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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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‘Some people thought we were mad to breed red and whites’ – Montbéliarde breeder

“When we started first, some people thought we were mad to breed red and whites, but we have proven we were not crazy,” claims Michael Guinan, Tullamore, Co. Offaly, who has been breeding Montbéliarde cattle since 1990.

In recent years, alongside Kevin Guinan, the duo has moved to robotic milking, which they run in harmony with a spring-calving, grass-based system (ABC grazing) on a fragmented grazing platform.

Superior genetics has been a key driver of their success, which has revolved around females with 30 years of AI breeding.

“The cows are milking very well for us, with 512kgs of solids on 1.5-1.6 tonnes of meal, as some years we were hit with a drought,” Michael told attendees of Dovea Genetics’ Montbéliarde information webinar.

“At the end of the day, I think it [MS figures] as respectable as, at the end of the day, we have a good beef calf from them as well.”

“For the last ten years, Ferrol Roche, Coopex export manager, has done it for us for the last ten years, and I think he is quite pleased with what he sees on the ground.”

“We would encourage people who are thinking of breeding Montbéliarde to join our society because it has a good back-up for breeders, with access to the best advice from France several times annually.”

some people thought we were mad to breed red and whitescattle

The duo rear all Montbéliarde and Angus bulls on the farm, finishing these as bulls at 18-21 months, reaching R grades and collecting beef bonuses.

Michael continued: “We are stocked fairly heavily on the farm, so we have to watch nitrates and have moved from a steer system to a bull system to be able to finish the animals younger and move them off-farm that bit faster.”

“We tried going to marts with store bullocks, and the mart trade meets them as dairy stock. So, we found that by selling them as bulls, we were able to get a better return from our stock that way.”

Maiden heifers, on the other hand, are bred to an Aberdeen Angus stock bull in spring on a separate grazing platform.

During the virtual information session, they provided kill-out data from progeny, which they slaughtered in November/December 2022, as follows –

Montbeliarde bulls:

  • Average weight of 370kgs;
  • Top weight of 458kgs;
  • 40% graded Rs;
  • 60% graded Os – O= and O+;
  • Fat scores: 3+ and 4s.

Aberdeen Angus bulls from MO heifers:

  • Average weight of 355kgs;
  • Top weight of 385kgs;
  • 60% graded Rs;
  • 40% were Os – All O+ plus.
‘Not just a beef animal’

Kevin added: “The dual-purpose Montbeliarde cow is working in the system, and we are able to produce milk and KGs of milk solids, as well as having calf and cull cow value.”

“I think the Montbeliard ticks a lot of boxes, and I cannot see a reason to move away from them.”

“You have multiple options with stock, and you still have a cow that is capable of producing a respectable milk yield.”

“They are not just a beef animal. Some people think they are, but they are capable of being a good dairy breed as well as giving other traits. I genuinely do not think that we will be moving anytime soon.”

“They have taken very well to the robots. We put 112 cows on the robot last spring, and only one did not suit the system, which speaks volumes for the breed and the breeding that has gone into making sure the udder is correct and right.

“We selected them for fast milking speeds with their good temperament; they are not nervous. They visit our Lely robot, on average, 2.5 to 3 times per day. They have correctly placed teats, functional feet and legs, which leads to longevity, and we have uniformity across the herd,” he concluded.

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