Why use a Hereford bull as a breeding sire?

Father and son partnership Kieran and Cathal O’Sullivan on the family farm at Mizen Head, Co Cork. Picture Denis Boyle
Father and son partnership Kieran and Cathal O’Sullivan on the family farm at Mizen Head, Co Cork. Picture Denis Boyle

First introduced into Ireland in 1775, the Hereford has become a popular breeding option on these shores because it has the temperament, quality and performance to suit Irish conditions and tastes.

It has proven to be particularly popular breed with many dairy farmers. To find out more, we spoke to Kieran O’Sullivan and his son Cathal, who farm in Goleen in south west Cork and use Hereford genetics as the beef breed of choice on their Friesian dairy herd.

ularly popular breed with many dairy farmers. To find out more, we spoke to Kieran O’Sullivan and his son Cathal, who farm in Goleen in south west Cork and use Hereford genetics as the beef breed of choice on their Friesian dairy herd.

They use Friesian genetics on half their herd to ensure that they are getting enough replacements and use Hereford sires on their remaining cows.

Easy calving

Kieran points out that Herefords are known for their easier calving, they put less strain on a dairy cow and they have a shorter gestation period than most other breeds.

“There are a lot of other good beef breeds out there but some of them are not good for the dairy cow because number one, their gestation period is too long and you’re losing days of the cow milking,” explains Kieran. “Also, you can’t be sure if you will have a calving difficulty with them. If a cow has a difficult calving, that means that the cow is affected for the rest of her lactation.”

Early maturing and high performance

Another advantage is the early maturing and high performance of Herefords on forage-based diets. With farmers looking to reduce farm costs, one way to do so is to remove the need for a second winter and subsequent housing costs on beef farms.

According to the IFJ THRIVE Programme results last autumn, 64pc of Hereford steers finished off grass compared to just 30pc for other breeds. Most strikingly 80pc of Hereford heifers were finished before the second winter. This can provide significant savings on both housing and feeding costs.

“Herefords are a good all-round breed and if they get reasonably good management from the calf stage onwards, they do quite well and they finish off easily,” adds Kieran.

“When you compare them to other beef breeds, they would finish a lot quicker. When they’re coming off the Friesian cow, they usually have a bigger frame and they come into a good mature animal. You get a combination of both things – they finish fast and also come into a good carcass weight at the end.”

High quality meat

Herefords are a popular choice due to the excellent meat eating quality they provide. Meat Technology Ireland, in conjunction with ICBF and Teagasc have been carrying out trials over the last five years looking at the effects of breed on the tenderness, flavour and juiciness of beef. The Hereford breed was ranked most consistent for both tenderness and flavour against 11 other breeds.

Great demand for calves

Hereford calves can attract great prices and Kieran points out “that demand has remained consistently high over the number of years since we started selling calves, the Hereford calf is very stable all the time. There’s always a demand for them.”

Hereford bulls produce top quality whitehead calves. Excellent calf prices have been recorded again this spring, with Hereford calves consistently making upwards of €300 per head.

Temperament

Another advantage of the Hereford breed is their good temperament and their ease of management.

“They are also a very docile animal. Very easy to handle, whereas other breeds can be more highly-strung and require more management.”

He adds that they are a hardy breed that can adapt to many conditions.

A great all-rounder

In Kieran’s experience, using a Hereford bull has proven to have multiple benefits and it’s something he would recommend to other farmers.

“We breed Herefords here because of our experience over the years, from the point of view of finishing them out as cattle, they were easily managed, they were cattle that gave you a good carcass weight at the end, and they were also not hard on the dairy cow. That’s probably their biggest bonus. You have a combination of all those things.”

Final Hereford Bull Sale of the Season

The next Irish Hereford Bull sale is in Nenagh Mart this Saturday, May 15 with 49 bulls entered.

Irish Hereford Prime will be sponsoring €250 towards the buyers of each bull sold for €3000 or over!

Catalogues are available by clicking HERE or by contacting the IHBS office for a hard copy by calling 044 9348855 and/or e-mailing irishhereford@gmail.com

Choose Herefords – grass fed/profit led – the natural choice.


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