Alan Wood hails from the Crossmolina area of Co. Mayo. Here he runs the Crossmolina herd, one of the country’s leading Charolais herds.
Alan has about 10-12 Charolais cows at the minute and he breeds all age cattle. He is full-time farming and also breeds commercial cows. The farm’s total numbers are approximately 55 at the moment, which they run on around 54 hectares, though he admits his land is probably best suited to sheep.
“We have very wet ground...we probably should be sheep farming” he laughs.
The first of his family to have bred pedigree Charolais, having bought his first heifer in 1993. Twelve years on, at the age of 51, Alan has expanded the herd quite significantly, though he admits he is at his capacity. They, unlike other herds, started with one heifer and haven’t looked back since.
“We always had cows...I bought me first calf in 1993 and we established the herd from there” he said.
When questioned as to what drew him to the breed, Alan was very definite in his response.
“We always had Charolais cows here...to me they tick all the boxes” he said.
Alan cited their exceptional weight gain and easy calving ability as two of the reasons he loves the breed and says there is “nothing to compare” to the breed.
“There is this perception out there that a lot of them are too heavy...But on the grid only 10% of Charolais cattle were overweight” he said.
“There is such a high growth rate, there is no reason why you can’t have young bulls finishing at 400kgs...they’re just really good” he said.
The farm uses mainly Artificial insemination methods at the moment, while he got rid of his two most recent stock bulls with an eye on farm safety.
“We are 100% A.I at the moment” he admits.
“The reason for that is we have two small children here, so I said we would get out of the bulls for a couple of years”, he added.
“We will go back to keeping Charolais bulls when they’re older” he said.
He is happy with the AI system effective, but says it is not as good as a bull if you want to tighten up your calving.
“A mix of AI and bulls is what we were doing...Even we ran a LM bull for replacement heifers, we always used AI aswell” he admits.
The herd have two bulls in AI, one of which was the number one in the country, Crossmolina Euro in Dovea. The other is the highest terminal bull in the country, Crossmolina Jupiter.
Crossmolina Euro was the number one in the country”, Alan adds.
“He is the second highest bull in the country on the active bull list” said Alan of Crossmolina Jupiter.
The family sell a predominant amount of bull weanlings on the farm, with one farmer buying them every year.
“We sell most of the bull weanlings here and we finish all the heifers”, he said.
“We’ve been selling all the bull weanlings to the same man this last ten or twelve years” he adds.
The future for Alan’s herd has nothing to do with increasing numbers, as is evident from his previous success, Alan is all about maintaining and improving quality.
“We will concentrate on quality and try to hold suckling cows. The suckling industry is under fierce pressure from the dairy industry”, he said.
“We’re encouraged to use a lot of springers of the dairy herd and quality is really suffering”, he stated.
“I want to maintain the quality and try to improve it if possible”, he added.
Alan says he can deal with the weather, but says the last couple of years have been made more challenging, by the Euro Star index. He does believe in the genomics part it, but feels there is more to be done to improve the system as a whole.
“That’s (Euro star index) a huge challenge.....I do not a cow can be rated one star or five stars. It shouldn’t matter as long as she’s performing” he said of the index.
“Some of the statistics are impossible to follow, with regards how accurate they actually are!” he states.
“I do firmly believe in the genomics part of it. ANything that can assist you and provide you with accurate data is always a help” he said.
Alan has recently joined the council, having joined in March, such is his devotion to the Charolais breed. A suckler farmer by trade, with strong ties to the French breed.
When asked if he had one final wish, Alan said he wished the perception of the breed could be changed.
“People think they are a Terminal breed and terminal breed only... I feel they’re are good as any breed is” he concluded.