Cork man Joe O’Mahony is at the helm of Gigginstown Farm. He manages the 1500 acres and all the moving parts associated with the farm. He came to Gigginstown in 2001 and has grown its then small Aberdeen Angus herd to 200 cows and 500 other cattle during that time.

“It’s been a great journey,” he says. “We are passionate about what we do and want to be up there with some of the best breeding herds in the country.”

Joe has travelled the world looking for the best genetics for the herd. “I’ve travelled a lot and seen a lot of cattle, but when all is said and done it’s hard to beat the genetics that we have at home,” he says.

“We have a great breed of Aberdeen Angus cattle in this country that are really suited to a grass-based finishing system. That’s going to be important in the future and I think the Aberdeen Angus breed has a bright future as things like climate change and emissions become more and more important.”

Split calving

The farm is currently running about 200 cows. The herd is split calving with 100 calved in the autumn time and another 100 calving in spring time.

“Calving in the autumn gives us a good strong 16-18 month old bull in the spring time,” says Joe.

Cows calve out on stubble ground with Joe assembling batches of about 40 cows to calve together. Why stubbles and not the comfort of a shed? “We find that calving on the stubbles works really well for us. Once the grain is harvested and straw is baled we can move the cows on there,” he says.

“We supplement with some haylage when the weather gets bad but in general we have very few problems. I think exercise is very important when it comes to calving.

“We position the feeders at opposite ends of the field to the drinkers so we make the cow do some walking ahead of calving,” says. Joe.

He reckons this keeps cows in a very fit condition to calve and also keeps calves small ahead of calving. Once a cow calves, the calves are picked up with a quad and trailer and the cow follows the calf into a grazing field.

Cows and calves are housed on slats with a straw lie back area.

“We usually try to keep a few grass fields close to the stubble fields for ease of movement at calving time. Nature has a great way of dealing with things and we try and leave the cows at it if we can at all.”

I ask Joe about malpresentations and how he deals with them. “To be honest we get very little malpresentations or difficult calvings,” he says.

“We keep an eye on the bulls that we use to make sure we don’t run into any difficulty and we also keep a good eye on cow condition to make sure cows don’t get too fat in the run up to calving.

Drying off

“We let our autumn-born calves suck on our cows right up to July and August some years. Sometimes we have to house them to dry them off for two to three weeks. Aberdeen Angus cattle are funny cattle in a way in that some of them would put on flesh very quickly if you let them. Leaving the calves on them for longer manages that to a degree.

“We’ve had two caesarean sections in 22 years and that was probably two too many. On a large herd we just couldn’t be dealing with that, so you do everything you can to avoid it,” he says.

The spring portion of the herd calves from January to April, and there were about six cows left to calve when we visited the herd last week.

Like every farm, weather has taken its toll on turnout with very few cattle out to grass on the farm.

The cattle that are out are the autumn-born weanlings, which have been grazing outside all winter and coming in and out of the slatted shed to their mothers.

Tillage work on the farm has also been painstakingly slow, and Joe is contemplating leaving 200 acres of the tillage area fallow at this stage.


Breeding is a passion for Joe and you get the feeling as you walk around the different sheds of cattle on the farm that this is where Joe gets the most enjoyment from. It’s a big job getting breeding right on a 200-cow suckler herd and if Joe makes a wrong decision on a few stock bulls, it could take years to correct that mistake. It’s pretty much 100% stock bull use and there are around 15 stock bulls on the farm at any one time.

Joe was conscious to leave the new bull shed constructed on the farm as open as possible to increase airflow and ventilation.

“Its about breeding a balanced bull here,” says Joe. “We have all sorts of different customers looking for bulls for different jobs – dairy farmers, commercial beef producers and pedigree farmers – so you need a mix for those.

“We also keep a close eye on figures but with all the changes of late its very hard to pick bulls that you hope will stay up. Breeding is a long term game with the cows I breed this spring going to produce the in-calf heifers I will have in 2027 so its very hard when things change a lot in between,” he adds.

The herd is running a 20% replacement rate at the moment with Joe citing the good price of cull cows being a big factor in bringing in more heifers in the last few years.

The Gigginstown sale will take place on Saturday 20 April and this year will have 25 bulls along with 20 heifers. Fifteen of the heifers are in calf and five of the heifers will be sold as maiden.

“We include the maiden heifers to give purchasers some choice,” says Joe. “We have offered in the past to put the maiden heifers in calf if that’s what is required.”

The sale is seen as a shop window for the Gigginstown herd. “We don’t have time to show any cattle – this is one of the only opportunities that people get to see the cattle, so it’s a very important day for us.

“We have about 70 or 80 bulls to sell every year along with over 50 heifers, so the sale is only a small part of it, but it’s important that we put our best foot forward on sale day and show people what we are trying to do here. We would probably sell another 20 bulls or so around the time of the sale to people that didn’t get to purchase on the day.”

This year’s sale sees three red Angus bulls included in the sale.

The sale will take place in one of the Gigginstown yards at Fennor farm. Ballyjamesduff Mart will conduct the sale under the watchful eye of mart manager John Telvin, and online bidding is available through Marteye.

“Online bidding has opened up a lot of opportunities for us,” says Joe. “We have a lot of people who would visit the farm before the sale and then bid online on the day of the sale. We were nervous of it the first year during the COVID-19 pandemic, but in fairness it has worked out really well.”

The catalogue for the Gigginstown sale can be downloaded at

Farm facts

Gigginstown Farm, Collinstown, Co Westmeath.

  • Farm Size: 1500 acres (500 grass and 1000 tillage).
  • Herd Size: 200 pedigree Aberdeen Angus cows.
  • Calving: 100 in autumn and 100 in spring.
  • System: Pedigree bulls sold at 18-24 months, pedigree heifers sold at 18-20 months.