Whenever there is top-quality suckler stock on show, there is always great interest from farmers across the country and even further afield.
Thursday night’s webinar from the farm of Nicholas Bergin outside Roscrea, Co Tipperary, was no different.
With a huge amount of questions coming in via text and email, the panel was unable to answer everyone on the night.
It is always great to get good interaction from viewers.
This article aims to answer the main questions and queries that were sent in.
The Bergin family runs a 100-cow, autumn-calving herd producing weanlings for the high-end export market and, more recently, heifers are sold as breeders and potential show heifers to farmers.
Q. Is the webinar available to watch back?
A. Yes, the webinar is available to watch here.
Q. Is there still a market for these export-type weanlings?
A. While maybe not as common as it was a decade ago, there is still a good market for this top-quality stock. Nicholas sells some bull weanlings out of the yard each year to exporters where they go on for further finishing. In recent years, more and more of the heifers are being sold in the mart, with farmers buying these shaped heifers for breeding.
Q. What is the ideal cow type for this system?
A. Nicholas wants a good R-grading Limousin cow with good calving ability and plenty of milk. He stated on the night that his cow type is probably a grade lower now than it was 10 years ago. The reason for this is to do with calving ease. With more extremely muscled cows, he was finding it more difficult to select bulls without running into calving trouble. That being said, there are still some muscled cows in the herd, but these have proven that they are able to calve a good calf without any issues in the past.
Q. Why is the farm autumn-calving?
A. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, in the past, Nicholas was calving both spring and autumn, but was getting more scour and other health issues with the spring-born stock. In the autumn system, a lot of the calving takes place outdoors and calves are much stronger by the time housing comes around in October. Nicholas also said he works off-farm for Dovea Genetics and springtime is the busiest time of the year at work. Therefore, he has more time to calve cows in autumn.
Q. Why does Nicholas not finish his own stock?
A. Again, it comes back to the system that is in place on the farm. Nicholas is concentrating on producing this type of weanling for a specialised market. He has stuck to this system through the years and does not want to change, now that he has it well under control.
Q. How does the farm deal with summer mastitis?
A. For a week in the run-up to weaning, calves are let in to the cows once a day for a suck. When cows are dried off, they get a teat seal to try to prevent mastitis. Fly-tags and spot-on are also used as a deterrent on the heifers. Cows are closely monitored in the dry period to keep on top of any issues. This year, just two cows have had mastitis issues so far.
Q. What labour-saving tips has Nicholas when he is working off-farm?
A. Nicholas says that good facilities are critical in order for the entire system to work smoothly. Nicholas’ suckler shed featured in print on the buildings page of this week’s Irish Farmers Journal, available here.
Q. What mineral supplementation do cows get in the run-up to calving?
A. Lick buckets are used for all stock, as Nicholas finds that they are the simplest way to deliver minerals to stock, especially when they are at grass.
Q. What profit margin is there in a weanlings system when cow costs are accounted for?
A. The latest figures Nicholas did on the cost of keeping his cow for a year were €710/cow/year. From a sales point of view, he is looking to average between €1,100 and €1,200/weanling sold. Obviously, not every cow will have a calf to sell, but the target is for a margin of between €400 and €500/cow.