Farm Ireland

Wednesday 17 January 2018

'I went 100pc crossbred based on the evidence I see on the farm'

Yes: David Kerr, Ross, Co. Laois - 160 cows

David Kerr
David Kerr

David Kerr milks 160 cows in the heart of Laois. With an average EBI of €206, and 420kg of milk solids per cow at a whole farm stocking rate of 2.5LU/ha, and just 400kg meal, Mr Kerr's herd is a top drawer outfit.

Seven years ago he started to selectively crossbreed some of his herd, only going 100pc in the last two years.

"I decided to go 100pc crossbred based on the evidence I see on the farm. It's the robustness. I really don't think that pure Holsteins are going to work anymore in grazing herds with more than 100 cows.

"It's only the same as the way the rest of the grazing world is going, and I think that international experience is possibly more reliable than local analysis. Ideally we'd have a third breed, but I'm sticking to Jersey and Holstein genetics. But even getting good Jersey genetics is a bit of a struggle, with only two top-class Jersey bulls available here in recent years in my opinion.

"I also have my doubts about the genomics bulls, even though the whole industry seems to be betting the house on it. There's bulls there with fertility sub indexes that just seem to be higher and higher every year, but surely there's a limit to how fertile the genes can be? I think we're a few years away from knowing if these figures really stand up yet.

"Having said that, I'm still using some GeneIreland bulls on my crossbred cows this year.

"I'm in a discussion group where probably no more than 20pc are crossbreeding, and I certainly don't see any increase in its popularity with the mixed messages that are out there.

"I believe the figure from Teagasc that says that crossbred cows are €200 more profitable on average, but I think there are interest groups in the cattle industry that are happy to sideline the issue.

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"I don't have a problem selling my bull calves, but they only averaged €20/hd. The cull cow is also worth about €300 less.

"I'm happy to keep crossbreeding into the future, as I believe that the amount of productivity per animal liveweight is going to become more important, and the crossbreds have a great advantage on this.

"There's no penalty on size in the EBI, which ignores the cost of maintenance."

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