When it comes to demand for export markets exceptional calf quality is the key to success. Dominic and Michael McGrory, Ballintra, County Donegal set their sights on producing calves that will be snapped up for export, and have found that Limousin sired stock readily fits the bill.
The pair farm around 220 acres which is all in permanent pasture. This is home to their suckler herd of 55 cows, and flock or around 200 ewes. Limousin was first introduced to the farm in 1999 when a stock bull was purchased. The results were impressive right from the word go, with ease of calving and great hybrid vigour. But it was the consistent quality that has ensured that Limousin earned its permanent position at this Donegal farm, with batches of eye catching calves being produced each year.
The McGrorys are currently in a transitional period with regard to their calving pattern, and are aiming for the herd to calve down between September and January. This shift in season will result in the pair being able to concentrate on lambing come March time without the added pressures of calving. But the benefits are not purely management related as Dominic explains
"It makes perfect sense for our herd to be calving in the back end particularly as we have embarked on selecting sires for the cows using artificial insemination. We have found that the conception rates are much higher in the house when we can look for the onset of heat several times during the day. This allows us to hand pick the bulls that we use and match them up to our individual cows."
When selecting bulls to use Dominic is appreciative of the work that the Irish Limousin Society has done in producing a comprehensive range of bulls and data to assist him with his decision. In particular when breeding potential replacements for the herd the McGrorys can choose for a high ranked maternal trait bull which has shown improvements within the herd for milk.
In addition to progressing the genetic improvement of the herd there has also been attention to detail when it comes to a health plan. This includes a vaccination programme for BVD, IBR pneumonia and scour.
The calves are creep fed in the house until turnout in and around the 20th April weather depending. They then make full use of the grass sward and are sold at weights ranging from 300 - 400 kilos. Dominic keeps a close eye on how the cattle trade is, and sells calves at Donegal town mart regularly. These are snapped up for export in addition to local buyers who are keen to source stock from the McGrory farm.
"It is rewarding to rear our calves through and be confident that they will attract strong returns. We attribute a large part of this success down to what the Limousin breed offers in abundance."
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