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Monday 24 September 2018

'You won't get the quality from the calves coming off Holstein cows'

Kenneth B Connors, Roscrea with his winning carcasses at the Limousin Carcass Competition at Ashbourne Meats
Kenneth B Connors, Roscrea with his winning carcasses at the Limousin Carcass Competition at Ashbourne Meats

Martin Ryan

A 40-cow suckler farmer, operating a calf to beef system, produced a 22-month-old Limousin cross heifer off a dairy cow to take the top award in the Limousin Cross off Dairy Cows category of the competition.

The 308kg R=4- heifer, was supplied by Kenneth B Connors, Spruce Hill House, Roscrea and was one of the 15 to 20 continental crosses off dairy herds, being finished each year beside the sucklers in the herd.

As a calf she was purchased at Thurles Mart, where she was described as "coming off a British Friesian herd" on which he targets his purchases each year.

"I try to get the calves off the good British Friesian herds, because it is very hard to get an R grade off the crosses with Holstein. Thurles is a good place to get calves off the British Friesian herds," said Mr Connors.

The heifer was finished on 4kg concentrates a day for the final three months and realised €1,330 in the factory.

"I haven't done the figures on it, but I know that the margin is tight at that. It is costly to bring them through the first year.

Kenneth B Connors, Roscrea and (right) Michael McDonagh from Tynagh, Loughrea with their winning carcasses at the Limousin Carcass Competition at Ashbourne Meats
Kenneth B Connors, Roscrea and (right) Michael McDonagh from Tynagh, Loughrea with their winning carcasses at the Limousin Carcass Competition at Ashbourne Meats

"With milk replacer, plus the cost of the calf, I reckon she was standing me about €530 at six months," he said.

"The good calves off the British Friesian cows are in demand and they are costing that bit extra in the mart, but you won't get the quality from the calves coming off the Holstein cows. They will be O grade and that makes a difference," he explained.

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"If I was selling at nine to 10 months for €1,000, I'd probably be better off, because I would not have to carry them through a winter and finishing," he added.

With the increase in the dairy herd, the category for Limousin cross heifers from the dairy herds was of particular interest to both producers and the processor.

Each of the other three winning carcases in the category were R- grade with fat score of 3- and 3=.

The second prizewinner in the Limousin Cross Cow category exhibited by Michael McDonagh, Tynagh, Loughrea was a 13-year-old Limousin Belgian Blue, which had a carcase weight of 494kg and was classified U+4=.

He keeps a herd of 84 suckler cows and crosses with Charolais and Belgian Blue sires. The practice has been to sell most of the male progeny at yearling stage, with the majority of them in recent years being purchased by a well known stud farm for finishing.

The good heifers are retained for breeding in the herd or for sale. "I am considering that I should sell at six to nine months. They should be making around €1,000/hd and it would avoid the cost of wintering" he said of his future plans pointing out that the suckler sector is under pressure with the big cost of keeping the cow.


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