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Featured Farmers

Jim Parkinson, Co. Tipperary

Jim Parkinson with the help of his wife Audrey and two daughters runs 100 suckler cows, of which 30 are pedigree, on 75 Hectares at New Inn County Tipperary.

Jim moved to Tipperary from Kerry with his parents over thirty years ago establishing a dairy farm. Shorthly afterwards Jim and his father travelled to Naas to buy a bull but instead returned with two heifers one from Martin McCullaghs Millpark Herd and the second from Roger McCarricks Pelletstown Herd. These went on to be the foundation stock for his Marlhill Herd. The Marlhill Herd has produced many excellent cattle over the years.

Stock sires have included Elite Popsi and Pelletstown Adolf by Pelletstown Newman. Females include the exceptional dam Millpark Anna, Marlhill Elma, Marlhill Karina, Marlhill Naomi, and Marlhill Tess who with Thomas Bailey went on to be National Limousin Champion. Currently standing at Dovea AI is Virginia Andy bred by Leo McEnroe, sired by Elite Popsi out of Marlhill Naomi who goes back to Millpark Anna. Virginia Andy carrying Jim’s genetics was Limousin champion at the Royal Highland Show in Scotland.

Unfortunately Jim suffered a TB outbreak in 2004 attributable to badger disturbance caused by road building resulting in the loss of some dams however thankfully many excellent dams and dam lines remain. At that time Jim also exited dairying and switched to suckling. His commercial sucklers are first and second cross Limousin from British Fresian cows. Jim believes in this type of cow. These Limousin cross cows are medium sized structurally good R grading cows with milk. They consistently produce a top quality calf. As with his pedigrees Jim’s breeding ethos is for quality combined with easy calving.

Jim’s current stock bull is the homebred Marlhill Craig with excellent back breeding, he is quite and easy calving. His offspring have weight, shape and docility.

Jim mainly sells his pedigrees from home. His marketing of commercial cattle is very flexible depending on which market is giving the best returns. Limousin offers him this flexibility in that it is such a balanced breed it meets the requirements of all markets.

Heifers are sold for breeding or as weanlings or for slaughter, the bulls are sold as weanlings or taken to slaughter. His stock is always in demand with Tipperary Mart looking for him to bring weanlings and ABP Cahir looking for finished young bulls and heifers. A number of factories including Ashbourne Meats would be active for his cull cows. Due to the national increase in young bulls there is a shortage of quality steers and Jim has been approached to supply some steers for grass. Again this highlights the range of market options available for Limousin.

The last commercials sold from the farm was a batch of 19 weanlings sold at Tipperary Mart last September before prices really started to move up, good weights and prices were achieved.

Patrick Grennan, Co. Wexford

Patrick Grennan farms out of the Kennedy Homestead outside Newross in Wexford. His approach and philosophy echoes the famous JF Kennedy ethos “think what you can do not what others can do for you”.

Having completed the Farm Apprentice Scheme, Patrick took over the family farm on a part time basis in 2001. In the preceding years the land had been rented so over a number of years Patrick took back the land and built up a suckler herd.

Today Patrick is operating 26 owned and 7 rented hectares, the land is in grass except for a small acreage of spring barley. The farm is carrying 36 spring calving suckler cows, up from 20 in 2007, with the intention of going to 40. All males are brought to slaughter as young bulls, heifers are either taken to slaughter or kept as replacements. The cows are handy easy care Limousin crosses. They are milky and easy to manage. Patricks stock bull was sourced locally from the Galbally Herd, he is from a good dam line and has Milbrook Tanko and Mas Du Clo on the sires side. Cow type and bull selection was based on a desire to have quality combined with an easy care system. Experiences as a farm apprentice highlighted the benefits of hardy easily calved Limousins. The Galbally bull is docile, very good on his feet and giving both shape and weight for age.

Patrick is a firm believer in discussion groups and Herd Plus and uses these forums to better himself and his herd. Through the discussion group and its facilitator Teagascs Michael Fitzgerald a Herd Health programme is in place, early and compact calving is practiced, and high output from grass is being achieved.

