Father and son duo Willie and Robbie O'Halloran, renowned in the Simmental circles have experienced a whirlwind of a year.
Securing two bulls into Irish A.I. and scooping prestigious silverware at Tullamore Show 2017 are among some of their highlights and outstanding achievements to date.
The owners of the Bearna Dhearg Simmental herd based in Cahir, Co. Tipperary can look upon their enterprise with great pride.
Their association with Simmental cattle rolls back to the establishment of the pedigree herd seven years ago.
The foundational females of the herd were sourced from some of Ireland’s leading Simmental herds including ‘Curaheen’, ‘Cruithill’, ‘Ballyduff’, ‘Dripsey’ and ‘Clonagh’.
The first breeding females of the herd hailed from Garrett Behan’s herd and were successful breeders on the O’Halloran’s farm for many years.
Stock from John Kenny’s herd based in Ballyduff, Co. Waterford became the backbone of the herd’s development.
The O'Halloran duo has spent over half a decade building up their pedigree Simmental herd.
They now run 20 pedigree cows, 4 embryo recipients, 3 pedigree in-calve heifers, 11 heifers, 1 pedigree bull, 12 heifer calves,15 bulls born Aug 16-February 17 and 9 bull calves (8 pedigree, 1 commercial).
“Simmental cattle are docile, the weight gain is phenomenal and the diversity of the genetics and the unpredictable colouration of the arrival of the progeny is unbelievable. They tick every box for us.” Willie told Catherina of That’s Farming.
The herd was 100% A.I for several years but is slowly branching into stockbull dominance.
Genetics are usually sourced from Ireland, with €uro-star ratings having some influence in the breeding programme.
“I am slightly worried with our breed as you are picking out of the same genetic pool and with that you risk inbred stock. Importing quality stock from further afield offers variety.” Willie explained.
The breeders have sold off a number of their heifers down through the years and a large number of their bulls go on to become stockbulls in many pedigree and commercial herds around the country, with a number of cattle exported to Scotland.
“I have bought in animals from dispersal sales in order to secure the best cows possible. I am always selecting different bloodlines to maintain and improve the quality of the herd.” Willie said.
When their pedigree herd was in its infancy, the O'Halloran’s joined Irish Simmental Cattle Society.
Willie is an esteemed member of the Southern Simmental Club in 2011.
With their society involvements, comes a spot of showing, something that the family have recently ventured into.
The father and son exhibit their cattle at the annual premier show and sales staged by Irish Simmental Cattle Society and made their first entrance five yeas ago.
2017 marks the first ever year that the O'Halloran family have put their best foot forward at Agricultural shows.
Willie and Robbie proved that they are a powerful force to be reckoned with and were tough competition for fellow breeders.
The came out on top in the bull calf champion born on or between 1st December 2016 and 31st January 2017 at Tullamore Agricultural Show with BEARNA-DHEARG HONDA 50 and he went on to become Reserve Champion at Strokestown Agricultural Show.
Their success didn’t halt there and the Reserve title in the Southern Simmental Pedigree calf final was scooped.
“We have had a very lucky year. Showing is time-consuming and something that we don’t do a lot of but this year proved it can be worthwhile.” Willie added.
First two bulls into A.I.
Even though their herd is a few years shy of a decade old, the O'Halloran family have garnered the attention of an A.I. company and a deal has been sealed for not one, but two of the farm’s home-bred bulls.
“This has got to be a highpoint in my faming career so far. It is every breeder’s dream.” Willie said.
Like several pedigree and commercial breeders in the country, Willie and Robbie have also joined BDGP.
Their breeding females are well ahead of 2018 and 2020 targets, performance which is backed by a powerful breeding programme.
The leading lady of the herd is MARSHA WANDA, boasting a replacement index of €181.
Willie recognises the importance that €uro-star ratings has for so many breeders, as someone who sells a notable number of stock both privately and at society sales, but his has mixed feelings towards the system.
“While I think the €uro-star ratings are important, visual assessment is also paramount. I am breeding five-star heifers with quality. I want to continue to ensure that I am breeding stock for all markets, not just with a complete emphasis on stars, a balanced animal.” Willie explained.
“Like a number of beef farmers, I find the whole €uro-star phenomenon mind-boggling. I sold a bull recently and he has different figures to his brother who is twin. It doesn’t make sense that you have the same bull out of the same cow and they have completely different figures.” Willie explained.
The Bright Future
Willie and Robbie O'Halloran hopes their future will follow a similar success path like the past number of years.
Their eyes are fixed securely on maintaining a quality Simmental suckler herd.
An embryo transfer programme is set to really take priority well into the bright future.
“I have flushed a number of our proven top cows and I am hopeful that the quality will be there. This is something that we would like to do more of. It’s a case of getting the best out of the best.” Willie concluded.
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