In thiss week Suckler cow focus That’s Farming, speaks to Killian Farrell from Suirville Pedigree Cattle. The qualified veterinarian talks about the balance between farming and work, 24 months of calving, using a CIDR program, how he thinks € urostars will affect breeders and how he sees the future of Irish suckler cow husbandry.
Killian Farrell was infected with the show virus from his father Noel when he bought a stock bull on a Charolais show at the age of seventeen and sold it in Carrick-on-Shannon.
Half a year later he bought his very first Simmental heifer.
Born in Tipperary, he grew up on a suckler cow farm but moved two years ago to rent a 30-acre farm next to his place of work. His herd consists of seven pure-bred Simmentaler females and one Charolais, which he breeds under the prefixes Suirville.
Killian graduated from UCD, Ireland’s only veterinary school four years ago and now works at Farm Gate Veterinary in Co Galway.
“I remember going to my grandfather’s farm with my father on Sunday evening to milk cows and to calve cows from an early age. We grew up on a farm; it’s all we know, ”he told That’s Farming.
“My father is part of a big family. He had some land in Waterford and was working off there, but there was a ring road that ran through the farm, so we locked up there and moved to Tipperary.
Suirville pedigree cattle
In 2012, Killian Suirville founded Simmentals by acquiring Clonagh Diamond Eyes in an initial sale by the Irish Simmental Society.
He then bought Seaview Diamond privately from Tony O’Leary and Carbury Gemma in the Irish Simmental Society’s 2016 premiere sale.
He expanded the herd by keeping Suirville Holly, Suirville Misty Eyes, Suirville Lovebird, and Suirville Lucy.
Killian used ET labor in the herd, which increased the number of high-end calves produced in a single year.
Killian explained why he chose the Simmentaler breed and what qualities he looks for in his breeding bitches.
“I chose Simmentaler because I wanted a cow that gets a lot of milk to raise her calf.”
“In my opinion, Simmentaler is the best maternal breed of cow. They can be crossed with many breeds to make an excellent commercial cow. “
“If I buy a heifer, it must have a nice head. I would never buy a heifer if I didn’t like its head. “
“They must be of good breed character, style, length, presence and a good width of the pelvis.”
“If I can find out something about the mother, to see if she has milk and all of its properties, that’s a bonus.”
Image: Kathryn Shaw
In addition, he introduced the Charolais breed and established Suirville Charolais by buying Coolmane Opal at the Irish Charolais Cattle Society’s 2019 elite heifer sale in Tullamore.
Killian flushed her and her embryonic calves went live last month.
“I came to Charolais because, in my experience, Simmental bulls have been more difficult to sell in recent years, especially in Galway.”
“I farm just a few miles from Ballinasloe Mart, and if you have a Charolais weaners, I think it sells better than a Simmentaler weaners.”
“So it is easier to sell the Charolais bull to the commercial farmer who sells his weaners.”
Killian syncs all heifers in one day through a CIDR program, which Killian says is a labor-saving technique.
Reproduction takes place over 12 weeks with about 3-4 rounds of insemination.
“I try to choose a sire that suits the cow. If a bull had already mated well with a cow, I would try to pick this bull again. “
“It doesn’t justify having a stock bull since I have such small numbers. When you have a stock bull, you can’t mix and match. The part of the game that I like is picking different bulls that go with different cows. “
“I first used sexed sperm with Coose Jerrico last year. I have a heifer that will calve in two weeks, so it should be a female calf. “
The owner of Suirville Pedigree Cattle shared his opinion on the genetic pool available in Ireland and overseas.
“This whole € urostar game diminishes the possibilities for breeders. It leads to breeders using many of the same bulls. “
“If we all select the bull with the highest star rating, the genetic pool will be completely diluted and it will be difficult to pick bulls in the future.”
“Certain breeders pick bulls for the stars on their own. They do get a bull calf, which according to their numbers is very salable, but may not be of a sufficient standard for breeding. “
“But some farmers buy bulls just because of their numbers. This means that the bulls in herds do not breed sufficiently and leave a poor population behind. “
“It is very difficult to buy a bull who does not have certain genes that you want to cross with your cow.”