The farm is achieving 725 kg of output per Hectare, up from 555 kg in 2007 with stocking rate having increased from 1.37 to 2.02. Heifers are now calving at two and a herd calving spread of just over six weeks has been achieved. Patrick attributes these performance levels to an easy care cow, stocking rate, sire choice, calf growth and easy finishing. From the discussion group output from grass is key, grass is measured and strip grazed and calves graze ahead of the cows by the use of two high wire fencing stakes.

The bulls are killed at fifteen months, lifetime meal is around 1.3mt. During finishing meal levels start low rising to about 10kg of a home mix split over three feeds at the end.

The 2010 born bulls were killed in April and May of 2011with and average grade of U+3- at 390kg, all grades were E or U with nice fat cover. This highlights the carcase quality and feed efficiency of the Limousin breed. This is the weight, conformation and age that the market is looking for in young bulls.

Pat Haugh, Co. Clare

Loop head is well known to listeners of Radio 1 as it is one of the locations for daily weather forecasts. Loop head is also home to an exceptionally high quality suckler herd owned by Patrick Haugh, Kilclogher, Kilrush, Clare.

Patrick farms 150 acres owned and 85 rented. The herd comprises of 125 cows, with half calving in Autumn and the other half in Spring. The herd is also dominated by Limousin blood, mainly ¾ bred but with a few Limousin x Belgian Blue. The objective on the farm is very clear – to produce quality weanlings with very good shape. Replacement heifers are mainly sourced in Ennis mart but distance is no object for the “right one”.

When asked “Why Limousin” Pats reply is

“As suckler cows they meet all the requirements – good calvers due to a good pelvic opening, plenty of milk, longevity and have a good cull value, what else could you ask for”.

Pat is anxious to maintain milk in the herd and will be looking to new genetics to provide it. Two sires he feels that have done this up to now for him are Hortensia and Malibu.

Along with running Limousin bulls Pat also keeps two Belgian Blues, he finds Limousin cows good to calf to any sire. It is very seldom that I have a caesarean section but when I do, the Limousin cows recover very quickly and that is probably why they are in such demand for recipients in embryo transfer work.

A quick look at the map and you will see that Loop Head is very exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. This means that cows are housed early with a late turn-out. Pat has good housing facilities with the cows on slats and the calves having the choice of an indoor and outdoor woodchip pad. Straw usage is kept to a minimum due to the high cost with the long distance to the grain fields in the midlands being the contributing factor. Pat also has a strong emphasis on hygiene, especially in regards to calving and calf rearing.

One of the bulls Pat has been using is Moloskey Showman, a Gamin son, purchased from local breeder Brendan Clancy. Recently a second Limousin bull – Doonbeg Champ (by Mas du Clo) was purchased from another local breeder Declan Griffin . According to Pat, both bulls were not bought cheap but they are exactly what he is looking for with loads of muscle to transmit to their progeny.

Weanlings are mainly sold in Ennis mart and some of the prices obtained are a true testimony to the quality of Pats stock with a recent batch of 6 weanlings weighing 450 kgs realising €1,560 a piece and a single heifer weighing 375 kgs realising €1,800. To cap off a successful 2008, Pat also attended the Winter fatstock show and sale in Kilkenny where he scooped the top price of €3,850 for a weanling heifer.

Pat is firmly committed to Limousin and is quick to praise their role on his farm on the job they do, in particular as an easy care suckler dam. Going forward he is always going to look for quality in his cows but will be also conscious of their milk ability.

Finally Pat is well aware of the uncertain future that farming holds however he is firmly resolute that its all about being profitable. “Dead Calves Don’t Pay” and to be profitable you must produce a live quality calf each year and that’s why he has invested in Limousin.

Richard Tyrell, Co. Offaly

Richard Tyrell farms 400 map acres on the outskirts of Edenderry, Co. Offaly.

100 acres of this is a tillage operation with the remainder to livestock production. A suckler herd is kept of 145 cows mainly ¾ bred Limousin with some remnants of Simmental blood in the older cows. All cows are mated to Limousin, with 4 stock bulls kept on the farm.

In the past Richard’s calving pattern was 60/40 autumn/spring. This system was proving too costly due to the higher feed & bedding costs.Now this has changed to spring calving due to. To emphasise the cost factor the spring calving cows are on a diet of 50kgs of 2/3 straw and 1/3 straw while the autumn calving heifers are fed 60kgs of top quality silage maize and ration. 20 heifers are still calved in autumn mainly to give them chance to recover and grow before being let to the bull in late spring.

