Billy & Niall Nicholson have recently been crowned the winner of the 2019 FBD €uroStar €200 Commercial Herds competition.
The Nicholson’s were announced as the overall winner at the annual ICBF & Sheep Ireland Genetics Conference in Killenard on the 17th of January. The family took the overall award having won the Munster title earlier in the night. The Leinster Commercial Herd winner was Mark Molloy, who farms alongside his grandfather Bosco near Moate Co. Westmeath. The Connacht/Ulster award went to Shane and Grainne Keaveney, farming outside Ballinlough, Co. Roscommon.
Billy and Niall Nicholson are a father and son farming together near Crosshaven in Co. Cork. They have a suckler herd of 90 cows and operate a suckler to beef system.
The Nicholson’s herd have an average Replacement Index of €100 and an impressive calving interval figure of 375 days for 2019. The herd utilise AI for the first month of the breeding season and then mop up with stock bulls. Billy & Niall have a very clear breeding plan in place, focussed on the traits required for their system and this father-son team are an excellent example of a family farm in action.
In terms of breeding and selecting replacement females, the Nicholson’s prefer to breed their own.
“We use the indexes and go through all of the heifers to assess for docility, size, functionality.”
AI sire decisions are based on indexes, with stock bulls being selected on indexes and visual appearance. The farm currently has Charolais, Simmental and Salers stockbulls.
The winning father-son duo are participating in many DAFM schemes, namely, BDGP, KT, BEEP, etc.
When asked about BDGP, they view it positively.
“In the absence of the scheme we would be making the improvements in breeding anyways, so it’s a no-brainer for us.”
Billy & Niall are big believers in grassland management. To maximise grass utilization fields are paddocked, with strategically placed water troughs. They also have a tillage operation, so they practice crop rotation to help with soil fertility and weed control.
This farm places significant emphasis on farm safety, which is critical in any farm. The Nicholson’s are exceptionally positive about the future, despite the current climate and have an excellent technical knowledge, particularly on breeding elements and are deserving winners.
A special word of thanks goes to our sponsors, FBD Trust, as without their continued support, this event and competition would not be possible.
More information on winners and photos from the ICBF & Sheep Ireland Genetics Conference will be available on icbf.com and our social media platforms in the coming weeks.