As Speckle Park Cattle continue to get to grips on Irish soil, John Paul O'Callaghan is no stranger when it comes to knowing what exactly the breed has to offer.
Husband and wife-duo John and Noreen, based in Dripsey, Co. Cork started part-time farming half a decade ago and they have not looked back since.
A new breeding venture
When the couple first started farming, like every other farmer, they were on a quest to find the most profitable and most suitable small-scaled system to implement.
‘‘We needed to find the best value for money and with a farm this size, we knew that we could not compete with those on a large-scale.’’ John Paul told That’s Farming.
After considering all available options, their attention was then drawn to the Speckle Park cattle breed.
With only a small number of cattle to be found around the Irish island, sourcing the breed became a rather difficult encounter for the first generation farmers.
An Embryo Transfer programme became the most suitable option available in order to source the foundational animals of the herd.
Hitting a patch of bad luck, the success was limited to two calves out of an expected four progeny, but nevertheless the farm overcame the roadblock.
‘‘We have been slowly building the herd since this. The cattle aren’t there to be purchased, so we had no other option available to us in order to kick-start the herd.’’ John Paul added.
The farm sits on 32-acres and operates a suckler and drystock production enterprise.
A number of Speckle Park Cross-Commercial cattle are part of the current suckler cow base comprising of ten females.
A calf-to-beef and a weanling-to-beef system take dominance on the farm.
A total of four pedigree Speckle Park cattle are now currently managed under the ‘Cois Laoi’ prefix.
All replacements heifers produced from cows with the best bloodlines are retained on the farm for breeding purposes in order to produce progeny of superior genetic merit.
Heifers that lie outside of the breeding criteria are slaughtered at 25-28 months of age.
A number of the farm’s home-bred progeny go the other side of the farm gate in order to become the leading stock-bulls on many Irish farms throughout the country.
‘‘This year I sold two bulls and if I had another three I could have potentially sold them also. There is demand there for them.’’ John Paul added.
The herd has continued to snowball since its establishment and John Paul is hugely satisfied with the progress of the breed on his farm so far.
‘‘They are renowned for their ease of calving, docility, polled condition, good terminal breeds and little maintenance. Overall, I am very impressed with their performance and they have not strayed far from my initial expectations.’’ John Paul.
John Paul is one of many Speckle Park breeders in the country that are taking their breeding programme up a notch.
Sourcing genetics outside the Emerald Isle is currently an area of focus, due to a very limited offering of genetics at present.
‘‘We need new breeding lines in Ireland. A number of bulls in Ireland at the moment would be closely related back to what is currently being offered in the country.’’ John Paul explained.
The Cork breeder has set this in stone as a priority before the 2017 calendar draws to a close.
Coming from the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and setting foot on Irish soil one decade ago, Speckle Park cattle are continuing to make waves.
The breed was first developed in Canada as early as the 1960’s.
A combination of genetics of three breeds sourced from Scotland and England- Teeswater Shorthorn, Aberdeen Angus, English cattle with the White Park pattern resulted in the creation of ‘Speckle Park’ cattle, dating back to 1959.
With the Society established in 2008 in Ireland and currently located in County of Cork, Irish breeders have taken a notable amount of interest in the distinctly marked medium-sized breed.
John Paul is also an active member of the society, with all registrations completed with Irish Speckle Park Cattle Society.
John and Noreen’s herd now only in its infancy is continuing to grow, as five years have now passed since its establishment.
Aside for the introduction of new genetics, the cattle breeding duo have intentions to continue to build-up the current herd size.
‘‘There is a flourishing market for Speckle Park cattle in Ireland. There continues to be an expression of interest from beef and dairy farms and also those engaging in organic farming systems’’ John Paul concluded.
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