In a special publication from the Irish farmers Journal, we take a look at the different breeding systems on suckler farms across Ireland. Features include synchronisation and using AI on a 170 cow spring calving herd, using sexed semen through AI, multi-suckling, using maternal genetics and a focus on labour to suit off-farm employment. Get your copy from all good newsagents in Ireland or order it online HERE

Here’s a preview of what’s inside the Irish Suckler Farmer magazine:

  • Changing the cow type has been key in the implementation of good genetics and good management on Tim Joyce’s farm in Co. Galway.
  • James and Allison Greer run a spring-calving herd in Castleblaney, Co Monaghan, with bulls pushed for finishing as quickly as possible.
  • Co Down Farmer Artie Bert explains how a simple synchronisation programme works on his farm.
  • Fermanagh farmer John Egerton explains how AI has helped deliver results for his herd.
  • Tynan Roulston on what it’s like switching from continental to traditional beef breeding to suit a one-man system.
  • Suckler Farmers are the Backbone of Rural Ireland: Foreword by Kieran Mailey

    With almost 1.1 million breeding cows in Ireland on approximately 64,000 farms, suckler beef production is the back-bone of rural Ireland. The Irish beef industry is worth over €2bn to our national economy.

    In this publication, The Irish Suckler Farmer takes a look at the various breeding systems on farms across Ireland. When it comes to suckler farm breeding, there is no such thing as one system to fit every farm.

    Land availability, land type and location, labour resources and market outlet will all dictate what breeding system is in place on individual farms. Personal preference is another huge factor that influences breeding. Some farmers just like working with certain breeds, or producing certain types of cattle for sale and will continue to do so regardless.

    In Ireland, spring-calving herds dominate. Almost 70% of calf births registered occur from February to May. Spring calving is compatible with our grass-based system. Getting freshly calved cows out to grass shortly calving reduces the incidence of disease and cuts down on the daily workload compared with keeping cows indoors.

    That being said, there are numerous efficient and profitable autumn-calving systems operating in Ireland. The common aspect on these farms is having a highly skilled person managing the farm.


    Breeding is the most important aspect of herd management to get right. To operate a profitable suckler herd, you need cows that produce a live calf every year. Cows with a calving interval longer than 365 days will reduce output and inevitably profit.

    The Irish suckler herd has an average calving interval of 407 days. The average age that heifer calves calve for the first time is 31 months.

    There is huge scope to improve the overall performance of the national suckler herd by reducing both the average calving interval and getting more replacement heifers to calve down at 24 months of age. For every day that the calving interval can be reduced, there is a cost benefit of €2.65/cow.

    Breeding is a long-term strategy. It will take several years to truly realise the benefits of a change to your breeding programme, depending on herd replacement rate and how hard you cull.


    There is more to breeding than just getting cows in-calf. Selecting the right bull to suit your cows is equally important. A new herd sire must be able to compliment the cow’s strengths and correct traits where calf performance is poor.

    Herd genetics will be a key driver to improving the performance and long-term profit of your herd. A good breeding programme will utilise the best genetics available to ensure the next generation of calves born has the potential to outperform the previous generation.

    Remember that the decisions you make regarding breeding this year will affect the herd next year and the year after. Therefore, take your time when selecting herd sires, cow type and which breeding system to adopt so that you make the correct decisions from the start.


    The Irish Suckler Farmer magazine is available in 3,000 newsagents across Ireland or you can order it online HERE