The farming venture all began for John Lanigan, Leigh, Two-Mile-Borris, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, upon completion of a one-year course at Pallaskenry Agricultural College, which provided him with the opportunity to inherit the family farm back in 1987.
The foundation animals of the herd were commercial crossbred females, which were bred to a terminal Charolais bull. Despite the fact an ideal suckler cow model was sourced, a string of calving difficulties, calf mortalities and a calving interval greater than 365 days resulted in a return to the drawing board for the Tipperary farmer.
It was during this period an experiment with genetics occurred, with John breeding his first Aberdeen-Angus cross cows, using a bull which delivered a high percentage of calves with red colouration.
"I noticed the Red Angus cows bred the best Charolais calves. They were all golden in colour, had more fleshing and hair, meaning they made best prices at sale time. The cows were low maintenance with neat udders and had great fertility."John told Catherina of That’s Farming.
Following a complete herd depopulation due to a disease outbreak of Brucellosis in 2000, John was faced with the ordeal of building up a herd once again. Two years later he suffered a second disheartening wipe out due to BSE. Despite this being a major drawback at the time, it was during this period that a new breeding venture was born, with pedigree Aberdeen-Angus cattle selected to restock the farm, with a keen interest in Red Angus genetics.
A new breeding era
While the Red Angus breed was just getting a foothold on Irish soil, John ventured to the other side of the globe to source superior beef genetics, selecting the best available Canadian Red Angus, which were topping maternal indices.
A total of twenty embryos were purchased from Terry Knodel of Big Sky Stock Farms, and the following year saw the arrival of ten calves, all of which were of excellent quality.
One of the initial embryos currently stands in Progressive Genetics ‘Lanigan Red Blaze’ (LZE).
In 2001, John joined both the Irish Angus and Irish Aberdeen Angus Societies and was keen to foster relationships throughout the pedigree breeding circle.
Two years later, John registered his first Red Angus cattle in the Irish Angus herdbook.
The next embryos were from a planned mating which John arranged using semen of the Red Angus bull ‘Leachman Grand Canyon 1244G’ on a daughter of ‘Red Brylor New Trend 22D’.
"These two bulls and their progeny still dominate the top of the maternal listings in Canada and around the world. The pick of this consignment of embryos was Lanigan Red Deep Canyon (ZLL) in Bova AI, an outstanding bull who has topped the ICBF. The bull has been producing docile, maternal daughters and beefy terminal sons."John explained.
Rooted in family history, John Lanigan’s Red Angus herd, which he claims to be Ireland’s premier Red Angus herd, has earned a valuable reputation since its establishment in 2001.
The herd has a predominant focus on the utilisation of AI, with a special emphasis placed on the selection of genetics to improve docility, maternal traits and gestation length, in addition to maintaining the breed’s excellent terminal traits.
Despite not currently being in the BDGP, John intends to join the programme when it re-opens. The herd’s top maternal cow, a November 2011 second-calver boasts a replacement index of €209, rating five stars within and across the breed.
Following closely behind, her September 2015-born son Lanigan Red Mikado sired by Lanigan Red Deep Canyon ET (ZLL) looks very promising with a replacement index of €200, a figure inclusive of genomic evaluations.
"I feel the Red Angus have huge capability to qualify for the scheme. The majority of my cows are currently four and five stars within the breed, which looks very promising." John added.
The Tipperary based suckler herd plans to continue its focus on the continuous improvement in maternal qualities with future hopes to continue breeding an array of bulls to enter into Irish AI.
View the herd’s website here.