Blondes on the road to a profitable herd

Some of Brian's calves at the suck calf sale

Some of Brian's calves at the suck calf sale

Dessie McGartland farms in partnership with his son Brian and they run an excellent suckling herd.

Prior to this they ran a 50 cow dairy herd and a small suckler herd. They ran a Blonde bull across the two herds with Dessie being pleased with his Blonde cross calves from his good square British Friesian type cows. In fact Dessie observed before the road was built in the last three years running both the dairy and suckling herds and followers with a Blonde bull he only lost one calf. Dessie and Brian both added that some other popular breeds talk quite rightly about how good their calves are but they don’t talk about their difficult calving e.g. calves not sucking etc.

Dessie and Brian both maintained that the Blonde breed is under rated in the beef sector and that if more men used a Blonde bull they would never go back to the popular breeds.

However getting back to Dessie’s story, faced with having land on both sides of the Ballgawley main by-pass and this being impractical for a dairy herd Dessie was faced with the heart breaking task of dispersing his herd. Dessie could have went down the route of purchasing stores and finishing them, but with his good experience of the Blonde breed and the fact he already had a successful small suckler herd Dessie opted to build on this having had a couple of batches of excellent Blonde cross heifers from this dairy herd. Off course Dessie and Brian chose a Blonde bull to serve these heifers, having had an experience of the easy calving and quiet temperament, good growth and easy fleshing.

Brian successfully completed a DIY Ai course at Clogher Valley Cattle Breeders run by Joe Kelly to maximise the quality of animals produced. They, over a period of years, have expanded and improved their herd, retaining Blonde heifers because as Brian explained the Blonde female can prove herself against all these fancy maternal breeds with her good milk supply, excellent mothering ability and conformation.

Brian continued having bought the top prized bull at the spring sale in 2006, he sees this as an excellent investment. With his quality calves he has regular customers buying every year at the mart and at home because his calves do well and make a profit for their owners.

Brian sells his male calves both in the autumn and spring depending on their size and how trade is. Some heifers are retained but Brain has noticed a demand from local farmers keen to avail of shapely maternal replacements and sells some at home.

As Brian and Dessie both agreed a suckler herd requires good management but a Blonde bull makes it that bit easier. With quality silage being made in two cuts Dessie and Brian believe in giving their cows access to mineral licks, with growvite being used four to six weeks prior to calving and four to six weeks after the calving.

Brian and Dessie swear by using growvite and believe more farmers should use this cost effective product. Due to the success of the commercial herd a small pedigree herd was formed in 2008. This as Brian says, is just a bit of craic with the show season a great social occasion. So with their experience with working with Blondes both as pedigrees and commercials Dessie and Brian are well qualified to recommend the Blonde beef to all discerning beef producers as they both agreed after years of using other popular breeds.

Some breeds have a few of the Blondes attributes but the Blondes are the whole package - easy calving, lively calves, good conformation and growth with a high kill out and a docile nature with the females making excellent cows with their good milk and mothering ability. So with all these points and a lot of happy and profitable farmers, there is much to recommend the Blonde to the beef industry.

Often the question is asked, ‘Where can I source quality Blonde straws?’ Dovea Genetics- Pat Hackett, Western Farm Enterprises – Alan Armstrong, Clogher Valley Cattle Breeders – Joe Kelly and Cross Keys Genetics – Stephen Barry and Kathryn Marshall.

Many of the other popular beef breeds have bulls that have become household names in their respective circles. E.g. Rocky - Limousin, Donally New - Charolais.

In the Blonde breed there are many outstanding bulls that have put their stamp on their progeny and have become legends like Whistley Dollar, Ganaway Jasper and Ashtonlodge Jet and rising stars that have created a stir more recently like Fronfdew Arawn, Kilmoney Bruce, Budore Utah and Doncombe Aga Khan.

With more quality UK and Irish bulls being bred there are further options to improve existing blood lines. Those breeders who want to widen their gene pool further can avail of French blonde straws such as California, Sauvuer and Nicodeme. These bulls though not as widely known have done a good job for those that have used them and give breeders more options in their breeding programme. So the four Ai companies mentioned above can help you in your future breeding plans. They also provide DIY Ai training courses and all the associated products in this extensive field. For more information on Blondes go to the NI Blonde Cattle Club website.

On Friday 22nd February the NI Blonde Cattle Club are holding ten pin bowling in the Odyssey in Belfast starting at 7.45pm. For further information contact the secretary Francis McDade 077 3916 6522.


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