Beef producer group, Irish Hereford Prime, has handed the Irish Hereford Prime Farmer of the Year 2022 award title to Mayo farmer, Lorraine Crowe, for a high percentage of her cattle consistently grading Rs, their constant average daily liveweight gain and a commitment to and advocacy of Herefords.
She combines a career in nursing with her role as a farmer on her family farm in Hollymount.
She introduced a calf-to-beef system onto her farm one decade ago years ago and now rears around fifty calves per year; she has been a member of Irish Hereford Prime since 2014.
Her journey with the breed began ten years ago when she “happened to buy a few Herefords, and I just really liked them”.
“They are so docile and so easy to manage and work with. The calves are out on grass from an early age, and the paddock system that I put in place is used to maintain grass quality.”
Lorraine believes this is “the key” to animal performance and good daily liveweight gain.
She moves animals every two to three days, and Lorraine has used pigtail posts and electric fencing to create and manage paddocks in the past.
Moreover, she has plans to erect more permanent fencing in the future to further utilise the high levels of grass grown on the farm.
Lorraine aims to keep her winter season “as short as possible” by giving her weanlings access to the outdoors along with the shelter of a shed for supplementary feeding.
She aims to close off part of the farm by November 1st, with housing starting around December 1st, to ensure that she has grass available for early grazing the following March.
This year was more challenging than usual as Lorraine had less shed space, with a rented shed no longer in the mix.
This meant that more of the animals had to be outwintered, but fortunately for her, the Hereford breed is “suited to the outdoors and is well adapted” to the Irish weather”.
The sheds that are in use this year are bedded with straw, and the animals are fed on high-quality silage with a high level of protein, particularly for younger growing stock.
She earmarks St. Patrick’s Day as turn-out day to ensure “they get the best of the early grass”.
Lorraine believes in cutting good silage early in the season and aims to have her first crop harvested in early June.
The ground she uses for the silage is grazed off ahead of closing it for the first cut.
When purchasing calves, Lorraine reassures that a visual assessment is “the best measure”.
She prefers a “big, strong, healthy” calf, and for this reason, she takes age into account.
Some of the calves purchased for the farm come from local dairy farms, while others are sourced from Co. Kerry, where Lorraine tends to have “a larger choice of Hereford calves to select from”.
Strong attention to detail and a high level of care ensures that calf health is “good” on the Hollymount farm. Lorraine’s background in nursing means that she understands how important health management is.
All of the animals on the farm are weighed in September ahead of finishing, but also to monitor performance and divide the calves into different groups.
Most of the Hereford heifers and steers are slaughtered at 19-22 months of age, with a very high percentage of these Hereford cross animals grading as Rs.
She supplies her cattle to Kepak Athleague and consistently meets the required carcass specification to achieve the top bonuses available.
There is currently a portion of her steers sold live as forward stores, due to the lack of shed space.
Lorraine plans to change this approach next year by constructing another shed with the assistance of a 60% TAMS grant.
2023 will see a further area of the farm reseeded to incorporate clover to reduce the overall nitrogen requirement while at the same time helping to reduce Green House Gas emissions.
To add to this environmental focus, Lorraine has recently joined the ACRES programme, having selected traditional stonewall maintenance, low-input pasture, along with an area that has been set aside for geese and swans.
As the third generation to work the farm in Hollymount, Lorraine would like it to stay in the family in the future. Her father is still actively involved, and her nephew and two nieces also love to help out.
Lorraine enjoys passing on her knowledge and is “delighted” to see them and, in particular, her nephew’s enthusiasm for rearing calves.
“I love to see the changes and the good performance of Hereford animals; it is hugely satisfying for all of us to watch them thrive and grow.”