In this week’s Suckler Focus, That’s Farming, speaks to Newamber Herefords. Dan Waters discusses continuing his grandparent’s farm, calving heifers at 24-months, securing up to €700 for weanlings and his plans to sell bulls for breeding.
Newamber Herefords is a 60-acre enterprise comprising five breeding females and ten commercial Hereford, Limousin, and Red Norwegian suckler cows.
The Rathcoole, Dublin-based farm is a combined effort by Dan’s mother, Mary, (farm secretary), father, James, uncle, Tom Cullen junior, granny, Kathleen, brothers James and Andrew and sister, Sinead.
Tom Cullen established the pedigree herd 39 years ago by purchasing Newtown Tess from a Wexford farmer.
His grandson, Dan, four years ago continued the family’s long association with the breed by acquiring Portnanob Hilary for €1,800 from breeder, John Canty.
“Tom worked in Johnstown Kennedy house in Rathcoole across the road from us. He was born and raised there and was the farm manager. They always had Hereford cattle,” Dan Waters, a forklift mechanic with the Henry Forklift Group Limited, explained to That’s Farming.
“When my grandfather got too old to calf cows, he got rid of Hereford cattle, bought in weanlings and used sell them the next year as stores.”
“You were paying for weanlings and getting less money for store cattle. Also, the herd was getting smaller and smaller.”
“So, I started buying calves and bucket feeding them ten years. I went on to rear a few of the nice ones and put them in-calf.”
The family focus on Herefords to continue Tom’s love of the breed.
“Tom’s father also would have had Herefords and brought them to RDS spring shows and had trophies he won for Johnstown Kennedy house.”
“My grandfather always hoped to do shows like that himself, he added.
Dan opts for a Hereford cow, “which is solid, with a nice shaped head, has a good straight back and is square”.
They use AI sires, including Rathcor Ranger (RRA), his sire, Bishopshill General, is a bull his grandfather used) and Allowdale Rambo (HE5298).
The family find the Irish Hereford Breed Society’s Breed Improvement Scheme “impressive” for sire selection.
“We are feeling our way into this and learning as we go with a view to improving bloodlines and maybe, getting a few show winners.”
“With the Irish Hereford Breed Society, you can get AI straws from Australia and USA. So, there are all sorts of opportunities out there.”
“We ring up the AI station, order the semen, and they send AI straws to our local station.”
“Our AI technician, Ian Hamilton, looks at the cow, knows what we want and whatever straw he has, we use. So, far it has worked out well.”
“If we get a bull, happy days; if we get a heifer, then we expand the herd a little. So, we are not worried about sexed semen.”
“I always think it comes down to the dam; if you have a good cow, you will have a good calf.”
They calf pedigree Hereford cows from August onwards and their commercial herd from February to March.
A split calving season enables them to complete their off-farm jobs and have adequate housing.
“I would love to aim for compact calving. But, I am not at home full-time, so catching cows in heat is not always easy.”
“I get up before work in the morning and evening to bed them and look at them. I try to catch cows calving when I am around.”
He calves his heifers down at 24-month-old. “In my opinion, if you let them past this age, you are feeding them for a long time without getting any return out of them.”
“For example, if you buy a calf and keep her for two years and you have not sold her yet. Then, you do not get her in-calf until she is 30-months, and she is then 39-months calving.”
The family plan to sell their commercial bull calves as weanlings at 8-months-old on-farm or in Blessington Mart, achieving up to €700.
According to Dan, the plan with their three pedigree Hereford bulls is to showcase them at agricultural shows and sell some at the end of the summer.
“I did not retain any pedigree heifers from last year. However, I am happy enough with the cows I have. They are all fresh enough.”
“More dairy farmers use Hereford cows because they are easy calving and hardy. Also, there is a market for Hereford beef, and I am seeing people look for that.”
“I think for years, everyone went for Charolais, Limousin and Simmental bulls.”
“However, everything seems to be coming back around to Hereford and Angus bulls. There seems to be good quality bulls out there.”
He slaughters his commercial heifers in Foyle Meats, Donegal, under 30-months.
His average O grade Angus and Hereford cattle killed out at 329kgs whilst his U and R grade Limousin and Charolais cattle slaughtered at 353kg kill-out.
According to Dan, the family plan to cull four cows over the next two years – due to fertility and mastitis issues.
In addition, he buys in Angus, Hereford, Belgian Blue, and Charolais suck calves and weanlings via DoneDeal and privately for finishing.
“Our feed costs are low. We make our own silage, hay and supplement with fodder beet.”
“However, we are restricted with the farm’s acreage. We do not want to carry too many livestock.”
The family intend to focus on running a pedigree Hereford cattle herd solely.
“The idea of setting up the Instagram page was to try to get our name out there.”
They plan to continue soil testing, lime spreading and running a self-sufficient enterprise using its income to fund farm improvements and new infrastructure.
“Suckler farming will come back around. There seems to be more of a cry from people looking to know where their food comes from.”
“If suckler farming went, there would be a lot of people giving out about farming that there is no Irish beef.”
“If I said that to any of the farmers trying to make a living out of it, they would tell me I am dreaming. However, it is important, especially for small farms. We could not justify going into dairying or any enterprise like that.”
Reducing the national herd
Dan shared his view on the discussion around reducing the national herd.
“People have forgotten that agriculture is a massive part of this country, and it is what it was built on. Once it is gone, it is hard to get back.”
“It is very well managed, and the countryside needs that management.”
“There are a lot of buzz words in circulation that we need to cut this herd and that herd. Where is your beef going to come from? Are we just going to get it in from South America?”
“We need to look long-term instead of saying we will do this, and this will look great in Europe, we will cut this herd and show Europe we are doing the best.”
“Ireland needs its suckler herd. It has put a lot of people through college. For example, my grandfather’s 65-acre farm reared his family.”
“There is definitely a place for suckler farming in Ireland. I just feel it needs to be minded a bit more,” the suckler farmer concluded.
To share your story like this suckler farmer, email Catherina Cunnane, editor of That’s Farming, – [email protected]
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