Thomas Dee runs a 70-cow suckler to beef herd in Clashmore, Co. Waterford. Males are slaughtered as bulls U16 months and surplus females are sold as yearlings.

The overall herd Replacement Index has seen a steady increase from €94 in 2016 to an impressive €113 in 2020. Thomas has been using the HerdPlus service since 2007 and is actively engaged in high levels of data recording which can be seen through his participation in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP), the Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme (BEEP-S) and his consistent recording of birth weights.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Replacement Index: Cows €113, Heifers €85, Calves €112

Calves/cow/year: 1.17

Calving interval: 358

6-week calving: 24% (Spring) 52% (Autumn)

Heifers calved 22-26 months: 70%

Thomas currently runs a 5-star Limousin stock bull, Kilcronat Mikey with his herd, purchased in 2018. Prior to purchase, Thomas ensured the bull was genotyped, paying particular attention to his Replacement Index and calving difficulty %. Genomics ensures that “you have a better idea of what you are getting when you buy an animal.” The most important traits for Thomas when selecting replacements are fertility, milk and docility.

It is evident that Thomas’ breeding decisions are having a positive impact overall but particularly in relation to fertility. Based on the most recent 5 Year Trend Report, the herd has been making strides across all the fertility KPIs. Nationally, the herd lies in the top 10% for calving interval at 358 days and the top 5% for calves per cow per year at 1.17.

Replacements are selected based on their indexes and the performance of the dams. Thomas is working towards a target of 100% of heifers calving between 22 and 26 months to ensure more productivity in the herd.

As part of the BEEP-S programme, Thomas weighed his cows and calves and opted to complete meal feeding as an additional action. On his most recent Weaning Performance Report, the average cow liveweight was 630kg with an average weaning efficiency of 49%. The highest weaning efficiency was on a 1st calver at 62%. For Thomas, the ideal cow liveweight is 650kg.

Thomas practices Low Emissions Slurry Spreading (LESS) by using a dribble bar. This ensures more efficient use of nutrients from the slurry whilst reducing overall emissions. In terms of the environment and wildlife on farm, Thomas makes a conscious effort to preserve hedgerows. Animals are prevented from grazing too close to hedges.

It is clear from the KPIs listed above that Thomas’ current breeding strategy is working effectively and will continue to make strides into the future.