It’s a breeder's dream to get the top price at a premier breed sale.
Many spend their lives trying to get the top - some don’t make it, some hit it once and some breeders manage to hit it on a regular basis.
For Noel Fitpatrick and his family, this month was one to remember, as his bull Ernehill Samson made the top price of €8,600 at the Irish Angus Cattle Society’s elite sale of bulls and heifers on Saturday 12 December.
The Cavan man started the Ernehill Angus herd along with his father Francis and now runs the pedigree cattle alongside his wife Catherine and their four young children.
“We keep about 14 pedigree cows here on the farm. We got into them as a hobby and I suppose they still are.
"It’s a great way to generate and nurture a love for livestock with the little ones.
"We knock great craic out of training them and washing them at the weekends. It’s a sort of a family thing that we do together and I think it keeps us together,” Noel said.
"I suppose everybody has their own favourite breed and for me that’s the Aberdeen Angus breed.
"I just think they have it all and in the times we are in with everybody talking about lower carcase weights and reducing our carbon footprint, the Angus have a lot to offer.
"They also suit a part-time operation like ours. You rarely have to calve them, the calves get up and suck straight away and they generally look after themselves after that.
"They are a very low-maintenance breed."
Born in September 2019, the eye-catching Samson is a son of Ballymagrine Wonder, while the dam’s line includes sire of last year’s elite sale high-seller HF Rebel and Dalrene Cruz.
Ballymagrine Wonder was a stock bull who had straws taken off him and Noel was lucky enough to secure some semen and the rest is history.
Power and pedigree weren’t the only things to get the Ernehill bull to €8,600, as he also carried five stars on nearly every trait, along with a calving ease figure for beef cows of just 0.8%.
After competitive bidding ringside, the bull was eventually knocked down to Oliver Haugh of the Feenagh herd in Co Clare.
Noel said: “He was always special from day one to be honest. He just had that presence about him, I nearly knew he was destined for big things.
"They always have a lot of hoops to jump through to get to a sale, but everything went right with this lad and I knew after the enquiries we received there was a lot of interest in him.
"Did I think he’d make what he did? No way, it was way beyond what I thought and we’re all over the moon about it.
"It’s great to see him heading to a large pedigree herd as well. We’ll be keeping an eye for progeny in the years to come."
Samson’s new home
Successful purchaser Oliver Haugh of the Feenagh Angus herd in Co Clare said he and farm manager Noel Keating decided to purchase Samson based on his great star ratings, coupled with his good physical appearance.
Oliver said: “For me, he has two main points that are often difficult to get in a bull. Firstly, his style, shape and docility, matched with his great star ratings, and, secondly, he has great terminal figures and is still very easy calving, hence his good dairy beef index.”
Oliver added: “We have to breed bulls suitable for use on dairy cows and dairy heifers, as that is our main market.
"As part of our breeding programme, we are always keeping a very close eye on carcase weight and conformation, calving ease and dairy beef index.
"The profitability of Angus dairy beef cattle in Ireland is going to determine the future use of Angus sires on dairy cattle.
"I think we have to breed Angus bulls capable of giving the dairy farmer easy calving and also giving the beef finisher good carcase size and conformation, which will hopefully improve the profitability of finishing these dairy beef animals.
"The tag of €8,600 was a huge price for an Angus bull, but at the scale of our herd (200 cows) we have to be willing to invest in good genetics to enable us to produce the type of progeny we need to sell as bulls for use on dairy cows and dairy heifers in dairy herds across Ireland.”
The Fitzpatricks’ second exhibit, Ernehill Shot, also found a new home in a pedigree herd.
This September 2019-born bull is again sired by Wonder, this time with Priestown Jupiter and Maine Dragon in the back breeding.
At €3,700, he was the choice of the Barlow family who run the Gurtavoher herd in Co Tipperary.
What next for Noel and the Ernehill herd?
"We actually have a couple more sons off Ballymagrine Wonder for sale in the next few months and we have some very nice heifers off him, so we will look forward to them breeding in the herd."
When asked whether he will see a price like this again, Noel is optimistic: “It’s sort of put the Ernehill herd on the map now. I’ve had a load of calls about it and it would be great to breed another few like him. Time will tell.”