Eustace and Deirdre Burke farm under the ‘Clontead’ Aberdeen Angus prefix in Carrigaline Co Cork.
The farm was purchased by Eustace’s parents, the late Eustace Burke Snr and his mother Deirdre Burke in 1983. Further land was purchased two year later. A total of 60acres is now farmed, of which 70% of it has been reclaimed.
Clontead Aberdeen Angus was established in 2003 by Eustace and his parents, with the purchase of two heifers from the Cahirmee herd of Richard and Mary Smith at Fermoy Aberdeen-Angus sale, as well as six privately purchased females from Simon and Madeline O’Regan’s Springmount herd.
‘Before commencing our pedigree herd we had been running a commercial suckler herd of mainly first cross Angus and Hereford cows from the dairy herd, finishing all progeny and also buying in store cattle to finish. We found Angus cattle left more behind them as they were easily finished off grass with lower inputs.’ Eustace explained.
‘The main reason for commencing a pedigree Aberdeen Angus herd was they had worked well for us when commercial farming and being located in a predominantly dairy area presented a market for bulls on our doorstep. We also felt that as dairy expansion occurred farmers would favour a breed that was polled, short gestation and easily calved therefore our bulls could be used on both heifers and cows. There is also strong demand for Angus stock in our area due to a number of factories requiring finished Angus stock for the various producer groups who offer generous bonus payments.’ He added.
Eustace is a member of both the Irish Angus Cattle Society and the Aberdeen Angus Association. He is currently serving his second term on the Aberdeen Angus council and has also held Chairman and Treasure positions for the Munster Aberdeen Angus Club. His father held many of these positions, with his enthusiasm being described by Eustace as ‘infectious’.
Eustace strongly believes that it was his Father that encouraged him to become involved with the organisations, as he was a strong believer in ‘getting things done and not talking about doing them.’
The herd is also a member of the Gene Ireland Programme.
‘We feel this programme offers the perfect platform to move our herd to the next level and also to verify our herd data and make all data totally transparent.
Gene Ireland Programme also allows you to see if your stock work for your customers through the publication of the Bull Tracker. This information is crucial to ensure that you are breeding stock that is meeting your customer needs. We are very strict on the bulls we sell and it is paying off with plenty of repeat custom.’ Eustace added.
Of the herd’s 40 breeding females, thirty two are rated as four or five star on replacement index. The average herd replacement index is €105, placing Clontead Angus herd in the top 10% in the country. The top eight females have a €140 placement index or higher. 12 out of 14 of the Burke’s heifers are rated as 4 or 5 star on Replacement Index.
The current crop of young bulls which are for sale, have an average replacement index of €120 and are all either 4 or 5 star. The highest rated bull of the herd currently boasts a 5 star replacement index of €165. These bulls have diverse pedigrees with sires such as Rawburn Boss Hogg, Wall Royal, Goulding Jumbo King, Abberton Eminem, Oakchurch Dirk and Goulding Extra.
‘Clontead Angus’ breeding programme is predominantly based on AI. Our breeding programme is simply not based on selecting the highest bulls available. All bulls used must have a pedigree which is attractive to potential customers and is ranking nationally with ICBF and internationally with breed plan, have high growth rates and feed conversion rates, have reasonable calving difficulty and feed conversion rates. We want to breed Angus cattle which are true to the breed which are easily fleshed, easily calved and have Angus characteristics.
Following AI we mop up with high index outcross bulls. The two bulls we are currently using are total outcross genetics for Ireland. Abberton Eminem has a 5 star replacement index of €200 and a terminal index of €95 and a calving difficulty of 1.20% and Tree Bridge Embelton has a 5 star replacement index of €119, a terminal index of €66 and a calving difficulty of 0.7%.’ Eustace explained.
Alongside running the herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, Eustace has been working for Munster Cattle Breeding Group as a Farm Relations Manager for the past five years and manages the South West Cork region.
His role entails managing a team of technicians and a number of DIY sale Representatives, as well as selling to DIY customers.
‘Every year NCBC who is 50% owned by Munster Cattle Breeding Group undertakes the biggest breeding programme in the country genomic testing in excess of 3500 bull nationally, which results in Munster AI being able to offer farmers the most comprehensive panel of beef and dairy sires available. In 2014,84% of all progeny registered was to a Munster Cattle Breeding Group sires.’ Eustace said.
Catherina asked Eustace what does he believe are the key factors to producing and managing a successful suckler herd.
‘In my view there are varying factors to a successful suckler herd depending on the system but the following factors are crucial to all suckler enterprises: With the first point being-The 3 1’s, 1 calf, 1 cow, 1 year. You have to have one calf per cow every year.
The cow has to suit the farmer and the farm, not the farmer and farm suiting the cow. The cow type and suckler enterprise chosen should be picked depending on the farmer and the farm. There are varying suckler enterprises whether it is pedigree breeding, breeding weanlings for export or sale as stores, breeding all progeny for finishing, breeding replacement the list is endless and there are numerous breeds and breed crosses also available but if the farmer, farm and cow are not all working to their strengths it will be hard to make a bottom line.’ He commented.