the right bulls that will improve the overall herd Replacement Index.

The competition is kindly supported by the FBD Trust.