When Richard started suckling in 1987 his first two stock bull purchases were Pelletstown Gendarme, a Castle Ural son and Barnhill Liam by Hydesville Domino. Sires to follow were Leckee Pride by Espoir and Croghan Romeo (by Ferry) who sire excellent daughters with plenty of frame and their progeny always graded well. More recently sires purchased were a son of Pelletstown Newman from the herd of Roger McCarrick, a Mas Du Clo from the herd of Alfie Percy, and a Sleedagh Solomon son from the herd of Dan Tynan. Rischard’s most recent purchase was at the 2008 October Premier Sale in Roscrea where he purchased a classy Shire Milton son from the herd of Ray Carolan. With plenty of muscling ability in his other stock bulls, this Shire Milton son he hopes will breed more size and be a good female breeder.

The main production system on the farm is a calf to beef system will majority of the cattle fininshed on farm. In 2008 37 bulls sold at an average 446 kgs carcase weight, with impressive grades – 1 R, 1 O, 29 E’s & U’s. Richard also sold 37 bullocks as stores which were too light to finish. The pick of the heifers are retained for breeding with the remaining heaviest slaughtered at an average 320kgs and the lighter sold as stores.To help keep costs down, ration components are predominantly grown on the farm. This diet consists of grass and maize silage, crimped wheat and bought in bulk soya.

Richard likes to deal with facts and embraces any advice or knowledge available to help him with his enterprise. He is a member of the ICBF HerdPlus programme and finds the information he gets back he finds extremely beneficial. While he says that “ICBF may not have fully perfected the system yet, like everyone they are learning but as the information becomes more reliable it is a big help. ICBF will aid in identification of high genetic bulls that we need for both beef & maternal to ensure a profitable system. Richard is also a member of the Kildare Teagasc Discussion Group which he find extremely enjoyable and informative. Through regular meetings and farm visits, this group stimulates the participants to share ideas and opinions and everybody learns something new.

During the summer 2008 Richard and his wife Sarah were kind enough to allow fellow Limousin breeders and beef producing enthusiasts onto their farm as part of a field evening jointly organised by the South Eastern Limousin Club and Teagasc. This event was described as one of the most informative events of its kind with the clear message that the Limousin breed is a breed of balance satisfying both the terminal and maternal requirements on the farm. The formalities were followed by a barbecue of Limousin steaks kindly sponsored by Moyvalley Meats.

Although running a large farm Richard is an active members of the South East Limousin club meetings and kindly agreed to be a steward at the Beef Expo in Kilkenny. Richard also acknowledges the role pedigree breeders play in the beef industry, through their use of top sires they are contributing to improving Irish beef genetics. This he feels is quite evident when you attend the premier sales in Roscrea and see the improvement in quality each time.

For the future it is clear that Richard will stay with Limousin. On his own farm Richard is conscious of good docility and milk, therefore he is going to use some of the society high reliability docility bulls to breed replacements.

Why Limousin Richard?…

“Because they suit the system I have developed, I’m happy with it and I haven’t found a reason to change. Fed properly there is nothing to kill out or grade like a Limousin”

Jimmy & Betty Brady, Co. Westmeath

Jimmy & Betty Brady have been running a commercial suckler herd since 1981.

From their 18-cow herd bull calves are castrated and sold as stores. Some heifers are kept every year as replacements and the rest are finished to slaughter. Once you arrive in the farmyard you get a sense that Jimmy and Betty pay a lot of attention to detail. The cattle sheds are very well planned and maintained with cubicles at the back of the slats for all the cows. The calves have access to a straw bedded creep area. The Brady’s started their suckler herd with three 1⁄2 bred replacement heifers. PTT was the first AI sire used followed by FL16 and FL18.

In 2000 they made a decision to use only the top AI sires including sires recommended by the Irish Limousin Society. Some of the sires used from the outset were Highlander, Ferry, Genereux and Gamin, Ulysses was used extensively for his milk qualities. In latter years they have used Malibu, Lino, Pacha 08, Parisien, Mas Du Clo and Rocky.

