Newford Farm, the 100-cow suckler-to-beef demonstration herd located in Athenry, Co Galway, has repeated the positive breeding performance recorded in recent years.

The 81 cows which were put forward for breeding were scanned this week and recorded 76 cows in-calf (in-calf rate of 94%).

Within this, 46 cows, or 57% of those put forward to breeding, held to their first service.

A further 23 cows (29%) held to their second service, while four cows (8%) held to their third service and three cows (5% held to a fourth service.

The length of the breeding season was 10 weeks, with 100% artificial insemination (AI) used.

Cows were inseminated once daily at noon. If a cow was inseminated at noon and she was still displaying standing heat again that evening, that same cow was inseminated again the next day (at noon).

The experience of recent years shows about 12% to 15% additional straws being used, but the saving in labour from AI’ing cows twice daily and the fact the second insemination is also likely to have contributed to a positive conception rate is viewed as more than justifying the cost of the extra straws.

Heifers paint a poorer picture

While the suckler herd achieved a high grade in breeding for 2021, unfortunately the batch of 26 replacement heifers did not match their performance.

A total of 18 heifers were scanned in-calf, equating to an in-calf rate of 69%.

Heifers were synchronised on 13 April for a six-week breeding season, which ended on 2 June.

Within this, 13 heifers held to first service or 50% of those put forward for breeding.

Scanning issues

Scanning took place earlier in the summer on 2 July and Teagasc's Michael Fagan reports that scanning revealed that one heifer suffered early embryonic loss, another had a cyst present which inhibited her reproductive performance and there was also a heifer which developed meningitis early in the breeding season.

These eight heifers are currently being supplemented with concentrates, with a target of finishing off grass.

Michael reports that, at present, there are 42 beef heifers receiving concentrate supplementation at a rate of 3.5kg daily of a high-energy and 12% protein ration costing €305/t.

Feeding started on 26 July and it is hoped that at least half of the batch will be drafted for slaughter before the end of the month.

Bullock groups

Meanwhile, a batch of 12 of the most forward bullocks have also been grouped together since 2 September. These bullocks are also currently receiving similar levels of supplementation.

Michael says the bullocks recorded an average weight of 622kg on 7 September (average daily gain of 0.84kg since turnout over 184 days) and the aim is to also draft these for slaughter in late September or early October.

The farm is targeting a liveweight of 650kg at 20 months of age, a kill-out of 54% and a carcase weight of upwards of 350kg.

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Newford Farm update: 2021 breeding season gets off to a flying start