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Eamon & Donnchadh McCarthy March/April Update 2024

Calving review and breeding plans

Calving review and breeding plans

  • ICBF beef calving report 2024
  • Cows on action list
  • AI bull choices for spring 2024
Latest weights

Latest weights

  • Spring 2023 heifer performance at grass
  • Latest bull weights
  • First batch will be drafted for the factory in the coming weeks
Impact of liming

Impact of liming

  • Impact of liming on soil fertility
  • Increase in grass production by +2.6 t DM/ha
  • Latest soil sample results which show huge improvement


Eamon and Donnchadh have been analysing their ICBF beef calving report for spring 2024. They started calving on 9th February and the last calf was born on 11th March, resulting in a 4.5 week calving spread! 31 females calved this spring, with 50 calved in total between autumn 2023 and spring 2024. The calving interval for the herd is 382 days which has increased slightly from 373 days in 2023. Mortality at birth was 0% but was 5.9% at 28 days as a result of 3 calf mortalities from suspected pneumonia. 51 calves were born in total, resulting in 0.9 calves per cow per year. 100% of 12 heifers calved at 22-26 months of age, which is well ahead fo the national average figure of 23%.

100% of the herd calved in 6 weeks for the spring calving season and 95% of the herd calved in 6 weeks for the autumn herd. One cow did not calf during the period but is fostering a calf whose cow died. 18% of the herd were culled and 6% of the cows slipped from one calving season to the next. Only one calf was ranked as ‘serious difficulty’ or required ‘veterinary assistance’ at birth and this was due to a big calf that was delivered by the vet in the autumn.

Beef calving report 2024

Figure 1: ICBF calving report KPI’s 2024

Only 6 cows appeared on the action list for this year. One cow had not calved over 390 days but is fostering a calf. Two had calving intervals over 390 days but are being culled as one is positive for IBR and the other is not in calf from the autumn herd. The remaining three cows had calving 8intervals over 390 days and were recycled from the autumn to the spring herd. Two of these lost calves before 28 days of age and will be culled but one is rearing a calf.

Action list from ICBF calving report

Figure 2: Cows on action list for 2024

Breeding will start during the first week of May with a target calving date of early February 2025. Eamon and Donnchadh plan to focus on breeding their herd to more maternal bulls this year to produce more replacements, but are also watching the carcass weight and conformation traits. The bulls they have chosen and matched to specific cows are:

  • AU4683 – Turloughmore Magnificent – being used on milkiest cows
  • LM9379 – Shannon Stan – for mature cows
  • HE9610 – Midford 1 Whizzbang – breeding replacements from cows
  • CH7503 – Cloonradoon Ricky – Breeding terminal cattle from cows
  • SI2152 – Curaheen Earp – Breeding replacements from cows
  • SA4604 – Knottown Roy – Selected for heifers
  • LM6172 – Erebos – Breding replacements from cows
  • SI4250 – Lis-Na-Ri Gucci – Breeding replacements from cows
  • CH4321 – Lapon – Breeding terminal cattle from cows

The replacement sires selected are ranging from €152 to €257 on the replacement index, have cow calving difficulty figures of 1.9% to 3.9% at 61% to 99% reliability, daughter milk figures of 3.2kg to 9.2kg, daughter calving intervals of -8.61 to 2.41 days and carcass weights of 11.8kg to 33.2kg.

The herd is already very strong for milk, calving interval and fertility so the carcass weight is the main area of improvement, albeit while trying to avoid any major increase in cow size.

Eurostar index for the herd

Figure 3: Eurostar rating for the herd


The spring 2023 heifers (10) were weighed on 16th March and averaged 344kg. They gained 0.65 kg/day since 3rd February and have been at grass full time since that date.

Ten of the heaviest finishing bulls were weighed on 6th April. They averaged 612kg (ranging from 548 to 692kg) and gained 2.02 kg/day sine 24th February. Some will be drafted for the factory in the coming weeks after Eamon discusses them with his agent.

Figure 4: The heaviest finishing bulls

Lighter finishing bulls

Figure 5: The lighter finishing bulls

Soil Fertility

Eamon and Donnchadh took soil samples on their farm in winter 2021. The results showed that only 32% of the farm had a soil pH of over 6.2. A nutrient management plan was completed and showed that Eamon and Donnchadh needed to spread 133t of lime on their farm.

They made the decision to spread all of this in autumn 2022 so that it would start working in the soil. Spreading at that time of the year also avoided any potential nitrate losses with spreading slurry or preservation issues when cutting silage. A total of 134t was spread at a cost of €29/t. Eamon commented, “We spread all of it because it was needed and we could afford to do it that year. I was expecting to get an increase in the soil PH and phosphorus indexes but did not expect it to happen so quickly and did not expect the level of the response either.”

Soil samples have since been taken in spring 2024 and show the impact that the lime has had. The percentage of the farm with a soil pH over 6.2 has increased to 95%. The lime has also released background phosphorus that was locked up in the soil and the percentage of the farm in index 3 or 4 for P has jumped from 38% to 79%.

Eamon and Donnchadh measure grass on their farm and growth has increased by 2.6 t DM/ha from 2022 to 2023 as a result. Eamon says, “I have spread lime in the past and sometimes saw that grass was greener but at other times wasn’t sure if it worked. Now that we are measuring grass I have figures from PastureBase and the soil sample results to show that it worked. In previous years I have had to feed silage during the summer to cows and calves at grass but in 2023 I didn’t need to. Growing the extra grass has also helped to increase our silage stocks and has really taken pressure off this year with the late spring. The benefits to my farming system have definitely shown it was a necessary thing to do.”

Soil fertility 2021

Figure 6: Soil sample results 2021

Soil fertility 2024

Figure 7: Soil sample results 2024

Lime being spread on the farm

Figure 8: Lime being spread on Eamon & Donnchadh’s farm