In this week’s Suckler Focus That’s Farming, speaks to Gary Morrissey from Grangeford Limousins. We discuss breeding cattle to €12,800, purchasing cattle in Carlisle, why he breeds Limousins and his outlook on suckler farming.
In the early 2000s, Gary Morrissey, owner of the 75-strong Grangeford Limousin cow herd, converted the 150-acre family farm from commercial sucklers to a pedigree herd after his father retired.
The Grangeford, Tullow, County Carlow, native began building the herd’s foundation using three breeding females.
These included Killough Susie, Mountscott Tip-top bought at a pedigree Limousin sale in Tullow, plus Pelletstown Tulip from renowned breeder, Roger McCarrick.
“The first cow that got us established was Woodrow Ann, an outstanding cow. That was the first cow who brought the quality up to where we wanted it. She has bred a good few cows that we have in the herd today. We bought her around 2007 or 2008,” Gary Morrissey told That’s Farming.
“Then, we went to Carlisle in England to try up the game again. We bought Proctors Ena for 7,000gns, and we bought Goldies Flojo from the renowned Goldies herd for 10,500gns in 2012. The three cows our herd is now based on are Proctors Ena, Goldies Flojo and Woodrow Ann. All our bloodlines go back to these cows.”
“We first started embryo transfer (ET) when we bought Woodrow Ann. We would have done a lot of embryo transfer work since then, trying to get the best out of Proctors Ena and Goldies Flojo.”
“Generally, we have between 5 and 10 embryo transfer calves each year, depending on the year conception rates vary.
“In addition, embryo transfer enabled us to breed some exceptional cattle from our top cows. For example, Procters Ena has bred 33 calves to date.”
Why Limousin cattle?
Gary outlined why he selected the breed and the traits he seeks in his breeding females.
“I always liked Limousin cattle as they are easy-care, especially pedigree wise, as some breeds can be a lot trickier than others.”
“The Limousin cows generally calve down on their own and mind their calf well. They have a good amount of muscle without being over extreme while not losing their maternal qualities.”
“We love a pretty head and breed character in our females. So, we try to breed them as long as we can, with good confirmation in the mothers without being over extreme while trying to keep enough milk to rear a good strong calf.”
“Temperament is very important. We have a fierce low tolerance on bad temperament, so we cull anything that is any way tricky.”
“We concentrate on having quality bulls to sell while also trying to keep our females feminine. It is a tricky thing to do, but we try to keep the balance in them.”
“In general, Limousin are one of the top breeds in Ireland. They breed the quality you need for good conformation and kill out well on the ratios regarding bone and muscle. They always seem to leave a decent return regarding other breeds.”
Calving and breeding programme
Calving on the farm takes place from September to March, with most completed before Christmas. “It leaves us with a hardier bull to sell in the spring when the demand is there.”
The farm uses a small amount of AI and Gary has retained Grangeford Jojo, overall male champion at the Irish National Limousin Show in Tullamore in 2015, in the herd.
“Since then, he has been running with the herd and standing in AI with Elite Pedigree Genetics for the last couple of years. We mainly use UK bulls for AI, with quite a number used from the Ampertaine herd in Northern Ireland.”
“The farm sells 8 to 9 bulls on the farm each year – depending on the male to female ratio, keeping any standout bull for Irish Limousin Cattle Society premier sales.”
Gary sells surplus females at the Premium Red Ladies Production Sale, which he hosts with fellow breeders Mick Malone, and Tom Bailey host bi-annually.
“We have achieved many prizes in the Irish Limousin Cattle Society Roscrea premier sale with bulls selling at reasonable prices. Our best price achieved to date was a bull sold in May at the premier sale in Roscrea. He was top-price of the sale at €6,800.”
“Our highest priced female to date was Grangeford Lady, a full sister to our stock bull Grangeford Jojo), who sold for €12,800 in our first heifer sale in 2018.”
Gary plans to scale back his herd to a one-person operation due to time constraints, hold his top-quality status, continue to attend agricultural shows, and visit sales in Carlisle.
“It is the most enjoyable part of breeding. Meeting people and admiring the cattle throughout the summer at shows across the country keeps me going.”
“Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, we were over in England three times a year. We would always go over to the Carlisle bull sales whether we would be buying or not.”
“It is usually a social thing, a weekend away to meet people you have not met in a couple of months and look at the cattle. A few recent purchases that have brought new genetics into the herd are Tweedale Lollipop and Hatcliffe Ode.”
“I think the future of suckler farming is good. People getting out of suckler farming is levelling off a bit. We would be hopeful that there will always be suckler cows in Ireland.”
“We are being scapegoated at the moment, but the suckler cow is and will always be very important to our island,” the owner of Grangeford Limousins concluded.
Gary Morrissey provided all imagery for this article
To share your story like Grangeford Limousins, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – email@example.com