The Danagher Brothers - Ger and Michael - are running a powerful show in the heart of Errill, Co. Laois. It is only as recent as September-2017 when Michael returned to the family business after working off-farm as a welder for years.
Suckler farming has always been the main name of the game for the Laois-based farmers. The family has always had a strong affinity with Charolais cattle, an association that now spans over four decades.
The prioritisation of educational commitments pushed the pedigree breeding programme to one side for the last number of years, however; the herd’s best cow families were retained and ran along the commercial herd.
The duo has since returned to the pedigree Charolais breeding circuit - they made their break in August-2017 and established base under the ‘Derries Pedigree Herd’ name.
“We were very successful with the pedigree Charolais cattle prior to this, with success in the sales and show ring. We always relished the idea of getting back on the scene again” Michael Danagher told Catherina Cunnane of That’s Farming.
“While halter-training and everything else involved with pedigree breeding can be challenging, I jumped at the idea of coming back to the farm - an opportunity which my brother gave me.”
A pedigree Charolais herd dominates the out-farm with several commercial suckler breeding females are farmed at home, the majority of which carry 60% Shorthorn blood, with some Charolais and Belgian-Blue influence. Having placed their faith in the Shorthorn breed for docility and maternal traits, they have intentions to gear more towards the breed as time progresses.
The commercial suckler herd is crossed with a Charolais stockbull, which they regard as the “perfect fit” for their system having trialled numerous different continental breeds down through the years.
“Charolais is the ultimate ring-leaders and you can exceed the €3/kg price mark for your weanlings. From our experience, we have found that Charolais cattle can carry a lot of weight, even when on a grass-based system, more so than other breeds.” Michael explained.
“We have discovered that around here a lot more dairy farmers are utilising Charolais on their herds. We want to get back breeding bulls for these markets again, as customers have continued to contact us.”
[cross-bred calf on the Laois farm]
Two new sheds were constructed on the Bord-Bia quality-assured home-farm in 2017, which has allowed for 60% of the progeny to be finished on the farm. A 100-day finishing programme is a major driver in the success of the thriving beef enterprise.
The remainder goes under the hammer at the mart when they are 12-months old and are within the 460kg weight bracket, with an aim to attain up to the €1,200 price-tag.
“Between the calves bred and purchased, my brother feeds and slaughters between 150/160 every year. We also have a calf-rearing enterprise, with 120-140 calves - the majority of which are Herefords.”
Looking forward to the future, the Laois brothers - who have a fully-fledged official farm partnership in operation - have ambitious plans stirring in the pipeline.
On the commercial herd front, one of their main goals is to finish all progeny on the farm by 2019, as 40% of the weanlings pass through mart rings at present.
Keen to regain ground in the pedigree breeding circles, their most immediate plan is to renew their membership with Irish Charolais Cattle Society and make a return to the show scene.
“If we don’t embrace our competitive streak this year, we will definitely be back in the centre of show rings at regional and national venues throughout Ireland in 2019.”
“We have intentions to increase suckler numbers over the next while. We will purchase high-quality pedigree Charolais heifers. All Agricultural contracting work is also completed on-farm also, so we are always looking at progression and innovation.”
“I am immensely satisfied that the opportunity arose for me to return back to the farm. I will never leave the farm again.” Michael explained.
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