“Ireland probably has the best Simmental beef in the world. Many countries have a dual purpose Simmental breed and breed more on milk than on the beef qualities that the Irish suckler cow farmer needs. “
“Charolais breeders have the option of going to France to source outcross genetics. The Simmental breeders are probably more limited. “
Killian calves his cows in September and October as he has more demanding work assignments in the spring.
He places cows near calving in a paddock near a barn equipped with a Gaeltacht Communications calving camera and in houses when they are due to calve.
“It can be easier to sell a bull born in the fall. He will be tall enough and old enough to do his job at 18 months old next spring. Calves born in spring may not be mature enough to sell the following spring. “
The herd’s calving interval is 381 days, a value she achieves through her synchronization program.
The vet gets all of the cows cycling at the start of the breeding season and helps the females get into heat faster.
It also breaks the maternal cow-calf bond so that the cows get into heat more quickly. Calves are locked in the crawl area in daylight and left outside at night to suckle on their mother.
Image: Alfie Shaw
24 months calving
He decides to calve his heifers for 24 months. “If a heifer is good enough, by this point it will be big enough to calve. In my opinion, you only have to choose a sire who calves easily. “
“People think they cannot calve when they are two and leave until they are three; then they are too big and too fat. I think you almost get more calving difficulties. “
“It costs money to keep a cow, and if she doesn’t produce a calf this year, that’s less income for you. You have the cost of keeping the heifer without being able to sell a calf. “
“I don’t sell any bull that I don’t think is good enough or that I wouldn’t breed for myself. They are sent to the beef as ox or sold as weaners in the market. “
“This year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and we are trying to promote the breed, I decided not to sell on the farm and to bring better cattle to the company sales in Roscommon on October 23rd.”
Killian will have Suirville Magic Eyes, Suirville Mosart, and Suirville Maximus for sale.
Killian has had success at agricultural shows including Dualla, Cappamore and Charleville.
His highlights include the southeast weaning bark of the year with Suirville Kim at the Ossory Show 2019 and the title of Simmental Young Dog Handler at the Tullamore Show 2014.
“It’s a hobby and if you enjoy doing it you will find the time and if you don’t like it you won’t.”
“It’s a great way to promote the herd / breed and you never know, you might be selling something at the shows.”
He emphasized that grassland management is just as important as genetics and if a grassy area becomes too thick he will use it to create excess silage bales.
“Grassland management would be very important. If I owned my yard, I would rather invest in infrastructure / fences / paths / lime and create proper paddocks. “
“It can be difficult to lease a farm. We have low inventory so this is not a huge problem. I’m not trying to significantly increase the farm’s output. “
Killian believes in genealogy to be successful, you have to “do a lot of hard work, have the urge to get up early in the morning, feed / wash / bed the cattle and do the same in the evening”.
“It’s the little things that count. You have to invest the time to get the rewards. “
Plans for Suirville pedigree cattle
Killian intends to expand to a herd of 20 cows, have 20 top quality calves a year and improve their farm.
His five to ten year plan is potentially to buy a farm to invest in a farm that he can benefit from.
“It’s about finding the next one and hopefully breeding something out of the ordinary and maybe selling a bull to an AI station or beating the first few sales.”
“I am not dependent on suckler cow husbandry. I don’t see many people dependent on it full time; It is quite difficult to make a living, which is unfortunate because it is a great way of life. “
“Agricultural and veterinary aid skills. When I go to other farms, the fact that I am a farmer helps me, and when I go to my own farm, the fact that I am a vet helps me. “
Future of suckler cow husbandry
Killian outlined his view of the future of Irish suckler cow farming.
“There are currently many farmers who are not turning away from suckler cow husbandry.”
“Unfortunately, I don’t know where the successors to their farms will come from.”
“Although I love farming and love to do it, there are many sons / daughters of these current farmers who have no interest in the farm.”
“They have secured jobs / employment outside of farming and, in fairness, young people cannot be blamed for not wanting to return to farming because it is difficult to justify this in terms of the incomes of those farms. Its sustainability is questionable, ”he concluded.
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