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HomeEditor's Picks‘Beyond our wildest dreams’ – Laois farmers who bred €18k heifer
Conor Halpin
Conor Halpin
Journalism intern.
Reading Time: 6 minutes

‘Beyond our wildest dreams’ – Laois farmers who bred €18k heifer

In this week’s Suckler Focus That’s Farming speaks to Sean Ramsbottom, a farmer from Laois. He discusses receiving a record-breaking price for a herd, reducing suckler cow numbers to focus on ET work, calving heifers at 24-months, DIY AI, and scanning.

The weekend of Carrick Winter Fair 2021 is one the Ramsbottom family and friends will never forget.

The family made an unrivalled debut appearance on the show circuit at the two-day event by setting what is believed to be a new price for a weanling heifer.

As reported by That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, they secured €18,000 for a February-born Ampertaine Elgin daughter on Monday, November 22nd, 2021.

Her dam – carrying Blak 5075 Baty Eprave (BYU), Elite Forever Brill ET (TVR) and Doonally New (CF52) blood – came to the family’s farm from Roscrea dairy farmer and family friend, Michael Gowing.

Sean Ramsbottom Jnr, a Kildalton Agricultural College graduate, told That’s Farming:

“We were expecting her to go well, but that was a bit beyond our wildest dreams that she was going to do as well as that.”

“A friend, Enda McGee, said to me on Sunday: ‘you may go out and ring your parents, fiancée Annmarie and get them to come up here’. He said the sale was going to go very well for us.”

“I have him to thank for some of the people being up there.”

“Annmarie was on the way up. However, she had to turn to go back as our little year-and-a-half-old child slipped and cut her lip. She had to go to hospital and get stitches.”

“So, Annmarie missed out; that was very disappointing. It would not have happened without her help.”

“There were plenty of evenings Jack and I would have said we would be back in two minutes. We went over to the yard and could be two hours there.”

“We were very busy at home ourselves as our little child Heidi was born in June. Also, we moved into a new house on the Friday of the sale.”

Appreciation

The family expressed their appreciation to all who helped with the sale.

“I would like to thank Dave Pearson, Scott Pearson, Billy Dunne, Gráinne Higgins, Tommy Fitzgerald, and Paschal Foyle for all their help preparing the heifer.”

“The atmosphere, how nice people were around Carrick the whole weekend, and all the well wishes are unbelievable.”

“We would be very new to the show scene. It was our first time to have anything in any show, anywhere. We were happy with the start, but it will be a tough act to follow.”

“We would like to wish the new owners the very best of luck with Jack’s heifer. I sold her full-brother at Ballinakill Livestock Mart three weeks ago. A person from Donegal bought him for showing.”

Laois suckler farmer

Sean farms a medium-sized dairy and suckler farm with his grandparents Sean, and Brid, father, John, brother, Micheal, and son, Jack.

The enterprise, in Timahoe, Laois, comprises a small number of commercial suckler cows and a 100-cow high-EBI Holstein-British-Friesian dairy herd.

The family previously operated a pedigree herd consisting of Limousin, Charolais and Belgian Blue cows under the Fossey prefix.

“We have had a few different pedigree Belgian Blue, Limousin and Charolais cows. However, we are trying to concentrate on the commercial end of it now.”

We bought a good Limousin heifer at a Irish Limousin Cattle Society show and sale a few years ago. We flushed her, sold a few bulls, and kept one of her heifers.”

In May 2021, the family reduced suckler cow numbers due to land availability and to switched their focus to ET work with champion embryos.

“The top price on the day was €6,020 for a cow for breeding, and she was 1,005kg. There were other lots from €2,000 to €3,500.”

Breed choice

He explained why they chose Limousin-cross, Charolais-cross and Belgian Blue-cross cows.

“There seems to be a demand out there, and we were always breeding for females. One that would stand up in the show ring but will always go on to be a top functional working cow.”

“You would be looking for the top Limousin Charolais or Belgian Blue genetics. If you get them all together, you have a good base to work off.  We would think a cow is the most important part of it.”

Breeding programme

The sires the family use Elderberry Galahad (EBY), Wilodge Cerberus (WGE), and 3033 DU GRAND BON DIEU (BB2247) and Lanzac (LNZ).

“If you have a Limousin cow, you might use Belgian Blue on her. If you had a Belgian Blue cow, you might use a Limousin bull. You cross over and back.”

“We have not used any sexed semen yet, but it will be in action going forward.”

“I think there are plenty of AI companies, and a wide selection of bulls.”

Calving

The family operate a spring-calving system with ultrasound scanning being a key practice on-farm.

“I do be away a lot as I have a scanning business, SR Scanning. I am 11 years at it now, and I have an employee with me, Steven Patton, from Newport, Mayo.”

“Also, Steven does a lot of AI and sync programmes on large batches of heifers.”

The Ramsbottoms scan on 15th April, conduct a 6-week scan on June 10th and undertake a final scan 40 days after removing the bull.

This provides the family with accurate calving dates and identifies sexes.

“With the pre-breeding scan, you are able to identify problems ten days before breeding starts,” the Laois suckler farmer added.

“Then, you have all your cows ready to hit the ground running for the first day of breeding.”

“You will then be able to do a mid-season scan and identify any early embryonic deaths, a cow that is cystic, or missed teats.”

The Midlands family calf heifers at two-years-old. “It has always been the tradition on the farm to calf them at two years of age, and it seems to be working well.”

They assist very few cow calvings and believe this is because of sire selection and cows in good condition.

The family sell some progeny at Ballinakill Livestock Mart. “Some of the bull calves are used as hybrid bulls, or else if there was one good enough, they might be sold for showing.”

They aim to pick a sire for a cow with €3.00/kg+ being their target price for progeny.

Grassland management and farm plans

They manage their grassland by tightly strip grazing paddocks and allocating a fresh supply every two days.

The family plan to continue dairying, concentrate on breeding their small number of top-end suckler cows using ET work with a few show type ones as an “added bonus”.

“You will always get paid for fairly good stock. I see a lot of suckler people getting into dairy farming.”

“I am beginning to see the suckler farmer forgotten about. Furthermore, I do not think that would be good for the rural community at all,” Sean Ramsbottom concluded.

To share your story like this Laois suckler farmer, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]

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