The Ryan family Cappanarrow, Camross, Co. Laois started breeding Limousin cattle close to two decades ago and they haven’t looked back since.
The new breeding venture all started with the sole purchase of a pedigree Limousin stock bull for the family’s commercial herd at the time.
The Dauphin son was acquired for £2,500, which was considered a rather hefty price at the time, but it was “the best decision” that the family have ever made when it comes to operating their farm.
The Limousin bull went on to sire some of the herd’s best females, with a large number of his daughters retained for breeding purposes.
The herd continued to snowball from here, with numerous additional purchases made thereafter.
Damien, the third generation farmer of the family soon caught on and bravely ventured in pedigree Limousin breeding.
In 2012, Damien privately purchased a pedigree registered in-calf heifer, sired by Teddy and a daughter of a Ferry dam.
The foundational female of the herd has since gone on to breed three daughters and two sons.
“I was very impressed with the performance of the breed and I realised that this is the path that I wanted to take in terms of the farm progressing forward. I purchased another heifer from Brendan Hanley of the Keeltown Herd in Edgeworthstown Co. Longford.” Damien told That’s Farming.
Sired by Procter Cavalier and out of a Litron Dam, the deal was seal as the second foundation female joined the herd.
Cappanarrow Limousin was born and Damien later became a member of Irish Limousin Cattle Society later that year.
Five years later, the herd has continued to build up gradually and five pedigree breeding females, along with a commercial herd now dominate the 75-acre farm.
In total, Damien’s forty suckler herd follows a split calving agenda, with 50% of the herd calving down in the spring, while the remainder are Autumn-calvers.
The herd is also split between 50% A.I., while the remaining 50% of the herd run with the farm’s stockbull.
Damien predominately uses Belgian Blue A.I. to produce a well-muscled quality weanling out of a Limousin dam.
The main A.I. sires selected include STQ, AFF, AZL, AJY and DFD.
Simmental, Parthenaise, Charolais and Angus sires are also used on heifers.
“I can DIY A.I myself it is very handy I can pick and choose between the bull and Artificial Insemination to suit every cow we have let it be for breeding, heifers or for beef.” Damien explained.
All pedigree bulls from Damien’s have been sold for breeding purposes this year, with three exchanging hands at an average price of €3,000.
All females are retained for breeding purposes in order to assist with the main objective for the pedigree herd.
Limousin as a leader
Damien has identified that Limousin breed best suits his system, as he continues to strive to operate a calf-to-weanling enterprise.
“The current beef trade we have in Ireland at the moment the weanling is where the most profit is as they are turned out for sale quicker. I find the efficiency of Limousin cattle to convert to weight at a slightly thriftier rate than some other breeds is a main attractive trait of the breed, as I produce weanlings for the export trade.” Damien added.
Keeping breeding inside the farm gate
While emphasis has been place on quality over quantity, it is Damien’s intentions to increase the pedigree herd to a ten cow base over the next number of years.
A strict breeding policy has been introduced along with the implementation of biosecurity measures, meaning that the out-sourcing of cattle from other herds is eliminated.
“We try to keep buying-in at a minimum but when we do, we purchase from a local source, which must be a clean herd. We like to retain our best couple of females ourselves but have to have the figures to match the quality as we are participants in the BDGP programme.” Damien explained.
The herd is also a participant in the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) and fulfils the necessary criteria for the breeding female replacement objectives for the 2018 calendar.
“We already are surpassing our number of 5-star breeding females so really it is extra revenue that we can use to put into our farming enterprise let it be buying a replacement or building a shed.” Damien explained.
The leading lady of the herd Cappanarrow Katie rates €129 for replacement, with a terminal index of €78.
The herd has recently joined the WHPR programme and is reaping the benefits already.
“It is a very handy service for me as a pedigree breeder as I am able to get my progeny linear scored and weighed which allows me to keep track of their progression as a calf so for me it was a no brainer only to join it.
The future will continue to shine bright for Cappanarrow Limousin, as they strive to maintain the quality of their pedigree Limousin and commercial herd in Laois.
“We want to have a herd of quality cows and to do that, we have to cut out the lesser ones. I would like to try and increase the number of cows but to do this we will have to try and reclaim more ground that we are not maximising to its full potential.” Damien concluded.
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