Eoin Lynch of Droumdaniel Herefords in Cork, along with; Michael Barrett, Sinead Conry, & Katie Brady, travelled to New Zealand in March 2020 to represent Ireland as Team Captain and compete in the Young Breeders Competition at the World Hereford Conference against teams from around the World, while being kindly sponsored by Slaney Foods International. Read Eoin’s account of the experience below.
“For myself it was the element of not knowing what was ahead of us for each day of the trip is what made the journey so exciting and memorable. With each sunny morning came a different herd to visit, more people to meet and a new experience every day.
In the first leg of our journey, Katie, Sinead and I toured the north Island accompanied by other Hereford enthusiasts from America, Canada, UK, Europe and the southern hemisphere. Together we visited many herds and got an insight into the New Zealand way of farming Herefords. The acreage farmed by many of the breeders in the north was well over one thousand and herds of breeding cows running up to seven hundred in some cases. With little rainfall throughout the year making it difficult for many crops to grow, much of the land was predominantly farmed for the dairy industry making it a major target market for most Hereford breeders in the north. Like many dairy farmers do at home here in Ireland, the dairy farmers in New Zealand also calve their heifers at two years of age and this has encouraged many of the Hereford breeders to do likewise as they felt the breeding values that their bulls carried would match the breeding values of their customers herd. The key traits these breeders were targeting included a low birthweight calf and a short gestation pregnancy.
In recent years there was a significant number of Hereford breeders transitioned from breeding horned Herefords to breeding polled Herefords. This was greatly influenced by recent regulations in the country forbidding the disbudding of cattle without veterinary assistance. I thought there was a significant difference between the type of Herefords that the horned and polled breeders were producing across the country and when I put the question to one particular breeder of how they found the transition they responded with “we find ourselves trying to breed polled Herefords that have all the characteristics of a horned Hereford”.
We didn’t get to see any horned Herefords until we flew to the South Island. Although there were many dairy farmers on the south island, there was many more commercial herds in the area that had the Hereford breeders targeting a different market. The Hereford breeders selling bulls to the commercial farmers put a major emphasis towards producing Hereford’s with a large eye muscle area, high intramuscular fat and rib fat cover. With estimated breeding values or EBV’s being of high importance with most breeders, each year the breeders would scan their cattle for eye muscle area, intermuscular fat and rib fat, record this information and would then allocate an accurate EBV to each animal in the herd. The conference organized a live demonstration of recording these EBV’s for us. Three heifers that were of the same age and upbringing were weighed to determine their live weight gain and were then scanned for eye muscle area, rib fat and intramuscular fat by an ultrasound technician. Although the three heifers were similar in weight, the scan determined that two of the heifers had a significantly larger eye muscle area and greater intramuscular fat and rib fat cover which was not evident by visual inspection. The result indicated that one heifer performed poorly in each of the scans and therefore would not be retained in the herd for breeding. Their goal was to produce Herefords that require a low input for them to thrive and mature.
The young breeder’s competition itself was a great way for each of the countries representatives to showcase the different approach we each had when faced with tasks. There was many 6:00 am starts to the week and many action-packed days but it was all a great build up to the main event at Wanaka Show. I was delighted to rank 8th in the stock judging and 9th best herdsperson with very little between the 36 of us. There was a lot to be learned by watching the other teams perform throughout the week and it certainly gave me some tricks that will be useful for farming here at home.
Our last point of call before our journey home was to the visit Pute Nascar N13 in the Silverstream Herd. An animal I would consider to be an excellent example of the modern Hereford. He had a good balance of muscle and softness that’s rare to find. Nascar has a terrific carcase and would score well with the grading system used here in Ireland, he stood strong on all fours as he paraded himself around the field with a proud locomotion. We also viewed the up and coming young bulls in the Silverstream herd and there was a quality bunch of uniform bull’s present out of Gay Olympus H105, the very same sire as Pute Nascar N13 himself.
Looking back at the journey I feel team Ireland have did extremely well to be competing at the same level as our fellow experienced competitors. We made some great friends and contacts from all around the world that will stand to us in the years to come. I would like to say a special thanks to Slaney Foods International, members of the Irish Hereford Society and to all those who played a part in getting us out there. There were many months of planning and a lot of work put into running events in the build up that all contributed greatly to the experience.“