Derek and Mary Deane
DEREK and Mary Deane, who farm on the borders of Carlow and Wicklow, targeted the export weanling market almost from the start of their entry into single suckling 20 years ago.
Their performance received wider acclaim when the Deanes won the Bord Bia Quality Beef Producer Award in 2004.
The Deane herd is spring calving and progeny are sold, usually for live shipping, in the following spring after a period on ad-lib meal feeding. At this stage the heifers will weigh about 360kg and the bulls about 450kg. Early on, Derek identified the merit of the blocky Limousin-cross cow from the dairy herd and how well these cows 'clicked' with the Belgian Blue bull.
Later he used maternally proven Limousin bulls to breed replacements from within the herd. However, he found that this complicated the herd management and failed to deliver much of a bonus in terms of weanling quality.
The Deanes are again sourcing most of the replacements as Limousin crosses from the dairy herd. As well as sourcing the heifers from good British Friesian-type cows (or even a square Holstein) Derek would like to see dairy farmers using well-muscled rather than easy-calving Limousins to provide suckler replacements. He queries whether it is always possible to judge how a heifer will breed from a visual inspection.
"Every year we bring in 15 of 20 heifers, three or four of these will not deliver, and they are not always the poorest lookers of the bunch."
Derek has also been on the board of the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, thus giving him an overall view of Irish cattle breeding.
He believes that Irish suckler farmers should either go for pure breeding like the French and thereby breed their own replacements, or secure replacements from the dairy herd.