FBD €uro-Star €200 Commercial Beef Finalist – AI usage has played a pivotal role in increasing the herd Replacement Index in Co. Carlow

Thomas Bolger runs a 40-cow suckler to beef enterprise in Borris, Co. Carlow. Males are slaughtered as steers at 24 months. Steers are purchased in and finished alongside homebred animals. Surplus heifers are slaughtered at 22 months.

Thomas has been an active HerdPlus member since 2010. Data recording is standard practice in the herd as can be seen through Thomas’ involvement in environmental schemes and his consistent recording of birth weights.

Key Performance Indicators

Replacement Index: Cows €107, Heifers €95, Calves €113

Calves/cow/year: 1.02

Calving interval: 376

6-week calving: 58%

Heifers calved 22-26 months: 100%

%AI usage: 65%

In recent years, AI usage has played a pivotal role in improving maternal traits in the herd. “You think what you have is fine until you change.” When selecting bulls, the traits of most importance are milk, fertility and docility. As a result of placing a greater emphasis on bull section, the overall herd Replacement Index has seen a gradual increase from €67 in 2016 to €107 in the most recent evaluation and currently ranks in the top 25% nationally.

Thomas uses AI for 4 weeks at the beginning of the breeding season and follows on with a stockbull to “mop up” the remainder. Any cows not in calf are removed from the herd. Limousin bull EBY has been a firm favourite and proven to be very successful in the herd.

Thomas was involved in both BDGP and BEEP-S. When discussing the benefits of the BDGP scheme, Thomas noted that when the BDGP scheme first came out it was a “no brainer” to sign up as the requirements were things that they were already doing. Most of the herd is now genotyped and if purchasing in the future, Thomas will ensure they are genotyped. He has confirmed his participation in BDGP 2021.

As part of the BEEP-S programme Thomas weighed his cows and calves and opted to complete, vaccinating, meal feeding and fecal sampling as additional actions. Thomas has been gradually removing his heavier cows and making a conscious effort to breed a lighter and ‘milkier’ cow. On his latest Weaning Performance Report, the average cow live weight was 702kg with an average weaning efficiency of 40%. The highest weaning efficiency was on a 1st calver at 59%. The average 20-day weight was 261kg for females and 290g for males.

Thomas has recently invested Moocall collars to aid in heat detection. This has been hugely successful on the farm and has significantly reduced the amount of time spent visually checking animals.

The farm is home to stone walls and hedgerows. These are left undisturbed to preserve and promote wildlife on farm.

Thomas considers his herd to be a “work in progress” and commented that “you can always improve”. His breeding and herd management practices have served him excellently to date. Moving forward, Thomas plans to further increase the genetic merit of the herd by genotyping, continuing to increase AI usage while paying particular attention to the Replacement Index when selecting bulls.