The Deverell family run the Ballyaville pedigree Hereford herd just outside the village of Geashill in Co Offaly. The herd consists of 80 pedigree Hereford cows, 5 pedigree Simmental cows and 15 commercial cows in a split calving system. The family have been breeding Herefords since the 1930s and have built up a loyal base of repeat customers. Their primary market is breeding bulls suitable for use in the dairy herd.

The herd produced the bull Ballyaville Hamlet (HE2148) which was progeny tested via the 2015 Autumn Beef Gene Ireland programme.

Key Performance Indicators

Replacement Index: Cows €70, Heifers €76, Calves €85

Calves/cow/year: 1.01

Calving interval: 371

6-week calving: 50% (Spring) 78% (Autumn)

% AI usage: 32%

The traits of most importance are calving ease, gestation and docility. Joe opts for a mix of AI, Gene Ireland straws and stock bulls across the herd. Going forward, he plans to increase AI usage to accelerate the rate of genetic gain within the herd. Joe feels that polledness is becoming increasingly relevant from a labour and welfare point of view. He intends to gradually introduce polled genetics while ensuring that he does not sacrifice any of the traits that the herd has become renowned for.

The Ballyaville herd is run strictly on commercial principles with any cow that is not in calf at the end of the breeding season being culled. This results in approximately 25 replacement females being required per year. These females are selected based on a combination of the €uro-star Indexes, dam performance and visual appearance. As the herd has a long history of data recording, the accurate identification of suitable females is a relatively straight forward exercise. Any females not selected for breeding are fattened and generally sold within the Irish Hereford Prime programme.

The ideal cow they are trying to breed is a functional female in the region of 650 kgs, with enough milk to wean a calf at 50% of the cows liveweight every year for at least 4 years.

Joe found the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) very beneficial as it was the first national scheme that gave the suckler industry a clear road map to follow. He has confirmed that he will participate in BDGP 2021.

All calves are weighed at birth. According to Joe, this is a very important exercise and one that all pedigree breeders should be focused on. BEEP-S was a major bonus and very well received in the Ballyaville herd as weighing cows and calves has been best practice in the herd for many years.  Joe has been signed up to the WHPR service since its inception. “Data generated from regular weighing is invaluable.”

Joe is especially enthusiastic about his involvement in the DNA Calf Registration programme whereby all his calves are genotyped and parentage verified at birth. He is of the view that the sooner this technology is fully incorporated into the national animal registration process the better for all involved in the agricultural industry, from farmers all the way through to the final consumer.

On the sustainability front, the Deverells have been active participants in environmental schemes, from the old REPS programme in the 1990s all the way through to the current GLAS scheme. This long-term holistic approach to the farm has served them extremely well to date. The next generation of the Deverell family are becoming more involved in the running of the Ballyaville herd, highlighting a great example of an Irish family farm in action.