Heifer calving at 24 months discussed in Fermanagh Suckler BDG

Roland Graham, County Fermanagh farmer and member of the BDG, is one farmer who has bred his own replacements and calved them at 24 months for the past few years.

As part of the BDG program, Ruth Moore, CAFRE’s local Beef & Sheep Advisor, hosted a BDG meeting hosted by Roland to discuss how calving at 24 months is done on her farm. The group welcomed Chris Johnston who works with the suckler herd at Graham’s farm to synchronize heifers, perform pre- and post-breeding analysis and AI heifers selected as replacements.

The group discussed the benefits of calving heifers at 24 months, in that it allows for more calves from each heifer over its lifetime, a reduced stocking rate compared to heifers calving at older ages, and a increase in cow margins. Research conducted by the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) in collaboration with Agrisearch has demonstrated a significant increase in margins achieved per cow by calving at 24 months rather than 36 months.

Ruth Moore CAFRE, Beef and Sheep Adviser, (host) and Chris Johnston who attended a BDG meeting to discuss calving heifers at 24 months

BDG members were able to view a selection of stock during the evening. As host, Roland spoke about managing his breeding herd at various stages; male heifers, heifers that calved at 24 months and cows that subsequently calved at 3, 4 and 5 years.

Early identification of replacement heifers is important to Graham’s herd. This ensures that nutritional programs are put in place early to allow heifers to reach 60% of their mature weight at calving. Chris Johnston and Roland explained the importance of choosing the right bull for heifers. Calving ease is paramount to ensuring that young heifers are calved safely and have every chance of becoming calves again as first calves.

Once successfully calved, heifers must be properly managed to reach 80% of their mature weight at calving time. Monitoring the body condition score of young heifers ensures they are fit and fat-free at calving. Once the heifer has calved it is important that she does not lose too much condition as excessive weight loss could delay her return to the cycle and therefore to breeding.

In order to calve heifers at 24 months, regular weighing is essential to ensure the heifers are of the correct size for mating at 15 months. Funded by DAERA and Agrisearch, the BovIS growth monitoring tool was developed by AFBI to provide suckler farmers with a facility to assess the growth performance of replacement heifers within their herd. Through performance monitoring, informed decisions can be made to ensure breeding cattle meet best practice goals. The BovIS growth verification tool is accessible via DAERA’s online services.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union are funding the Business Development Groups program and the establishment of Technology Demonstration Farms across Northern Ireland.

About Keneth T. Graves

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