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HomeBeef‘Every shilling counts’ – 90-cow farmer on using beef AI
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘Every shilling counts’ – 90-cow farmer on using beef AI

Hugh Egan is reaping the benefits of utilising both dairy and beef AI.

He farms 90 spring-calving cross-bred cows, and approximately 20 followers, on a fragmented farm in County Offaly.

The dairy farmer is attempting to “produce as much milk and as much profit as we can from grass on a low-cost system”.

Egan utilises beef AI bulls from the start of the breeding system, selecting either Angus or Hereford bulls using the DBI (Dairy-Beef Index). He crosses these on selected cows he earmarks and herd’s low-performing cows.

“Breeding is important to us here, every shilling counts. I use beef AI from the start of the season which is probably unusual. The reason for using beef bulls is because we are inclined to get them out of the place quicker, especially years like this year and last, when it was hard to move on stock.”

“You are depending on boats and shippers for Friesian and Kiwi bulls. There is always a demand for them [beef stock].”

“There is always someone to buy a Hereford heifer or an Angus. They also add value because they are worth more, obviously. They increase calf sales and every pound counts in this game.” Egan concluded.

A better beef calf with no extra physical work

According to Dr Siobhan Ring, ICBF, there is an opportunity to use both dairy and beef AI from the start of the breeding season as opposed to mopping up with beef AI at the end of the season.

In a video recently released by Teagasc, she stated how this is a change to the system but ultimately can lead to increased profitability.

She commented on how the number of replacements required by dairy herds has reduced due to an improvement in cow’s fertility and longevity or where farmers have achieved expansion targets.

Siobhan outlined that in this scenario, farmers select the best cows (highest EBI) to breed with high-EBI dairy bulls and use beef bulls with the high dairy beef index on their problem cows/cows of poorer genetic merit.

“Irrespective of when the poorer genetic merit cows come bulling, you mate them to beef whether it is four-days or four-weeks into the breeding season.”

“In addition, it will increase the number of high genetic merit beef calves born. Of course, beef breed calves born to high dairy beef index bulls can be easy calving, have a short gestation and, very importantly, have a high carcass merit.”

“This should result in more valuable calves and saleable calves, which are more saleable than the surplus dairy bull calves or beef calves from bulls that are of a poorer dairy beef index.”

She highlighted how no extra physical work is required for farmers to achieve a better beef calf.

“Just half an hour some evening sitting down to pick out the cows for the beef bulls and to pick the beef bulls to match them.”

“The Dairy Beef Index will identify the beef bulls that are easy calving, have a short gestation and also have high carcass attributes.” Ring concluded.

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