FBD €uro-Star €200 Commercial Beef Finalist – Replacement Index makes significant gains in Westmeath herd

Kevin Browne operates a suckler to beef and sheep enterprise near Athlone in Co. Westmeath. Males are slaughtered as bulls U24 months. Surplus heifers are sold in-calf. The traits of most importance in this herd are easy calving, docility and milk.

Kevin displays high levels of engagement and this can be seen through his scheme participation, HerdPlus membership and consistent data recording. The herd’s Replacement Index currently ranks in the top 5% nationally. The Replacement Index has seen an exceptional increase from €71 in 2016 to €116 in the most recent evaluation in January 2021. This is largely down to focusing on using teams of high Replacement Index bulls.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Replacement Index: Cows €129, Heifers €148, Calves €146

Calves/cow/year: 0.92

Calving interval: 363

6-week calving: (Spring) 45% (Autumn) 80%

Heifers calved 22-26 months: 52%

% AI usage: 92%

AI usage is standard practice on farm and when selecting bulls, Kevin strives for a balance between the maternal and terminal traits. He also places an emphasis on the bull’s reliability figure commenting that “reliability is key.” Kevin regularly checks the ICBF Animal Search to keep an eye on how bulls are performing after each evaluation.

In recent years, Kevin has invested in Moocall collars for all his cows to aid in heat detection. He uses this technology along with regular visual checking which has proven very successful to date.

Kevin took part in BDGP and found the scheme requirements very useful, particularly the genotyping component. According to Kevin, there are many benefits to genomics, “it gives a truer picture of the animal while increasing reliability.” With most of the herd now genotyped, Kevin has opted to participate in Greenbreed and the DNA Calf Registration programme whereby all calves and DNA sampled and parentage verified at birth.

As part of BEEP-S, Kevin weighed his cows and calves and chose to complete fecal sampling and meal feeding as additional actions. On his most recent Weaning Performance Report the average cow liveweight was 597kg with an average weaning efficiency of 44%. For Kevin, the ideal cow liveweight is around 650-700kg. The highest weaning efficiency was on a 3rd calver at 61%. The average 200-day weight was 270kg for males and 249kg for females.

With regards to the environment, Kevin is an advocate of having wildlife on the farm and makes a conscious effort not to disturb hedgerows. The farm is also home to 40 acres of forestry.

From a sustainability point of view, Kevin plans to continue breeding five-star animals, with the aim to have 100% of heifers calving between 22 and 26 months as well as finishing animals a month earlier.