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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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Video: ‘For me, one bull does not do everything’ – Cork suckler farmer finishing all progeny

Future Beef farmer, Ger McSweeney, originally, operated a suckler-to-weanling system, before moving to a spring-calving suckler-to-beef enterprise some five years ago.

He runs his farm in Millstreet, Co Cork, finishing bulls under 16 months of age and heifers under 21 months.

The farm spans 32ha, with the highest point on the farm being over 900 metres above sea level.

The farm’s breeding policy revolves around 100% AI, on foot of “an aim to improve genetics”, a move which has enabled him to increase his replacement index and match each cow to a particular sire.


During a recent episode of Teagasc’s Beef Edge podcast, he told Catherine Egan, presenter, about his breeding programme and the benefits that AI is bringing to his herd.

“When I ran a suckler-to-weanling system, I ran a stock bull but moved to AI to introduce the highest genetics to the herd in both maternal and on the terminal side as well.”

“For me, one bull does not do everything, so I am looking for, on the maternal side, a bull with fertility, milk and docility, and on the terminal side, good carcass weight, conformation and coupled with that, ease of calving.”

“You can match a bull to a cow and there is a huge selection of bulls available through AI, so that is why I have tapped into that market.”

“I am using a more maternal bull on the cows that I want replacements off, while the cows that I do not want replacements off, I am using a more terminal bull.”

In addition, this year, he has trialled female sexed semen in a bid to increase the number of female progeny born on the farm, with conception rates hovering around the 50% mark.

He noted that conception rates were “difficult at the start of the year because the weather in April was cold”.

“For a two to three-week period, there was a high repeat rate, but after that, it steadied again,” he added.


Preparation for weaning begins on September 1st, every year, with a creep grazing system in place.

By doing so, “calves are getting the best quality grass at all times to improve their weight gains”.

In a video produced by Teagasc, which the state agency has released on its YouTube channel, he explained:

“We also introduce meal approximately four weeks before they are weaned and two weeks after they are weaned. They can consume up to a kg per day via a creep feeder or troughs, whichever is handiest on the farm.”

“As part of our herd health status here, we vaccinate our weanlings every year. Six weeks prior to weaning, we vaccinate for pneumonia, which covers P13, RSV and the bacterium Mannheimia haemolytica.”

“Basically, four weeks after the first vaccination, they get a booster and after the six weeks, then they are ready for weaning.”

“Our target weaning dates here for our bulls is around mid-October and then around November 1st for heifers.”

“About a week before weaning, the nose paddles are fitted to them, which breaks the bond between the calf and the cow.”

“At weaning time, cows and calves are brought in. Cows are kept in; calves are let back out and we find there is very little stress on them with this method.”

“I do this with three or four bunches, not to do all this at once. Once the bulls are done, usually they are kept in and heifers are sent back out again for grazing as long as weather permits.”

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