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David Holland, Bunlacken, Cullohill, Co. Laois

David Holland runs the Cairnmor Herd of pedigree Aberdeen Angus cattle on a commercial basis at Cullohill in Co. Laois.  Having come from a dairy farming background, the management of a compact calving system and the benefits of grassland management are evident in the results achieved on his farm.

The business operates a strong low cost model, utilising grass through a network of paddocks and making quality winter forage in baled silage format.  David’s breeding policy has developed through the rigorous selection of using AI and pedigree bulls in that he now supplies breeding heifers for export and pedigree bulls are sold from the farm for breeding purposes.  David is a member of the Irish Angus Cattle Society which has seen a recent surge in demand for all progeny due to the development of the breed and is also a member of the Portlaoise beef discussion group led by Paul Gilligan.

David runs the 90 strong herd on a strict commercial basis, cows calve in the autumn with all replacements being home bred, “we focus on a tight calving pattern on this farm, I have to, as I manage the herd myself with some help from my sons when they are free to give me a hand, the heifers are calved down at 2 years of age and some of heifers would be 540kg in weight at 18 months” remarks David.

David was approached to take part in the Teagasc/UCD trail in 2015 to look at fixed time AI synchronisation within the herd.  A group of the cows were selected for the trial and they were body condition scored and scanned pre breeding. “For the trial they used fixed time AI, where we had just three handlings, this made the process quite easy and I was able to select a choice of AI straws that I could match with the cows. The results were excellent and I found the process took a lot of pressure off my bulls and was a labour saving in terms of heat detection and managing calving”

Since the trail I have continued to use synchronisation on a batch of approximately 30 cows each season.  In consultation with my vet, Michael Bergin I have used the same protocols used in the trail with conception rates of over 60% to 1st service, without any heat detection. My average 3 year calving interval was 366 days but last season I was at 347 day with over half of my herd calving in 2 weeks.

Calving spread has been a major benefit, it has reduced my calving interval and this year I have only 2 cows left on their due date, most calved in prior to their date without problems.  The program has reduced the pressure on my bulls when dealing with any repeat breeders and has allowed me to use more AI to improve the genetics within the herd. “This year 84% of my herd is scanned in calf to calve down in 4 weeks, this makes my life easier” remarks David.

The key advantages of synchronisation on this herd were summarised as:

  • Reduced pressure on breeding bulls
  • Compact calving
  • Labour reduction in heat detection and management of stock
  • It keeps the calving season as the calving season.
  • Easier to manage tight groups of stock
  • Allows for a wider choice of AI straws and improved genetic gain

“For a part time farmer or a farmer who would like to compact his calving system the use of synchronisation is a cost-effective measure that can help in the management of the farm” concludes David.


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