Jimmy and Betty have a strict breeding policy, which results in calving starting in October and finishing in December. Cows that don’t go in calf easily are fattened and slaughtered. Cows that are over ten years old that develop any problems are also culled. This means that their cowherd is relatively quite young and trouble free thereby keeping running costs down.

They place great importance on ensuring that all breeding stock calf easily, has good legs and feet. Likewise their cows must be fertile and possess good maternal traits with the ability to produce and rear quality calves. They also feel that it is important to allow breeding heifers chance to grow and develop which is why they plan first calving at three years of age.

When you walk through the cows in the field you can see the results of Jimmy and Betty’s attention to detail over the years. Every cow on the Brady farm display’s excellent conformation with length, width and good locomotion. Coupled with all these qualities is very good temperament, which allows even visitors an opportunity to walk up and stroke any of these cows.

There is no doubt in Jimmy and Betty Brady’s mind of the important role the Limousin breed has played in being able to achieve all they set out to do and the pleasure they have derived from working with such a great breed of cattle.

Frank Gibson, Co. Westmeath

Frank Gibson from Crooked Wood in Westmeath started back in livestock farming two years ago.

Frank had formerly been involved in tillage however decided to change his system. Different systems and breeds were carefully examined before any decision was reached.Frank decided that suckling appeared to be possibly the best option for him. The next decision was: which breed? He required cows that could calf easily with the minimum amount of assistance and produce calves that would suit the export trade.

After much research the decision was taken to use Limousin based on what the breed had achieved both in Ireland and the UK. Seventy Limousin crossbred heifers were purchased in several batches mainly from advertisements in the Farmers Journal. Eventually when enough heifers had been purchased two Limousin bulls were then purchased one from from the herd of Oonagh McLoughlin in Kells and one a son of Ideal 23. Both sires displayed good growth and conformation with a proven calving record.

The first crop of calves arrived early in Autumn 08 with very little assistance required which pleased Frank especially due to the fact that there are no buildings on the farm with the exception of one small shed . Frank designed a few outside pens in a corner of the field where he can direct any animal needing assistance in to. Calves were small at birth but extremely hardy and Frank comments that he was amazed how quickly they were up on their feet and sucking. “ We used to have Herefords years ago and I was slightly apprehensive about continental breeds especially calving but I must admit I was delighted with both the ease of calving and their hardiness”. All cattle are outwintered with the cows fed a mixture of silage, straw and barley just to ensure that the calves have plenty of milk and that the cows will go back in calf quickly.Even though the cows were all Lim X Fr and would have lost condition they still went back in calf quickly. All cows were vaccinated for Lepto and BVD and given copper and iodine boluses.

After being at grass until July and having been introduced to meal the calves were weaned.The cows were given a chance to dry off and put on some condition before beginning to calf again in late August.

The weanlings were grazed on the best grass along with meal until they were sold in November to Frank’s neighbour, Mr Sandro Garravelli. These calves weighed between 450kgs and 500kgs and the price received Û1.80kg

Now Frank has his second crop of calves on the ground he has a good idea of suckling and what he wants in the future.

Quality he knows is important and he has bought some 3⁄4 bred heifers which he is going to put in calf to an easy calving Limousin bull.

Frank also knows that what ever he does in the future Limousin is going to play a major role. He is the first to acknowledge that he might not have the top priced calves to sell but he has a calf per cow achieving a good price with a minimal cost.

“It is very pleasing to go out even on a wet cold day and see the calves sucking and thriving, what more could you ask for from a breed. What I had seen and heard about Limousin is definitely true”

Padraig Doyle, Co. Wexford

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

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.

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

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 ½ 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 ¾ 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 ½ bred heifers from non-Holstein type dairy herds. His intention is to keep 40% of his cows ½ bred which in turn provide will 9-12 ¾ 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.

In 2002 twenty ¾ 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.

