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James Skehan May/June Update 2024

Breeding review & 2024 plans

Breeding review & 2024 plans

  • ICBF calving report
  • Good performance for 2024
  • Breeding 2024 has started!
Latest sales

Latest sales

  • Weights for finishing cattle
  • Finishing performance of 4 heifers and 5 bullocks
  • One cow sold live
Actions underway

Actions underway

  • New hedge planted
  • Double fenced for protection from stock
  • Other ACRES actions


James has been analysing his calving performance for 2024 using the ICBF calving report. Last year he made the decision to change his calving season to match with grass growth on his farm and this year he stared calving on 8th February. The last cow calved on 15th April, meaning the calving season lasted just over 9 weeks which he was delighted with. It also meant that he had more time to himself over the Christmas holidays instead of waiting on cows to calve. Twenty cows and 4 heifer calved in total, resulting in 26 births as a result of 2 sets of twins.

Despite pushing out the breeding dates in 2023, James’s calving interval was 368 days which is right on target. Unfortunately mortality was high on the farm this year at 11.5% at birth due to 3 calves that were dead at birth. However the extra twins helped and James finished with 0.95 calves per cow per year, which is again on target. James calved 2 of his own home-bred heifers at 22-26 months of age and the other two bought in heifers calved over 26 months of age. 15% of this year’s calves were sired by an AI bull, Knottown Roy, and James is very happy with the calves to date.

ICBF calving performance report

Figure 1: ICBF calving performance report 2024

The breeding season is in full swing and James started preparing for it early on. On 22nd March the cows were given their booster vaccination against leptospirosis and the breeding heifers were given their primary course which involved two vaccinations 4-6 weeks apart. On 19th April all the breeding females were given a mineral bolus.

Breeding started on 29th April when the new LM stock bull was turned out with the cows. The six heifers are undergoing a synchronisation programme for AI, and James has also picked some cows for AI this year as well to breed replacements from. He will be breeding them to Jalabert, CH5980, and carefully selected them as the best breeding cows that are over 35 days calved and have less than 15kg carcass weight.  One cow that lost a calf was sold, while another died shortly after calving. One cow will be culled based on temperament which leaves James with 21 cows to breed this spring, 27 females in total.

New LM stock bull

Figure 2: Stock bull before turnout


James weighed his breeding heifers on 16th April. His home bred heifers ranged from 339 to 382kg and the bought in heifers ranged from 356 to 367kg. They gained from 0.07 to 0.8 kg/day since the 2nd March. The home bred heifers were recovering from a fluke burden so he expects that their weights will improve now that they are treated and at grass full time.

James also weighed the finishing cattle on 12th April. The 3 home bred finishing heifers averaged 627kg and gained 0.93 kg/day since 18th March. They were finished on 29th April at 25.9 months of age. They graded U=3- on average and had an average carcass weight of 377kg, making €2168/head. The bought in heifer that did not go in calf was finished at 31.5 months of age and graded U=3=. She weighed 738kg on 12th April and finished at 434kg carcass weight, making €2358.

Finishing heifers

Figure 3: Finishing heifers

Finishing heifers

Figure 4: Finishing heifers

The 5 2022 bullocks averaged 632kg on 12th April and had gained 0.85 kg/day since 18th March. They were finished at 25.3 months and graded U-3- on average. They had an average carcass weight of 380kg, making €2139/head.

Finished bullock

Figure 5: Bullock #539 graded U=3-at 402kg carcass weight

The heifers and bullocks had a longer than expected finishing period and didn’t do the average daily gains expected. Reflecting on this, the bullocks averaged 1.07kg/day and the heifers averaged 0.77kg/day over the finishing period. The bullocks were fed from 500kg live weight and the heifers were fed from 514kg. Based on their performance, all finishing cattle will be treated for rumen fluke before moving on to a finishing diet in future. The recommended weight for starting on a finishing diet will be approximately 550kg (546kg bullocks and 553kg heifers) so that they will be finished in 100 days or less.

The cow that lost her calf was sold through the mart. She weighed 678kg on 12th April and was 705kg on 2nd May, making €2.35/kg live weight.


James planted a new hedgerow as part of his ACRES scheme actions. Firstly the ground was excavated gently with a digger to allow for easier planting. 120m of hedging was planted in total in a double staggered row, consisting of 5 plants per metre. The trees were covered to prevent weeds smothering them out and chippings were placed alongside the cover to hold it down. James then clipped back the trees approximately one foot above ground level. He then added a double strand electric fence on either side of the hedge to prevent the cattle from accessing it.

New hedge & yearling cattle

Figure 6: Yearling cattle examining the new hedge on the out farm

Other biodiversity actions that James completed as part of ACRES included 2 riparian buffer zones, planting trees in a buffer zone, 747m of riparian buffer strips and 8.76ha of low input grassland.