That’s Farming editor, Catherina Cunnane, in conversation with Katie Corridan of Roundhill Limousins, Fedamore, County Limerick, in this week’s Suckler Focus.
“My name is Katie Corridan, and I live on our family farm in Fedamore, Co. Limerick. We have a large pedigree Limousin herd, about 200 cattle, with 100 breeding cows on 205-acres divided across two farms.
Farming is on both sides of my family. My father, Tim, has farmed all his life, originally calf-to-beef in partnership with my uncle, Maurice, next door, who is a dairy farmer.
I have great memories of rearing dairy calves up early before school and rushing out after school to help dad have the buckets ready.
Dad always kept some commercial sucklers, and since he married my mother, Doreen, they started breeding pedigree cattle.
Initially, this was a combination of both Charolais and Limousin, but in recent times, purely Limousin, and slowly, the herd became fully pedigree over time.
My father’s sister, Hanora, also has a stud farm in Limerick and breeds thoroughbred horses, so on that side, it is a full house of farmers interested in breeding.
On my mother’s side, my grandfather was a dairy farmer who had pedigree British Friesians and some Simmentals.
His passion for breeding has definitely been passed on as four out of his six children breed pedigree cattle (with the other two aunties being very supportive!).
For dad, calving ease is absolutely paramount; each of our cows must calve unassisted.
My dad farms full-time, with both myself and my mother working outside the farm, taking every opportunity in the evenings and weekends to farm.
We chose to breed Limousin as they combine my father’s penchant for sucklers with milk and great mothering abilities with my mother’s love of good quality cattle.
The foundations of our herd have come from importing proven French females, often the dams of bulls who have bred very well.
These include Giroflee (dam of Nenuphar), Disette (mother of Ideal 23) and Melodie (mother of Ramses). I regularly go to Europe with mam on the hunt for new genetics.
Sometimes the most difficult part is how to explain to my commercially-minded dad that a 10-year-old cow was worth the price of 10 suckler weanlings.
Travelling around Europe gave us the confidence to make the switch to breeding polled Limousins in 2014.
Our oldest polled cows are in their sixth lactation and equal their horned counterparts. This spring, we had some repeat customers looking for their next polled bull because they did not want to dust off the de-horner.
True to form, we use predominately AI with some ET work with a stock bull for cleaning up in spring.
JK Miro, our stock bull, to me, is the full package; great quality, easy calving and most importantly, a gentle soul who loves scratches. Culling for docility is very important, but so is breeding for it.
My ideal cow would be the perfect balance of show-quality with functionality – milk, fertility and correctness. The goal is to have a 100% polled herd while continuing to breed for these traits and maintaining breed characteristics.
Split calving pattern
We have a split calving pattern, September to December and mid-January to April. This is mostly due to limited calving facilities but does have the advantage of having strong bulls throughout the year.
We calve all heifers between 24-26 months where possible; it takes a little bit more management, but I think it is worth it in the long run to maximise profits.
We sell bulls for breeding, usually between 14-18 months, mostly in autumn/springtime. Furthermore, we have a sale for our heifers every two years, a mixture of in-calf and maiden females.
Our whole herd is genotyped; we do this at birth as we are a member of the DNA calf registration programme.
As pedigree breeders, this is crucial to verifying ancestry, giving confidence to both ourselves and the buyer. And as we are breeding for polledness, genotyping can give us definitive proof if an animal is polled or horned at a young age.
The rising cost of inputs has definitely been challenging this year. We have used far less fertiliser, aiming to put a greater focus on clover and grassland management which can be more difficult with sucklers.
Luckily, I completed my Green Cert last year, and it gave me a greater appreciation and understanding of grass measuring, fertiliser use and soil sampling.
I am passionate about suckler farming and its place in Irish agriculture. I love seeing the bond between mother and calf develop and watching that calf grow all the way through to a breeding animal.
Nothing will beat that sense of pride. I also think suckler farming gives us a unique opportunity to work with the land in some more difficult environments where other farming practices would not be suitable, and this should be applauded.
Often, the best sucklers are found on harsher land; we have sold bulls to farmers in the Burren and the Beara Peninsula.
Growing up, I always had a calf to exhibit at summer shows, and it was often a hard goodbye to my calves at society sales.
Agriculture shows made a welcome return this summer after three years off; it was wonderful to get back in the thick of it meeting everyone.
A lot of our good family friends are known through showing and our local Limousin club, South West.
I became involved in Limerick Show in 2015, at the start of college and have remained cattle secretary ever since. We are always looking for new members; our show is on next weekend, Sunday, August 28th, 2022.
Future of farming
I think the future of farming is bright, and in particular, it is brilliant to see #WomenInAg becoming more mainstream.
Women have always been integral to Irish farms, yet it was often seen as a very male-dominated industry. My mother, Doreen, and aunt, Rosalish, taught me the foundations of breeding and judging cattle.
As an only daughter, I was very lucky to have excellent female role models in agriculture, more of which are needed. I would sincerely hope that in the future, gender will not be a limiting factor to a successful career in agriculture.
Managing my time is definitely challenging, and I know this is not unique to my own circumstances with so many suckler farmers working outside of the farm.
I do not get the balance right all of the time, but this is one of the benefits of a family farm, with everyone working together.
Farming is most definitely a lifestyle, but it is hard to find anything to compare to the pure happiness and satisfaction it brings.
I have always loved horse-riding, and farming has given me the opportunity to keep my two horses at home, who live alongside the cattle. I love my animals and cannot imagine a life without them.”
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