Heinz Eggert, Co. Kildare

Background and System:

The total area farmed is 80 ha which includes 15 ha of rented grassland. This all grass farm is laid out in fifteen divisions. The farm is managed by Mr Heinz Eggert since 1988 with some casual labour employed at critical periods. The farming system initially was a mid-season flock of 350 ewes run alongside a heifer fattening enterprise with all finished stock sold to a local wholesale butcher. The sheep enterprise was phased out in 1999 and a suckler herd established in 1991 while still finishing heifers for the local butcher trade. A Charolais bull was initially used with the first Limousin bull purchased in 1992. Heinz was very happy with his progeny and decided that Limousin was his breed of choice. This bull was replaced in 1997 with a bull from Dr Roger McCarricks Pelletstown herd. The current suckler herd of 70 cows comprises mainly of 3/4 and 7/8 Limousin dams with two pedigree cows. Male progeny from the two pedigree cows will be retained for breeding to the commercial herd. The male progeny from the commercial herd are sold as yearling bulls to a feedlot for further finishing. Heifer progeny are sold to Pettits of Wexford at 15 months old on the basis of yield of saleable meat from the carcase. Suckler replacements are selected from within the herd. The farm has been in the REPS scheme since 1995. The farm is managed to maximise livestock premia available with the high rate of extensification collected. The farm area itself is undulating with elevated ground being dry but low-lying ground can be wet. A rotational grazing system is practised on this farm. All machinery work is done by contractors with the exception of slurry/fertilizer spreading. Nitrogen application is in accordance with the REPS 2 guidelines. Due to the low stocking rate only approximately 90kg N/ha (72 units N/acre) can be applied. Mr Eggert is a member of the Naas suckler discussion group run by Christy Watson, Teagasc, Naas.


Suckler cows: 70 plus 2 pedigree cows
Stock bulls: 3
In-Calf heifers: 10
Pedigree home bred bulls: 2

Herd Management:

The farm owns 43 suckler quota units with an additional 35 rented on an annual basis. The suckler herd of 70 cows mainly calve in spring from early March to the end of April. An autumn calving herd is being established to spread the workload, increase the output from stock bulls, utilise grass and cater for slippage in calving dates when it occurs from the spring herd in order to save culling good cows. All commercial cows are bred to stock bulls with AI used for the two pedigree cows. Winter housing on the farm consists of a slatted shed with additional straw bedded accommodation. First calvers and thin second calvers are run as a separate group from the main herd and their calves get access to creep feed from mid-July. Bulls from the rest of the herd get creep from mid-August and heifers from the end of September when they are weaned. When calves are two weeks on creep they are forward grazed onto grass through a creep gate and get meals in troughs. Heifers are separated from bulls at the end of July. Calves are creep fed a 16% protein coarse mix. Heinz currently has two stock bulls for breeding his herd to.

Herd Health:

No vaccines are used on the herd with the exception of calves that are vaccinated against blackleg. However, the use of a pneumonia vaccine is being considered due a severe outbreak of pneumonia last winter. An outlet is being cut in the roof of the sheds to create an outlet to improve ventilation for the coming winter. Calves are dosed in July with a Levamisole based anthelmintic and at monthly intervals thereafter. First and second calvers along with in calf heifers are dosed in July and once again in late summer. At housing all livestock receive an injection of Ivomec Super. Cows receive a Copper bolus during the grazing season because of a high Molybdenum level in the soil. Cows are blood sampled in October to establish their mineral status and a winter mineral mix is formulated based on results. Cows have also been checked for BVD and Leptospirosis with no problem detected to date.


The basis of the winter feeding programme is good grass silage cut at the end of May however silage was not cut until the end of June in 2000 with a consequent reduction in quality. Cattle are fed a complete diet with a diet feeder consisting of grass silage, wheat, soya bean, and minerals. The following winter diets are fed on a freshweight basis. Spring Calvers: Grass silage 20 kgs Straw 3 kgs Autumn Calvers: Grass silage ad-lib plus 0.75 kg meals Heifer Weanlings: Grass silage ad-lib plus 1.75 kg meals Bull Weanlings: Grass silage ad-lib plus 5 kgs meals

Animal Performance 2003:

  • Bulls:(28)
  • Average Age 356 Days (12 months)
  • Average Liveweight 469 Kgs
  • DLWG Birth To Sale 1.2 Kgs
  • Heifers:(15)
  • Average Age 458 Days (15 months)
  • Average Liveweight 444 Kgs
  • DLWG Birth To Sale 0.89 Kgs Average Kill Out 55.55%.

Courtesy of Heinz Eggert and Christy Watson, Teagasc, Naas.

