West is best when it comes to sourcing top-quality suckler stock for Galway farmer Norman Connolly, who has purchased over 100 heifers for breeding and selling as in-calf heifers this year.
“I would have bought heifers from right across the west. From Tuam to Balla, Ballinrobe, Manorhamilton, Ballymote to Ballinasloe and down to Ennis. You have to always be on the lookout for the type of heifers we are looking to breed here,” Norman explains.
“What I am trying to produce is the ideal replacement for a good commercial suckler cow herd. I’d have a few of the fancier types, but the main focus is to have heifers for sale that will go on and produce those real top-quality cattle for the buyer in the years to come.”
Managing and co-ordinating the breeding of over 100 heifers takes careful planning and consideration. From all the heifers purchased, 91 were bred, with Norman taking out a few heifers that weren’t suitable for breeding for various reasons.
Of these, 69 were to be bred to AI and another 22 were selected to be bred with the Limousin stock bull bred by Trueman Jagger. The AI sires used included Tomschoice Lexicon, EBY, Lodge Hamlet and Loyal.
“The heifers were housed in what was the suckler cow shed, so I used the calving camera mostly for heat detection. I found it worked very well, I could keep an eye on things on my phone throughout the day without going into the shed and disturbing the heifers.
"They came into heat very quickly, I would have had 40 bulled in the space of two weeks. We scanned initially after five weeks to see how things were going.
"It ended up that of the 69 heifers bred to AI, 51 held to an AI sire with repeats bred to the stock bull after that.
"I used once-a-day AI. If I saw a heifer bulling in the evening, she was served the next morning.
"Heifers in strong heat in early morning would also have been bred the same day. It seemed to work.
"I think keeping that close eye on them is really important, as some of the heats were only for a short period of time.”
In-calf heifer sale
The first 68 heifers are heading for sale in Tuam Mart on Monday 18 October at 7pm in a special sale, with online bidding available via the MartBids platform.
It is the first time Norman has had his own sale and is hoping that all will go well on the night.
“I sold 25 heifers two years ago and upped that to 50 last year, which I would have sold in a few lots. This year, I felt we had the numbers to have a standalone sale.
"The heifers going to this sale are the earliest calvers. The first heifer is due on 26 October and they will have all calved by the end of December. They are all export tested and can leave the day after the sale."
"The heifers have received nothing but grass since going out in late-April. At that time, they were averaging from 550kg to 600kg.
"We weighed a few of them here a week ago and they would be 700kg to 750kg mark now, so they have done a good thrive this year at grass.”