FBD €uro-Star €200-Commercial Beef Finalist – Increased AI usage having a positive impact on the genetic merit of Co. Galway herd

Raymond Hanrahan along with his son Christopher run a 20-cow suckler to weaning enterprise near Gort, Co. Galway. The overall herd Replacement Index has made steady strides in the last 5 years from €79 in 2016 to €110 in 2021. Raymond and Christopher have been signed up to the HerdPlus service since 2014 and are actively engaged in high levels of data recording which can be seen through their involvement in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme-Sucklers (BEEP-S) and their consistent recording of birth weights.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Replacement Index: Cows €110, Heifers €137, Calves €118

Calves/cow/year: 1.01

Calving interval: 362

6-week calving: 82%

Heifers calved 22-26 months: 83%

%AI usage: 87%

The herd is Spring calving with the majority of cows calving in February and March. They are working towards calving 100% of heifers between 22 and 26 months. The optimum weight for 1st calvers is between 390kg and 430kg.

When it comes to bull selection the main breeds of choice are Limousin, Salers, Simmental and Charolais. The traits most important for this herd are milk, easy calving and docility. In recent years, Christopher completed a DIY AI course which has allowed them to increase their AI usage significantly. He noted that using AI “provides them with a far greater choice of bulls which will increase the genetic merit of the herd.” The 2020 calves were sired by a team of 7 bulls with a group average Replacement Index €143.

They operate a tight breeding season with any cows not in calf being culled. In terms of heat detection, they use a teaser bull with a chin ball and check on animals twice daily.

Christopher has confirmed that their herd will participate in BDGP 2021 as they found the original scheme to be “very good overall.” Christopher noted that they “met their target very early on” and found that it resulted in “a more targeted approach to breeding.” The majority of the herd is now genotyped. Christopher commented that “genomics provides more accurate and reliable information from a younger age.” Going forward they are considering genotyping their heifers to aid in identifying the best to keep as replacements.

As part of the BEEP-S programme, all cows and calves were weighed and they opted to complete meal feeding and fecal sampling as additional actions. Raymond and Christopher purchased their own scales in 2014 and regularly weigh their stock to monitor progress and efficiency. For this herd, the ideal cow liveweight is between 650kg and 700kg to ensure they can “rear a good enough calf”.

They were quite happy with their most recent Weaning Performance report. The average cow liveweight was 658kg with an average weaning efficiency of 45%. The highest weaning efficiency was on a 6th calver at 56%. The average 200-day weight was 282kg for females and 307kg for males.

In terms of environmental awareness, the farm is located close to the Burren, so the preservation of wildlife is extremely important to both Raymond and Christopher. The farm is home to stone walls and hedges which are left to flourish organically.

Going forward, Raymond and Christopher will continue with their high level of data recording, placing a particular emphasis on regularly weighing their stock. As well as this, they will increase their level of AI usage and continue to use high Replacement Index bulls to further improve the genetic merit of the herd.