Breeding and genetics are a central pillar in the overall farm plan on Tullamore Farm.
From the very beginning in 2017 we sought to start out with a high replacement index cow and build on that foundation to try and make progress every year improving the genetic base in the herd while hitting our breeding targets on an annual basis.
This hasn’t been easy and there have been several bumps along the road.
Issues with infertile bulls in year one of the project in 2017 made us switch to AI.
This has meant we have been able to harness the potential of some of the best bulls in the country and while it does mean more labour during the breeding season, we feel it’s worth it when it comes to the performance of the animals on the farm.
Bulls are chosen on their replacement index with an eye kept to make sure they are balanced with good terminal traits.
In recent years we have also picked some AI bulls to use on late-calving cows that we won’t be keeping any replacement females out of.
Bulls are chosen irrespective of breed, however our choices have been predominantly Limousin, Simmental and Salers over the last few years, with Charolais and Belgian Blue bulls also being used as terminal sires.
The average replacement index of the herd now stands at €133, which puts the herd in the top 2% of the country in terms of replacement index.
The 2022-born heifers are just outside the top 10% in the country while the 2021-born heifers are inside the top 5% in the country.
The herd is 9.1kg for milk which puts it just outside the top 10% for milk figures.
There are a number of animals now over €200 on the replacement index.
Hopefully we can make more progress in continuing to drive the replacement index within the herd, however we are now finding it difficult to find bulls to breed these high-index cows to enable continued progress to be made.
Tullamore Farm uses vasectomised bulls fitted with chin ball harnesses and Mooheat collars. The Mooheat collars are expensive but on a farm where labour is limited they are paying for themselves in the elimination of missed heats.
During the breeding season, farm manager Shaun Diver still checks the cows on a regular basis as most days there will be cows in heat that will need to be brought into the yard.
Cows are inseminated once daily around midday. If a cow is still showing a strong heat that evening, she will be inseminated again the next day. Anything in heat up to midday is brought in for AI.
Cows were bred for 11 weeks in 2022 with nine of those weeks being almost 100% AI. A Salers stock bull was then turned out to clean up the later-calving cow group.
Cows all received booster shots for Lepto and BVD prior to breeding and they also received a mineral bolus as there have been issues in the past.