From humble beginnings to international interest, Martin O’Connor’s hotly-anticipated in-calf heifer sale is an annual highlight in the suckler farming calendar.
Sales rings have been packed-to-the-rafters for over fifteen years, but there will be a different sight this year, because of the global pandemic.
With the country placed under Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, this year’s sale will be held in an online-only format.
50 high-end commercial heifers with “power and style” will go under the hammer at Elphin Mart, Co. Roscommon on Friday, November 6th, at 7 pm.
This year’s consignment comprises mainly of Limousin-cross-Simmentals, Limousin-cross-Charolais, Limousin-cross-Belgian-Blues and Simmental-cross-Charolais.
Speaking to That’s Farming, O’Connor said: “I search for the best possible, proven easy-calving high-reliability sires that breed high-quality progeny.”
“I am using the same AI bulls for the past for years. Heifers have been served to EBY, Lodge Hamlet (LM4058) and Queenshead Altea (S593). The first of my heifers are calving around October 20th with an expectation that most will have calved down by January 20th.”
O’Connor has a high herd health status, with a C10 rating. It should be noted that heifers have been vaccinated for IBR, have been tested for Johnes and Neospora and are export-tested.
Up to five years ago, the Roscommon native sourced over 90% of his heifers in livestock marts, but now that figure has dropped to 50%.
“Farmers ring me when they have suitable stock because they know exactly what I am looking for. I also commonly buy heifers off the females that I have sold.”
“When selecting heifers, the first trait I look for is docility. I would not have it on my conscience that I sold a wild heifer to someone.”
“Secondly, she must have power, being over 600kgs. Thirdly, the breeding female must be of U to U+ grade conformation, without compromising on maternal abilities.”
“Another important trait is a wide pelvis for ease of calving, and lastly, colour is important. If I like a heifer and she has stars, so be it.”
“There are buyers out there for top-quality animals all the time. The customers I have that give from €3,000-€5,000 for quality breeding heifers are interested in breeding show stock.”
Nationwide and international buyers
Purchasers travel from all corners of the country to O’Connor’s annual sale, with some destined for Northern Ireland and as far as Yorkshire.
Last year’s sale-topper, a Wilodge Joskins, daughter, was acquired by one of Ireland’s largest suckler farms, Tateetra and Rathmore Farms’, for €5,000.
The Limousin-cross’s first calf, an EBY daughter called Rumour, changed hands for €4,100 at the 500-strong suckler cow farm’s sale on October 2nd.
“There is a solid demand for top-quality heifers; there is no doubt about it. When you are building a house or a wall, the first thing you do is lay down a good foundation.”
“Having a good foundation is key to keeping suckler farming profitable in Ireland. You couldn’t have your cows too good.”
Premium of €300-€400/head
“High-end progeny are commanding premiums in marts, and there seems to be a bigger price gap developing. In recent years, these calves were making €200-€250/head more than their counterparts that are two steps back.”
“350kg calves are making €3.50/kg (€1,225), and another 350kgs calf can make €800. Think about it – the two dams are likely to be eating the same amount of silage, they are producing and rearing a calf. The profitability of one over the other is absolutely astronomical.”
“€300-€400/head more is a lot of money. Even when the cattle trade is ‘on the floor’, if you have good quality stock, you will always get the price of them.”
“In my opinion, that is the way it should be – top-quality cattle should be making a premium price,” Martin concluded.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, viewing of cattle will be facilitated from 12 pm in line with strict Covid-19 protocols – social-distancing, wearing of facemasks/face-coverings and use of hand sanitiser.
Martin will accommodate on-farm viewings by appointment only – Contact Martin on 0872882858.
Potential purchasers are urged to register on Mart Bids and contact Elphin Mart on 071-9035061 to approve their application.
Image and video credit: Tricia Kennedy