Gerard O’Donahue, Co. Cork

“Producing quality cattle while leaving a profit”. This could be a key wish of any beef farmer and it most certainly is for Gerard O’Donoghue, Leap, Co. Cork.

Gerard is farming in the heart of West Cork. Scenic views are a lovely feature from many parts of the 64 ha. he farms. Views of his stock are also eye catching. A suckling beef system is at the heart of this farm. Selling bulls from his suckling herd at under 12 month of age is the aim. Heifers are kept for replacements or reared as beef heifers. July and August are two key months for calving on this farm. A paddock close by to the farmhouse is where most of the calves get their first view of the world.


The target is to rear these calves for sale as lean top quality beef animals. The 2003 sales data for the bull sales emphasises this point. Over two thirds of the animals are U grade or better. The Limousin breed features strongly on the farm and in these sales. On the cow side some of the stock are 7/8 Limousin. There are also two Limousin bulls on the farm. A key feature of this farm is that good growth rate is also being obtained among the finishing beef stock. Almost half the young bulls slaughtered this year produced a carcase weight of over 300kg. All the cattle on the farm are also visitor friendly and docile.


So how does Gerard achieve this level of performance with his herd? What are the inputs and costs involved? Perhaps the most critical input is himself. His energy and enthusiasm for looking after the herd at calving and right throughout the year is very noticeable. His enthusiasm for development is also clear from his contact with Teagasc, the Irish Limousin Cattle Society and other farming/agricultural bodies. On the stock side most of the heifers come into the herd at 2½ years of age. A number of Limousin cross heifers have come into the herd from the holding of Margaret and Dermot Lehane, Kanturk, Co. Cork. These heifers are selected on the basis of shape, docility and milkiness.

Great care is taken in rearing replacements so as to have them in suitable condition at calving. This goes a long way towards having an easier calving season and a high number of young stock going back in calf. Another input on the breeding side is that the older of Gerard’s Limousin bulls has impressive figures for food conversion efficiency.

Grassland Management:

Feed is of course an important factor on this beef-producing farm. Grass intake is monitored before and after calving to suit stock requirements. Reseeds are providing top quality swards. Gerard is a participant in the REPS 2 scheme and the grassland management programme fits in around this as well. The main group of cattle getting meals are the young bulls around and after weaning. A 15% crude protein ration is the present choice for the young bulls. Whole crop wheat is in the pit for the first time this year so how it works out is being watched with interest. Clearly there is much to be admired in Gerard O’Donoghue’s farming. There is a strong emphasis on having quality stock which involves a role for cattle breeding and the Limousin breed. A close eye is also kept on the beef markets while costs and inputs are also closely watched. Gerard has many plans for further in developing the farm which looks like leading to more interesting days ahead.

Courtesy of Gerard O’Donoghue and Pat Flanery, Teagasc, Skibereen.

Mike Kissane, Co. Kerry

When Iveragh peninsula farmer Mike Kissane bought his first Limousin in 1992, he got a bit of a ribbing from many of the farmers in what was a predominantly Charolais area. Slowly but surely the perceptions of cattle breeders in that part of the country are changing because red and black Limousin are now visible in increasing numbers among the scenic routes of Kerry and West Cork.

Mike is also the manager of the local mart in nearby Cahirsiveen and he has seen a considerable increase in Limousin cattle going through his books. For Mike and for a large number of breeders in the peninsula, the benefits of the breed are its ease of calving and hardiness coupled with their ability to produce nicely shaped calves that are in demand. “In this part of the country there are more and more part-time farmers that are calving outdoors, therefore easy calving with minimal labour input is essential. Charolais cattle were causing worry in this respect and it is the main reason Limousin is taking off,” explains Mike.

The beginning:

It all began in 1992 when Mike was actively looking for low maintenance highly productive females for his suckler herd. He choose 17 Limousin cross British Friesian heifers sold through Cahirsiveen mart by local dairy farmers. His suckler herd now numbers 64, all Limousin crosses with approximately 30 heifers coming on board next year.

Mike already had a Limousin stock bull in his yard. Initially he was worried about the temperament of Limousin cattle but over the years he has seen a marked improvement and is no longer a concern for him. Easy calving and high muscling are his priority when he selects his bulls These are the characteristics of his 2 current mature stock bulls, one by Ibis and one by Ideal-23. He recently bought another young bull (by Nino) from a local pedigree breeder and Mike hopes he will follow on to yield easy calving well-muscled progeny.

