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Irish Limousin Cattle Society, Kilglass, Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

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When three judges visited the Doyle farm in Enniscorthy Co. Wexford for the 2002 Quality Beef Producers competition they were impressed with what they saw. In assessing the farm three main categories were considered.

  • Management and Breeding
  • Quality Assurance and Environment,
  • Marketing and Financial Performance.

The Doyle Farm:

  • Grassland Area - (adjusted) 56 ha Tillage Area - 31 ha (of which rented 17.5 ha)
  • Herd Size - 90 Spring Calving Cows

Padraig Doyle

Grassland Management:

Padraig maximises the use of the cheapest feed source available-grazed grass. Cattle are turned out in early to mid-march and are usually housed in mid-November on this dry farm. Silage ground is grazed first, closed in mid-April and harvested round 10th of June. Padraig has re-seeded most paddocks in recent years. Paddocks are topped from June onwards to maintain sward quality. Thirty units/acre of nitrogen is applied after each grazing.

Limousin commerical cows

Limousin cross bred cows and calves on the farm of Padraig Doyle, Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford

Herd Management:

Cows are vaccinated to prevent scour 4-12 weeks before calving. There have been no pneumonia or scour problems for the last two years. The aim is to have a compact calving pattern. The Limousin bull is removed after 11 weeks of breeding. Mineral supplements are fed during the winter and for the first eight weeks on grass. Grass tetany is not a problem on the farm, however Sweetened Cal-Mag is added to the minerals at times of high risk. Calves are dosed once in July for worms with an in-expensive wormer and dosed again at housing with an Avermectin type product. Bull calves and heifer calves are split into two groups in mid-July and are weaned between mid-October and mid-November. Padraig practices gradual weaning to reduce stress on the weanlings. Creep meal is fed to the weanlings form mid-September onwards. This meal is made up of 80% rolled barley and a 20% crude protein balancer. At weaning bulls are restricted to 1.5 kg/day of creep meal. In 2002, weanling bull average weight was 320kg. The strongest weanlings are sold direct in the 'Code of Practise' sales in Enniscorthy mart. The remaining weanlings are housed by night by mid-November and fully housed by mid-December. All animals are treated for worms, hoose and lice at this time

Limousin  herd sire

Stock bull on the farm of Padraig Doyle

Finishing System:

In general the cattle are finished as bulls at 15-16 months of age or as heifers of grass at 18 months of age. At housing the total fresh weight diet is composed of grass silage (50%) fodder beet (25%) rolled barley (18%) plus balancer (7%). This is fed from housing to mid-March. Buy this time average bull weight is 440 kg. These bulls are then put onto a finishing diet (fodder beet (70%) rolled barley (15%) silage (10%) and balancer (5%). By early June the feeding value of fodder beet declines and the bulls are fed an ad-lib meal diet for three-weeks. This final finishing period is on straw bedding which Padraig feels is necessary for fast growing bulls on a high energy diet. Previously bulls were sold to the Pettitts Sleeda farms Ltd. Group who pay a base price plus bonus. The bonus is given where carcases have a high yield of saleable meat (71%+) after boning. In 2002, 23 of the 26 bulls sold achieved a bonus. The average carcase weight was 349 kg. The value of the bulls was €978 (€914+€64 bonus). This gives an average value of €2.80 per kg (1/lb) per kg carcase sold after deductions. Because of current uncertainty in beef markets, Padraig recently decided to sell his bulls to Prime Livestock Exports who exported them live to Italy for further finishing. These bulls were approximately 15 months of age and averaged €1035/head. All the best heifers are kept for breeding. Non-breeding heifers are finished off on grass in the summer and autumn. Slaughter weight for these heifers is high at an average of 525 kg. Heifers in the Sleeda group are given the bonus from 69.5% saleable meat yield upwards. The 30 heifers sold from the Doyle farm in 2002 had an average meat yield of 70.2%. This gave an average value for heifers of €730

Breeding Policy:

Padraig established his herd in the mid '90's. The herd has been based predominantly on bred Limousin cows. Padraig sourced his heifers locally from dairy farms that still had a strong influence of British Friesian. As these animals are more difficult to find, he has gone down the route of bred Limousin replacements which are put in calf to one of his Limousin bulls giving calves that are 7/8 bred Limousin. Figure 1 shows the Doyle farm future breeding policy. Each year Padraig sources 6-8 bred heifers from non-Holstein type dairy herds. His intention is to keep 40% of his cows bred which in turn provide will 9-12 bred heifers each year which are kept on as replacements. Only heifers from the better milkers are kept because of the concern of low milk level in the first lactation.

Figure 1


In 2002 twenty bred heifers were bred to AI using maternally tested Limousin bulls Ulysses (ULE) and Epson (EPN). These bulls not only have been proven for good beef characteristics but also for their ability to produce heifers with better maternal characteristics. These traits include higher fertility, easier calving better mothering ability and higher milk yields. However, Padraig does not intend to keep them for breeding. His primary reason for using these bulls is because they are proven for calving ease. The Doyles have stayed with Limousin as their terminal sire because they feel it offers flexibility with market options. Bulls can either be killed or exported live, or they can be castrated and sold as stores. Padraig has three Limousin bulls for breeding to the herd. Replacement heifers from within the herd are crossed back to one of the other two bulls.

Congratulations from the Irish Limousin Cattle Society to Padraig and Margaret Doyle on being the overall winners of the Bord Bia/ Farmers Journal Suckler Farmer of the Year competition and many thanks for hosting the successful open day in Spring 2003

By kind permission of Padraig Doyle and Michael Fitzgerald, Teagasc Wexford.

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