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Why Michael Mcguigan is moving to Spring Calving

Why Michael Mcguigan is moving to Spring Calving

Michael McGuigan farms 23.5 ha in Clongiffen, outside Longwood in Co. Meath. In the last couple of years he has been calving the 35 cows in the months of October until the end of December, writes Gabriel Trayers.

There were a number of advantages in calving at this time for Michael

  • It facilitated outdoor calving for the cows due in October and early November
  • Michael uses AI so the cows were inseminated indoors
  • The weanlings could had access to adjacent paddocks during the winter. This reduced the requirement for straw and helped break the bond between mother and calf
  • Michael could sell a heavier type weanling the following summer/autumn
  • All of the above helped reduce the labour requirement from Michael and as a part-time farmer, this is important

However, there are also a number of disadvantages to this system

  • The cow must be restricted during the summer months on grass to ensure that she doesn’t become “fat”
  • Michael has to ensure that all of his silage is high quality75% DMD silage. The cow must produce milk to feed her calf and go back in calf while on silage. The system can get expensive if meal needs to be used as a supplement feed 
  • While AI was used Michael also needed a bull to mop up inside on slats which was  not ideal and it was an expensive way of putting a small number of cows in-calf at the end of the season

After some debate, a  decision has been taken to move to the calving  period in Spring. In summary, with Michael’s excellent management skills, the farm can easily grow over 12ton/DM/ha of grass. On reflection, it didn’t seem sensible  to be feeding the herd at two critical periods in her cycle ie when rearing a calf and breeding while eating silage. The spring calving system will follow the grass growth curve in terms of demand of the herd and the supply of grass.

So what about AI?

Will that be more difficult when the herd will be outdoors on grass? Michael has invested in sense hub technology which will send a text to his phone when the cow is in heat. The cows have been fitted with the collars last week and Michael is getting trained up on the system.  

The farmyard is centrally located in the middle of the farm so getting cows into the yard  will not be an issue. Using sensehub will also eliminate the need for a mop up bull. Michael also plans to tail-paint as a back-up aid in heat detection.

Breeding Plans 2024

Michael’s Eurostar profile highlights that  his herd is €112 giving it a five star status. However, when you look deeper into the sub-traits, the milk figure for the herd (3.9kgs) which is below the national average figure. In addition, the breed of the herd is predominately Limousin. As a result, the plan going forward is to increase the milk figure and also add in another breed in increase the hybrid vigour of the herd.

In order, to move the calving period to spring, Michael took the decision not to breed indoors this year and instead will start on April 20th. The breeding season will last nine weeks meaning a nine week calving period  starting at the end of January 2025.

Michael is fully prepared for the breeding season. The bulls have been picked to match each individual cow and the straws are ordered. Also, using the sensehub technology, heats will be recorded for three weeks prior to the start of the breeding season. This is good practice as he will have exact  dates of each individual cow and heifer cycle  in advance of April 20th. Another advantage is that any cow not showing heat can be scanned to identify any problems and then be treated accordingly.

The breeding plan also will include a replacement policy. In the past Michael bought in some replacements and he is finding it very difficult to source the type of heifers he wants. He needs 7 to 8 heifers coming into the system annually. He has purchased sexed semen straws form the maternal bulls Lennox (LM) and Curaheen Gunshot( Simmental) All heifers will be calved at two years of age also.

beef euro star profile

Curaheen Gunshot Replacement index 131

Curaheen Gunshot Replacement index €131

Matching the bulls to the cows

Matching the bulls to the cows

The mix of bulls Michael intends to use

The mix of bulls Michael intends to use