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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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‘One labour unit can easily cope with 100 suckler cows if the females are right’

Matthew Goulding, a former engineer, who runs the multi-prize-winning 110-strong Goulding Angus and and Gouldingpoll Herefords herds, is this week’s featured Suckler Focus farmer.

Matthew Goulding is a name synonymous with superior Angus and homozygous polled Hereford cattle that are highly sought-after worldwide.

In 2006, the Kerry native became a full-time farmer, after working as an engineer for close to two decades. Born on a dairy farm, he longed to become a full-time farmer at some point, but a company closure accelerated his decision.

For several years, he combined his part-time farming commitments with a full-time position as a mechanical engineer, utilising off-farm income to increase cow numbers and his land base.

“We have been increasing cow numbers year-on-year to justify being a full-time farmer and to increase revenue. We now have 110 pedigree suckler cows and their followers.” Matthew of Goulding Angus and Gouldingpoll Herefords told That’s Farming.

Goulding Angus, pedigree cattle, breeding cattle, livestock, Angus cows, grassland management

Angus and homozygous polled Herefords

Matthew, runs the 160-acre enterprise in Ballyduff, Tralee, with the help of his wife, Rita, and, together, the couple has four sons: David, Jack, Darragh and Kevin.

He farms the all-Ireland winning herd of Angus under the Goulding prefix and homozygous polled Herefords under the Gouldingpoll name, selling pedigree registered bulls and heifers worldwide.

Initially, he sourced some foundation females in Ireland, but as time progressed, he began looking further afield, mainly throughout the UK and the Nordic countries. Some of the stock he wished to purchase were not for sale, so he ventured down the road of purchasing embryos from the world’s top cow families.

“Embryo Transfer and recovery work is a big part of our business and is ongoing all-year-round. We sell approximately 100 embryos every year throughout Europe with approximately 20 ET calves born on the farm yearly.”

“Also, we sell a small number of recipients carrying sexed pregnancies also. We use only the best females for ET with embryo sales, representing 20% of the farm’s income annually.”

National Hereford Champion Gouldingpoll 1 Duchess, Hereford, polled Hereford cattle, pedigree breeding
National Hereford Champion, Gouldingpoll 1 Duchess
‘Never lose focus on cow quality’

He utilises 100% AI on his polled Hereford herd, while 20% of Angus females AI’d and carefully selected stock bulls serve the remainder to enhance female lines.

20% of the herd calve in autumn, with a further 20% in early spring and the remainder calve in the late spring and early summer, mainly due to management and housing requirements. Favourable weather in late spring allows outdoor calving or cow, and calf pairs can be turned out to pasture immediately post-calving.

“The most important thing is to strive constantly and to never to lose focus on cow quality. Whether you are in dairying or suckling, this is critical. This is going to determine the profitability and labour requirements of the farm. One labour unit can easily cope with 100 suckler cows if the females are right.”

National Hereford Show Denmark, Hereford, Hereford cattle, Matthew Goulding
Matthew judging the National Hereford Show in Denmark 2019

In Matthew’s view, fundamentally a cow must be docile; have a long, clean, feminine body with a smooth shoulder widening all the way back to the pelvis; standing on four good legs and feet with a well-attached udder and good teat placement.

“Get that right before you start looking at any other minor features. This leads to longevity, fertility and minimum intervention by the farmer and believe me, this doesn’t happen overnight.”

“You should avoid extremes when it comes to the size and weight of the cow; however, there needs to be feed efficiency and an appropriate weaning ratio regardless. Get the females right, and the bulls will follow.”

“The most expensive animal on the farm, in any breeding programme, is a first calver, or an in-calf heifer, who have yet to provide a saleable progeny to contribute to the expense in getting them this far. Hence, the importance of longevity.”

Matthew Goulding, Youth Development workshop, Angus cattle, farm, young breeders
Matthew delivering talk at Youth Development Programme workshop
Age of first calving and older genetics

Goulding retains up to fifteen heifers as replacements annually, but his replacement rate was higher during the height of the herd’s expansion phase.

22-26 months is the age of first calving, which is “relatively easy” with the Angus and Hereford breeds. He stated that calving at this early age is a “real bonus” in terms of profitability, with a view to calving these females again at 36 months.

Goulding firmly believes there is little justification in keeping an under-performer when it can be replaced with younger blood. He gives all cows a fair chance to perform to the best of their genetic ability.

“We cull females that disappoint, providing it is their own fault, and not mine, or are surplus to requirement. Like everything else, genetics evolve. I am not a believer in using older genetics going back 20 odd years. If we are serious about what we are doing and doing it right, we need to keep moving forward using modern feed-efficient genetics.”

“We are aware that breeding stock we sell annually are going to be the next crop of calves out there in the industry. My highlight is seeing the next generation of calves being born and wondering which of them will be the next game-changer.” Matthew added.

Gouldingpoll 1 Stockma, polled Hereford cattle, suckler farmer, suckler farming
Gouldingpoll 1 Stockman sold to Cogent AI station in the UK in 2019. Image credit: MacGregor Photography
AI bulls and steps to success

Goulding sells 40/50 breeding bulls on-farm yearly, with a high percentage of repeat customers for males and females alike.

The herd has bulls in AI in both Ireland and the UK with Angus sires including Goulding Bond, Jumbo King, Prince, Man Oh Man, Perryman F205, Paddy, Razzle Dazzle and Real Leather.

Furthermore, six of the herd’s Hereford bulls stand in AI: Gouldingpoll 1 – Superduty, Captain, Stockman, Gold Spice, Easy Peezy and Zoro.

As outlined, the world-renowned breeder believes quality productive females combined with a good time and grassland management plan (a one-day paddock system is operated on this farm) are the key elements of running a successful suckler enterprise.

“I feel we are, eventually, where we set out to be many years ago. We will continue to improve the quality and efficiency of our stock and endeavour to focus on environmentally friendly practices while doing so.”

“Good cattle will always sell and will always make enough. More importantly, it’s not how much you get for your animal on market day; it’s what it costs to produce it,” Matthew Goulding concluded.

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