Farm Ireland

Monday 18 December 2017

Continentals losing out to traditional beef breeds

Angus, Hereford and Limousin breeds are all gaining popularity among both beef and dairy farmers
Angus, Hereford and Limousin breeds are all gaining popularity among both beef and dairy farmers
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

The proportion of continental animals in the national cattle herd is set to decline further according to the country's biggest bull studs.

Demand for large continental breeds such as Belgian Blue and Charolais continue to decline as both beef and dairy farmers gravitate towards the early maturing beef breeds such as Angus and Hereford.

Sales of beef sires for use on the dairy herd is up again, especially in the southern half of the country.

"We saw a 15pc increase in the number of beef straws being used, with Angus, Hereford and Limousin all up by at least 25pc on last year," said Munster AI's Terry Dillon.

Ease of calving and shorter gestations typical of the smaller beef breeds are the big factors for dairy farmers focused on minimising the calving interval.

"The difference between a Limousin and an Angus could be nearly two weeks.

"That's a big difference for a bull being used at the end of the breeding season," said Progressive Genetic's marketing manager, Laurence Feeney.

He estimates that beef straw sales in the northern half of the country were up by nearly 5pc compared to dairy sires, with overall volumes up by 10pc in line with the 120,000 head increase in the dairy herd.

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However, Limousins are gaining ground on other continental breeds on the back of the Beef Data Genomics Programme (BDGP) according to Mr Feeney.

"Farmers' perception is that the Limousin has more milk, and is a more efficient cow in terms of fertility and ease of management.

"It's going to depend on the results from the BDGP, but if lads see an improvement, there's no reason why these trends wouldn't continue," he added.

Sexed semen is another line that has suffered in sales as dairy farmers look to cut back on expenditure.

It was one of the main reasons for a fall in revenue during the first five months of 2016 for Tipperary-based stud Dovea.

"Sexed semen sales were down 20pc, which probably isn't surprising for straws costing €40 each in the year that's in it," said Dovea general manager Ger Ryan.

A similar drop in sexed semen usage was encountered in Progressive Genetic's region, while sales of cheaper straws from the Gene Ireland and end-of-line bulls rose by 10pc.

"Gene Ireland straws, which were costing less than half the average straw price of €18, were sold out by the start of the breeding season. But our bargain basement bulls priced at €12-14 also sold very well this year," said Mr Feeney.

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