As we hang up our bovine delivery gowns and put the calving jack to one side until the autumn, all eyes are now fixed securely on the herd’s breeding programme as the season gets into gear.
With close to 100% AI utilised on the herd last year – a decision that was made due to an issue that arose with our stockbull, we have since purchased a highly-renowned young bull with promising French blood that strikes a powerful balance between maternal and terminal traits. We have had a number of calves on the ground already – we felt the need to break him into the swing of things and to find out exactly how his genetics would combine with our Aubrac dams – so far so good – his progeny were easy-calved and are docile, with style; length and power.
As recent as Sunday, I picked my top sires of the year, Aubrac; Limousin; Charolais and Culard Charolais which are available either through Irish or French AI. Each one of the cows and heifers have been matched to a sire that I deem as appropriate. A selective breeding policy is at the fore of our farm –bulls are chosen to correct the breeding females’ fault. For example, if a cow has a poor topline, a bull displaying a good topline will be introduced to improve the genetic pool in a bid to produce progeny of superior genetic merit – it is all about breed development and improvement.
On the Aubrac front this week, I am selecting Capitain; Armenian; Dolby and Obelix all of which are varied, proven bulls with different strengths. These will be selected for the pedigree breeding females, with a particular focus on producing progeny with strong maternal traits.
We are selecting ZAG as our top Limousin bull this year – we have numerous progeny off this bull this year and I am happy with their progress – they are displaying style and nice muscling without the use of the calving - so there is another plus!
In relation to Charolais and Culard Charolais sires – Fiston; Cavelands Fenian and Simba are rising to the top for me again this year. Ease of calving and strong terminal traits with the ability to produce a nice golden Charolais-cross for bull-beef production is what I have my eye on. We finish all our bulls under 16-months of age, so a good frame; growth and muscle with the ability to meet our specifications in relation to fat class and conformation are key to pick up the QAS bonuses.
With all the sires and breeding females paired off, it is now time to get the ball rolling and make that breeding programme planner a reality. Just casting an eye on one of our fields with the sucklers, I believe that one of the breeding females is coming into heat today, so at least that is a start!