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Thursday 16 August 2018

Why this farmer switched to buying weanlings instead of calves

Alan McDonnell has switched from buying in dairy cross bull calves to buying his stock in as weanlings. Photo: Jeff Harvey/HR Photo
Alan McDonnell has switched from buying in dairy cross bull calves to buying his stock in as weanlings. Photo: Jeff Harvey/HR Photo
Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

In the past two years, Alan McDonnell has switched from buying in dairy cross bull calves to now buying them in as weanlings.

For the 10 previous years or so, the calves he was buying in all ended up grading O.

But because of changes in the dairy herd when the end of the quota regime was looming into view, he was finding that around 30pc of them were grading P. Hence the switch.

"If you buy a calf a few weeks old that's been fed lots of milk there could be a great bloom on him," whereas, a few months later, "he will be more developed and you will be able to get a better idea of what he really looks like".

Marts

On top of that, Alan found he was able to buy weanlings of around 230kg for €300-€320.

He sources all his stock in local marts.

Alan farms 120 acres, including some leased, on which he finishes around 200 head of stock a year, which all go to Kepak.

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Alan works closely with Kepak and is currently participating in a trial which involves him rearing Belgian Blue cross bulls out of the dairy herd.

Usually they would be gone out to grass by now but, like everywhere else, it's a late spring.

At the moment, they are getting silage plus 2kg feed.

When they do go out, Alan's intention would be to give them some creep for the first month and then let them graze for a further two months before bringing them in around June 1, to finish, at 17 to 18 months, hopefully at 350-360kg carcase weight.

They weighed 357kg in January.

So far, he is satisfied with their progress.

Alan is also raising a batch of Friesian bulls of the same age so is very interested to see how these compare with each other in terms of profitability.

This is the third series of events within the past 18 months to have been organised by AHI, Teagasc and MII in terms of promoting herd health as a key to beef trade.


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