Mike likes his cows to be of beefy type but they must have enough milk to rear their calves. He feels that the best cows are the Limousin first crosses with British Friesian. Such cows are crossed back to his Limousin bulls to produce ¾ bred calves with excellent shape and conformation. When he selects his replacement females he is primarily interested in their phenotype and working as a mart manager he is confident that he has a good eye for female stock that will be profitable in his production system.

The System:

Calving takes place outdoors between early September and late October and Mike expects all his cows to be calved in an 8-week period in 2004.

“Limousin calves have a natural ability to withstand pneumonias and scours because of their vigour at an early age and calving outdoors also minimises the risk. Newly born calves from other breeds succumb to the often-harsh weather conditions rolling in from the Atlantic. At the end of the day I am making a considerable saving on labour and vet costs”.

The compact calving season is achieved without the use of breeding aids and this is remarkable considering that the breeding season takes place indoors during Winter housing. The bulls don’t have access to the cows at this time – when a cow is bulling he is left to serve her once and removed again.

Once calved, both cows and calves remain on grass until housing in mid-November. Creep feed is introduced on Christmas week and is gradually increased until weaning at 6 months in mid-March. Calves are turned out at weaning but this is dependent on soil conditions and grass supply, which varies from year to year. Farm fragmentation is a big problem in the peninsula and Mike has to navigate 3 separate areas of land. Of the 116 acres in total that he farms, Mike considers approximately 48 acres to be of good quality while the rest is marginal. Farming on the very edge of the Western shoreline means that there always is an on-shore breeze that can help to dry the land but rainfall is also never far away.

Performance and Targets:

For Mike the goal is to produce all “U” grade weanlings and to maximise weight at sale. Currently Mike’s bulls are averaging 400 kg liveweight and realise €400 with their weight. Cattle finishers from the midlands are frequent visitors to marts in this area and are willing to pay top prices for his quality cattle. The great thing about these bulls is that they offer flexibility for finishers – some are finished at 12 months, some at 15-16 months and some are castrated and slaughtered at 2 years. Heifers are also sold through Cahirsiveen mart with average weights of approximately 320kg at weaning and are generally commanding €200 with their weight. Approximately 10-15% of the heifers are kept as replacements especially those from his best breeding cows. Suckler farmers in the midlands again buy many of these heifers. And the rest are sold in the local marts destined for the Italian market, which has a marked preference for Limousin cattle.

The Future:

Mike has many plans for the future. While many local farmers intend to reduce animal numbers Mike is intent on increasing in the non-restrictive era post decoupling – an era he is looking forward to. Decoupling is bringing an air of uncertainty to the beef farmers in the Iveragh peninsula but one thing for sure is that the characteristics of the Limousin breed will allow it to survive and thrive in the new era.

Courtesy of Mike Kissane.

Helen & Eoin Ryan, Co. Kerry

Helen Ryan and her son Eoin are farming in Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry nestled between the heights of the MacGillycuddy Reeks and the cliffs of the Western shoreline.

When you walk into their farmyard the first thing you will notice is the stiff but fresh wind that rolls in from the Atlantic. The second thing you will notice is the red and black of Limousin through suckler herd composed of 50 quality cows all with smart, shapely calves at foot. The third thing you will notice is the enthusiasm that Eoin and Helen have for the Limousin breed – As far as they are concerned, Limousin are the best!

The herd’s role is to consistently produce U grade cattle that offer market flexibility. Some are sold at local marts of Cahirsiveen or Milltown to finishers from the midlands that frequent the area for quality cattle and some are slaughtered at 12-13 months. Either way Eoin and Helen are convinced that Limousins are the cattle for the job.

The Ryan’s always kept suckler cows on their 150 acre holding and were initially based on Shorthorn bloodlines. In 1992 a decision was made to clear out the old and bring in the new. At the time there was strong trend away from the traditional breeds towards continental breeds. They choose Limousin because predominantly of their calving ease but also because a mature Limousin cow is not as heavy as Charolais or Simmental – lighter cows are more suited to marginal ground that predominates the area. The foundation females were generally the products of Limousin – British Friesian cross sourced from the local marts. Eoin considers this to be the best cross because they are guaranteed to have plenty of milk but he is concerned about the reduction of dairy herds in the area and the increase in Holstein genetics in those that remain, which may make it difficult to source replacements. Teagasc advice leans towards heterosis but according to Helen “the closer to the purebred the higher the grades will be” and it allows us to consistently produce high value cattle.

