The list of sires, which will be used for the 2022 breeding season in Newford Farm in Co Galway, has been finalised.

The 10 bulls selected for use this season has reduced from 11 in 2021 with the one Belgian Blue sire dropping from the bull team.

There are also two other changes, with new Charolais and Limousin sires replacing bulls which are no longer available or do not meet the selection criteria.

The Charolais sire Whitecliff Orwell (CH6271) replaces another Charolais sire Knockmoyle Loki (CH4159), while the Limousin sire Tomschoice Lexicon (LM 4471) replaces Laurel (LM 4185).

The sires selected are detailed in Table 1.

Selection criteria

Michael Fagan, Teagasc, explains that the selection criteria listed below was fed in to the ICBF database to generate a list of suitable bulls.

  • Five star on terminal index (within and across breed basis).
  • < 8 % calving difficulty for strong mature cows.
  • < 5.8 % calving difficulty for young cows (second and possibly third calvers).
  • At least 70 % reliability on the calving difficulty index.
  • < 5.8 % for first calvers (beef heifer).
  • At least 80 % reliability on the calving difficulty index for heifers.
  • At least 35kg predicted carcase weight for mature cows.
  • At least 25kg predicted carcase weight for young cows and heifers.
  • Cost of straws less than €20.
  • The decision on what sire to use on particular cows will also be influenced by the results of previous performance on the farm and the selection of sires to enhance or compensate for different characteristics in certain cows.

    For example, sires with higher conformation figures may be used on plainer-type cows where the aim is improving the conformation in progeny.

    The sire CH6271 has a low figure for carcase conformation but is being used as a trial to see if his progeny are any easier to finish off grass as he has positive figures for fat cover.

    The farm has opted to select just one sire again for use on replacement heifers with Ewdenvale Ivor (LM 2014) tried and tested with good success in recent years.

    Heat detection

    Fagan reports that three vasectomised bulls arrived on the farm on Monday 4 April. This increases from two in previous years due to replacement heifers now being reared on the farm. The high health status bulls have been purchased from the same farm as in recent years and cost €1,016 at an average weight of 406kg (€2.50/kg).

    The Friesian bulls received a full suite of vaccinations on the farm of origin and will be isolated until breeding starts on 20 April as an added precaution.

    The farm utilises a number of other heat detection aids. Cows are tail-painted pre-mating for a two- to three-week period and Jerry O’Brien, Newford Farm, is recording the tag numbers of cows in heat to monitor levels of activity and pick up any potential issues early.

    Vasectomised bulls will be fitted with a chin ball with this also working well in previous years in helping to quickly identify cows in heat.

    When a cow is in heat, a text message with the cow’s tag number will be sent to a nominated mobile phone number

    The farm also used Moocall in 2021 and will continue with this technology in 2022.

    Teaser bulls will be fitted with Moocall heat detection collars while cows have been tagged with an electronic tag. When a cow is in heat, a text message with the cow’s tag number will be sent to a nominated mobile phone number.

    AI programme

    The breeding programme is 100% artificial insemination with cows inseminated once daily at 12pm.

    If a cow is inseminated at 12pm and she is still displaying standing heat that evening that same cow will be inseminated again the next day (12pm).

    Experience from recent years shows there is generally in the region of 15% of cows receiving a second immediate insemination.

    Any additional cost is offset by the reduction in labour over using the AM-PM programme of insemination.

    It has had no effect on conception rates, with 63% of cows calving in the first three weeks of the calving season and 89% in the first six weeks.

    These levels of conception are also underpinned by good levels of fertility in the first-cross Angus and Hereford cows and by getting cows and calves to grass early.