The end of an era in pedigree Charolais breeding has arrived for one of the largest and longest-established herds in the country with the dispersal of the well known Skidoo herd in Co Dublin.
The herd, which has been a leading example of ‘best in the breed’ in this country for more than half a century, will come under the auctioneer’s hammer at a dispersal sale of the entire breeding stock on the farm at Ballyboughal on Saturday week, September 14.
Located within a few minutes of Dublin Airport, the Skidoo herd was one of the select Charolais herds in Ireland which were showcased to breeders from all over the world at the Charolais Society International Technical Conference five weeks ago.
Established in 1966 by Omer Van Landeghem, the Skidoo farm and herd was purchased by local businessman and farmer Pat McDonagh in 1995 and has been expertly overseen by farm manager Donal Callery.
Today, the herd consists of 100 pure-bred registered Charolais cows, which are run in conjunction with 160 commercial cows. All pedigree cows are bred to AI, with 50pc calving in the autumn and 50pc in the spring.
The Skidoo Charolais has been renowned over the years for milk, with Mr Callery point outing that “as this is a large pedigree herd, it’s always paramount that every cow is able to rear her own calf”.
Sires like Shamrock Ambassador, Flambeau, Emperor, Uranus and Commander were many of the iconic bulls Skidoo introduced to Ireland.
In the early years, Skidoo was always prominent in winning rosettes at the RDS Spring Show with prominent sire lines such as Skidoo Champion and Skidoo Pacha.
The Skidoo Charolais herd has developed into a breeding model over the decades.
Mr Callery says the breeding policy has been set on the simple approach to “breeding what the market requires”.
From that base, the model has been “trying to breed cattle that are easy calving, fertile, mature early, posses sound feet and legs, and at the same time, try to maintain milk within our females” — and any cow not achieving these traits is culled.
Grassland management is key on this farm, as Skidoo has a long grazing season of 10 months. To make the most of it, they have a paddock grazing system in place. Grass is grown in three weeks and grazed in three days.
Mr Callery says farmers have been flocking to the farm over the years to purchase animals that are grass-fed and not pushed with concentrates.
The dispersal sale, which offers an opportunity to other breeders to enhance their herds with some of the well-developed bloodlines, will be twinged with sadness at the end of a foundation herd for the breed in this country, which has contributed so much to the Charolais over more than half a century.