Limousin fulfilling Ivan’s passion for suckler farming
North Antrim businessman and first-generation farmer Ivan Lynn combines the management of a successful groundwork and construction company with the running of a 100-cow commercial suckler enterprise.
Farming over 170 acres at Glenshesk near Armoy, Ivan is firmly focused on using Limousin bloodlines to maximise profitability. His attention-to-detail netted him the title of best large suckler herd in the NI Limousin Club’s 2022 herd competition.
Ivan’s passion for farming stems from an early age, and over the last 25 years his ‘hobby’ has progressed significantly. Investing in land and increasing the herd size from just six cows in 2008, Ivan Lynn has earned a reputation as one of NI’s leading commercial farmers and suckled calf producers.
Sons Conall, Daniel and Liam are following in their father’s footsteps, and have recently developed an interest in breeding and showing commercial cattle. Hillside Commercials made its showring debut at the Royal Ulster Premier Beef and Lamb Championships held at Balmoral Park, with ‘team Lynn’ delighted to win a first prize rosette for the best junior beef steer.
“I was reared in the country and always had an interest in agriculture. I started out keeping sheep, but I get great satisfaction working with cattle. After a busy day at work, I really enjoy getting out amongst the cattle, it’s my therapy and helps me to unwind and relax,” explained Ivan, who employs 35 men at various sites throughout NI and England.
The suckler cows are predominantly Limousin crosses. “I like square, shapely cows with good bone, nice feminine heads and big ears. They must have good plates, a level back, and plenty of milk. The Limousin crosses well with British Blue or Charolais, and the progeny vary in colour from blue grey to black or red. It’s an added bonus to get a calf with a bit of white or a splash of colour.”
Over the years Ivan has selected Limousin stock bulls with the aim of improving his herd, and producing better quality calves. Bulls have been purchased privately from the Carmorn, Ampertaine, Newhillfarm and Culnagechan herds.
Ivan completed an AI course three years ago, and is using semen from proven Limousin bulls extensively across the herd. AI sires currently in use include Ewdenvale Ivor, Elderberry Galahad, Wilodge Joskins and Ernevalley Madison.
He is impressed with the fertility, hardiness and longevity of the Limousin. Genetics, calving ease, conformation, temperament and locomotion are all key factors for consideration when selecting a bull.
“For me myostatin genes are an advantage to the breeding ‘tool box’, and can be used by farmers to tailor or fine tune their specific breeding requirements. A single NT gene is preferable for my breeding policy, especially as I am aiming to breed muscly calves for the fatstock ring.”
Heifers calve into the herd between 24 and 32 months of age, and the calving period runs from October/November to March. “The new born Limousin calves are vigorous and lively at birth and thrive from day one. We routinely milk two or three litres of colostrum from the cow to feed the calves immediately after birth. This gives the calves a good start, and helps to eliminate problems with infections and scours.”
Ivan added: “The cows have plenty of milk and good mothering ability. All calves are sold as weanlings, and the older, stronger calf around seven to nine-months-old is in big demand at market,” added Ivan who is leading consignor at Ballymena and Armoy.
“The bullocks attract a ready market from beef finishers, but I find that heifers command a higher price per kilo. The females are sought after as breeding replacements, and I’ve received prices as high as £3,000 for a 320kgs heifer.”
A number of home-bred heifers are retained annually, and in-calf and springing heifers have been purchased from noted suckler producers Gareth Corrie, James Alexander, Martin Tumilty and Olcan Laverty.
“I’m always on the look-out for females that have the potential to breed commercial show winners. I’ve recently started putting select females on a flushing programme to enhance their genetic potential. There is a strong demand for in-calf ET recipients and frozen embryos.”
Several of the ‘special’ cows on the ET breeding programme include a Gallaway Midland daughter bought at Thainstone in Scotland for £4,600 from Moir Livestock; and an AA x Limousin heifer purchased from Jalex at £6,800.
Ivan judged the breeding heifer championship at the Royal Ulster fatstock event November, and purchased the overall winner from James Alexander for £10,000. Another Jalex purchase at £9,000 was the Quarantine Queen, described by Ivan Lynn as ‘a serious heifer. Both are earmarked for an ET programme over the next few months.
Ivan Lynn’s passion for commercial beef cattle, and expert eye, has led him to become one of the Province’s most respected cattle judges. Upcoming appointments for 2023 include judging the commercial section of the NI Limousin Club’s Rising Stars Calf Show, taking place at Dungannon on Saturday 11th March.
- The British Limousin Society’s show and sale at Dungannon Farmers’ Mart on Monday 13th February, has attracted an entry of 39 pedigree bulls and 9 females. Judging commences at 10am, followed by the sale at noon. Catalogues are available from the auctioneers tel: 028 8772 2727.