FBD €uro-Star €200-Pedigree Beef Finalist – Elite levels of fertility and efficiency in the Riversfield herd

Tom and Geraldine Molan run the Riversfield pedigree Salers herd just outside Kilmallock in Co. Limerick. The herd consists of 45 pedigree cows and 5 commercial cows which are run alongside a thoroughbred horse breeding enterprise. Established in 2016, The Riversfield herd is still very much in its infancy. The Salers breed was chosen following a visit to the Wallstown Salers herd run by their friends Jerry and Ann McNamara. This visit identified the Salers cows as being easy calving and well managed on a minimum of inputs.

In a low margin business these traits were identified as being critical in the selection of animals that would suit the system the Molans wanted to operate. Following the purchase of two heifers which performed very well, further purchases and the retention of suitable females saw the herd quickly grow to its current size. One standout feature of the herd is the uniformity of the cows which Tom is keen to maintain.

Key Performance Indicators

Replacement Index: Cows €173, Heifers €220, Calves €208

Calves/cow/year: 1.21

Calving interval: 347

6-week calving: 3% (Spring) 40% (Autumn)

% AI usage: 17%

Tom mainly uses a Beguin sired stock bull called Knottown Pascal which he purchased from the Fortunes in Co Wexford. This bull has an outstanding Replacement Index of €245 and has proven to be a very successful acquisition. He has sired 122 calves to date and has a calving difficulty figure of only 1.2% when used on beef cows. They have also used a small amount of the Gene Ireland graduate bull Highfield Odran and are very happy with his calves born to date. The Molans operate a split calving system which sees approximately 60% calving in the Spring and the remainder in the second half of the year.

When selecting a bull for the herd, Tom is a strong advocate of using the ICBF indexes as he feels the research is done for you. The farmer then has the information to select the bull which best matches their criteria. When looking for his next bull he will be focusing on a high Replacement Index combined with feed efficiency and a low age at slaughter.

A look at their 2020 Calving Report makes it easy to see why they were shortlisted as finalists for the competition. A most impressive calving interval of 347 days is matched with an eye catching 1.21 calves per cow per year. This elite level of fertility and efficiency places the herd firmly within the very top end of beef breeding herds in the ICBF database. The pedigree herd is run on commercial principles with only a select few of the best bulls being sold for breeding. Any bulls that do not make the grade are sold as stores or finished on farm.

They have found that there is a very strong demand for their high index females from both pedigree and commercial farmers and this is a market that they will continue to focus on in the future. Approximately 10 replacements are required each year and these are selected on a combination of indexes and visual assessment. The ideal cow the Molans are striving to breed, is functional, docile and a maximum weight of 700 kgs. One important point Tom made was that he wants a cow with “enough milk to rear a heavy calf but not too much milk, as this can often lead to complications and increased labour”.

The Riversfield herd has been actively involved in BEEP-S and the WHPR. Tom and Geraldine see real merit in data recording for increased reliabilities of the €uro-star indexes. As all the cows in the herd are now genotyped, the Molan’s were ideal candidates to participate in the DNA Calf Registration programme, which sees all calves genomically tested and parentage verified at birth.

On the environmental front, the farm is run on a very sustainable footing. The breeding of thoroughbreds necessitates that very little nitrogen can be used. Consequently, the choice of the low input Salers breed ensures a symbiotic relationship between the two enterprises whereby both the horse and cattle enterprises require low level of inputs to ensure both can prosper in a truly sustainable system.