Eoin is looking forward to the era post-decoupling and he intends to increase his suckler herd to at least 70. Expansion means investment in wintering facilities but he is unsure whether to invest in buildings or an outwintering pad. Limousin are an extremely adaptable breed with low maintenance requirements and will survive and thrive even if out wintered.

The calving pattern on the Ryan farm is split between Spring (mid January to mid March) and Autumn (mid August to mid October) with the autumn calvers calving outdoors. The stock sire is a son of Hortensia purchased and was selected for his calving ease and high muscle conformation and muscle index. Eoin uses the BLUP index system to his advantage and he feels that it provides valuable information when selecting a sire for his females. “In the last 3 years I only lost 1 calf at calving and the calving jack is now redundant and rusting in the corner”. Eoin feels that Limousin calving ease and calf viability is the key to the success of the breed in the area.

Creep feeding is introduced at an early age starting at 1kg/head. Eoin much prefers to feed a calf a kilo of concentrates than to feed 6 kilos to a finishing store. The philosophy is to maximise the growth potential of the young calf with lower concentrate input rather than pumping a large animal with concentrate at high cost.

On the farm the Limousin breed allows you to make profit from both sexes. Bulls provide the flexibility for finish at 12 or 24 months and the heifers are demanded by butchers, factories or as suckler replacements. Whether the Ryan’s chose to sell their stock or keep them their Limousin cattle are likely to maintain their reputation of being some of the best beef animals in the region.

Limousin in the Dairy Herd

More and more dairy farmers using Limousin to maximise farm profit.

Using a Limousin bull on dairy cows is an excellent choice to increase farm profit. It makes no sense to use dairy breeds on all cows, especially with improved sexed semen technology, low male calf value, and that not all cows would in the norm be selected to breed dairy replacements.

Research and market feedback has confirmed that dairy beef is both inefficient and costly to produce, and difficult to market.

The obvious options are then either Limousin or the traditional breeds. The traditional breeds even if bonus prices are achieved will not deliver sufficient weight or carcase grade for age and the female suckler replacement option is limited.

Limousin is easy calving, the calves are easy to rear and market, the sometimes slightly longer gestation is more than compensated for.

Farmers doing their figures are seeing the clear benefit of Limousin. Male progeny are feed efficient producing carcase quality and weight for age to give high end prices. Female progeny have a beef or suckler replacement option. Demand for LM FR breeding heifers exceeds supply.

Eddie O’Riordan Chief Teagasc Researcher, Grange is of the opinion that the LM FR cross is the gold star for suckler breeding, using a Limousin bull on dairy cows is a profitable option for farmers.

Dairy farmer Gerard Larkin, Cloughjordan, Tipperary uses Limousin to produce suckler replacements. He sells these at 18 months in the Roscrea breeding heifer sale. Every year there are numerous customers looking for this type of animal. This year his heifers weighed 480kg and sold for €1,220.

Highly respected suckler farmer Jim Parkinson, New Inn uses LM FR cows to produce his ideal suckler cow 3/4LM and 1/4FR. Jim offered some surplus maiden heifers for sale at this years Roscrea breeding heifer sale achieving €1,600 for 520kg. These were snapped up by some serious suckler operators from Laois, Kildare and Kerry.

Leslie Hopkins from Nurney in Carlow uses Limousin on his dairy cows. He brings the offspring to beef achieving good factory weights and R grades.

Michael Brennan a dairy farmer from Paulstown, Kilkenny finds that using a Limousin bull, on cows not selected for breeding dairy replacements, to be a winning formula. The calves are born trouble free with the cows and heifers loosing no milking time. Michael is consistently delighted with the performance of his Limousin cross calves from day one, and each year he has numerous market options.

Dairy farmer Derek Ryan Herbertstown in Limerick has been using Limousin for many years. Apart from top market returns the real bonus for Derek is unassisted calving and a calf that is up on its feet and sucking in a few minutes.

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