Farmer Focus: Reaping the rewards of breeding pedigree Blonde cattle with a focus on genetics & grass!


Catherina speaks to Sean Galvin of Terelton Blondes, a pedigree breeder that takes a dairy farmer approach to grassland management!

Farmer Focus: Reaping the rewards of breeding pedigree Blonde cattle with a focus on genetics & grass!

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Catherina speaks to Sean Galvin of Terelton Blondes, a pedigree breeder that takes a dairy farmer approach to grassland management!

Running Terelton Blondes in Macroom, Co. Cork is a father and daughters act for Sean, Áine and Deirdre Galvin.

The Galvin’s current holding was purchased back in 1992 and at the end of that year, a commercial herd kick-started cattle breeding on the farm, with a Blonde d’Aquitaine bull selected to run with the farm’s Aberdeen-Angus and Hereford cows.

“I was very satisfied with the progeny and because of that I considered delving a little further into the breed.” Sean told Catherina of That’s Farming.

Not stopping in his tracks, Sean ventured to purchase his first foundational female of the herd in 1996- a two-year-old maiden heifer from the farm of Matt Murphy, a breeder based in Macroom, Co. Cork.

The first pedigree heifer calf arrived on the farm the following year, a milestone which sparked a new era of cattle breeding for the Cork native. The herd has now flourished for over two decades, with all breeding females carrying bloodlines that stem from the first foundational female of the herd.

“The heifer that was purchased went on to produce a calf every February for about twelve years, having a heifer calf more often than not. She pushed Terelton Blondes to the level that we find ourselves at today. ” Sean explained.

Twenty-five breeding females dominate the pastures of the Cork-based holding, twenty of which are pedigree-registered Blonde d’Aquitaine cows.

With his farm located approximately five miles from where he lives, Sean believes that Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle are the “perfect fit” for his system.

“They have great calving abilities with good pelvis confirmation and more often than not, they calve down themselves, but we still monitor them. They are well-muscled stock with good growth rates.” Sean explained.

As a herd that has transitioned from commercial breeding to a pedigree cattle enterprise, Sean now retains the heifers for breeding purposes, while bulls go the other side of the farm gate to become stock bulls on several dairy and beef farms. Sean takes pride in adopting a powerful selective breeding policy, with the core element of criteria being the selection of the best cattle that can be souced.

“If the cattle are not top quality or if we feel that they have faults, we slaughter them.” Sean explained.

Pumped with quality Genetics

Quality genetics is the name of the game for this pedigree breeder, with an emphasis placed on the utilisation of semen sourced from French and English bulls with good maternal traits with particular emphasis on fertility, calving ability and milk.

"Because we have been following this policy for many years the herd is now very strong on these traits. We also cull ruthlessly for poor temperament or bad feet so this helps to ensure our young stock are docile and correct." Sean explained.

Keeping the breed true to their roots, Sean has tapped into the French genetic pool using Aramis and Faust, aswell as using British bulls including Blackwater Ainsley, Blackwater Jockey and another bull called Lochhead Tyson for the current season.

All of the 2015/2016 crop of calves are sired by A.I sired, while matings in the 2017/2018 season were split between A.I serves, with semen from Terelton Isaac and a bull of their own breeding Terelton John, was used to clean-up on the farm.

Figures

The herd is also a participant in the BDGP and ICBF Whole Herd Performance Recording Programme. Sean is also a member of Irish Blonde d’Aquitaine Cattle Society and has served on the council in the past.

High-performance targets have been set and achieved by the breeding females, with the herd’s results in genetics evaluations published by ICBF testament to that.

The herd’s current calving interval is a key area of focus, sitting at 365 days which is well above Ireland's current national average.

The herd is hitting above their €uro-star replacement indices targets, with the leading lady of the herd, a 75%-bred cow boasting a replacement index of €144. 85% of the breeding females are four-star and five-star for replacement. 75% of the heifers calve down between 22-26 months of age.
The herd's mortality rate is 0%, compared to the national average of 4.6%. The herd welcomed 26 calves between July 2016 and June 2017, which included 12 bulls and 14 heifers, with 100% births with recorded sires.

Grassland Management

What makes his farm a cut above the rest, is the implementation of grass management practices with a difference, with the farm based in the heart of the dairy country.

“ We approach grassland management like any good dairy farmer. We ensure that the best of grass is available to the stock at all times. We operate a paddock system and we move the stock on regularly.” Sean explained.

“We tested our silage in the last member of weeks.The first cut came through at 74 DMD, while the second cut came through at 77 DMD.” He added.

High point

When asked about his high point so far, Sean draws attention to securing Terelton Isaac into the G€N€ Ireland Maternal Programme.
“I have one calf already on the ground off of him. I am very impressed with his performance so far.Issac’s figures are holding up very well, so I am hoping that he will do very well.” Sean explained.

“Previously, we had one bull vaccinated for IBR and so he couldn’t enter into the programme. We have learned from our mistakes and we are very happy with Isaac’s success.” Sean explained.

Although they don’t exhibit cattle at Agricultural shows due to a strict closed herd policy, the Galvins have scooped prestigious silverware at the recent Irish Blonde Cattle Society Herd Competition.

“We won the herd competition on numerous occasions. It’s a great honour to receive such a well-respected award.” Sean said.

“ We run the herd in a very commercial way. Although it is a pedigree herd, the cattle are overly pampered.They are expected to go back in-calf and calve down once a year.” He added.

Future Plans

Terelton Blondes takes its place as one of the leading Blonde d’Aquitaine herds in the country, with over twenty years experience to back their success and the performance figures speak for themselves.

Sean’s long-term vision is to operate a 100% pedigree herd and he is already very close to achieving his goal.

With an esteemed reputation brewing across the country, Sean has intentions to export their stock across the border to the U.K, with a strong expression of interest from potential buyers already, particularly those keen to make a mark on the show circuit.

“There is a market for good quality pedigree stock in the Republic Ireland, Northern Ireland and the U.K and I think there is a notable niche here, so that is a market that I am gearing towards.” Sean concluded.

Keep-up-to-date with the herd on Facebook.

If you are a cattle or sheep breeder and want to share your story, get in touch.

Email catherinacunnane@gmail.com

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