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The Suckler Cow of the future? Five key areas to improve on


The Irish Suckler herd has some major challenges facing it over the coming years. Charlie Devaney, Beef Advisor, Teagasc Castlerea discusses the five the main KPI’s (Key performance Indicators) areas that need to be focused on in order for it to survive into the future.

In order for the Irish Suckler herd to survive into the future it is my opinion that there are five the main KPI’s (Key performance Indicators) areas that we need to focus on or will be asked to focus on.

  1. Calving Interval – The national calving interval over the last 12 months is 395days. This figure is consistently around 400 days per year. It needs to be closer to 365 days.
  2. Calves Per cow per year – This figure is 0.86 calves per cow per year over the last year. Again this figure has been around this for quite a while. Basically what it means is that for every 20 cows we are producing 17 calves each year.
  3. Recycled Cows – Presently 17% of our suckler cows are not having a calf each year. This equates to nearly 2 cows out of every 10. Can this continue?
  4. Heifers calved at 24 months – Again the percentage of heifers calving at 2 years is very low. I know a lot of farmers don’t like calving heifers at 2 years of age but again this is an area that I think we will be asked to improve on in the future.
  5. AI Usage – Lastly AI usage is at 16% for the last 12 months in the suckler herd. The reality is that it needs to improve to improve the quality of our herd but practically this is very hard.

The reality is that the current situation can’t continue. The question now is will it be the carrot or stick method that forces this change.

If you liked this article you might also like to read What is sustainable beef production? Are grass-based systems sustainable?

Teagasc Advisors are regular contibutors of articles here on Teagasc Daily. If you require any help or advice in the area of suckler breeding contact your local Teagasc Advisory Office here: Advisory Regions. on Teagasc Daily. Find more on Teagasc beef here.