8 October 1999

Upgrade your suckler replacements – advice

IRISH suckler producers are being urged to improve the quality of suckler herd replacements to boost profitability.

Years of beef herd expansion have encouraged breeding from poorer quality heifers, said Teagasc beef specialist Bernard Smyth at the event.

"We need to reduce the impact of Holstein genes on beef production. The ideal situation would be to have no Holstein blood in the suckler herd."

He pointed out that one of the pitfalls of breeding replacements within the beef herd is that hybrid vigour is lost. In France the suckler herd is purebred and it would be wrong for producers to go down this route, he said.

"We are suggesting a Continental bull, such as a Limousin, Blonde dAquitaine or Simmental to breed replacements.

"A different bull should then be used as a terminal sire, such as a Charolais or Belgian Blue. Limousins are also acceptable for the Italian market."

In some cases it may not be possible to breed replacements. In this situation, Mr Smythe advises being selective when purchasing from the dairy herd.

"When you depend on dairy bred animals as replacements avoid too much Holstein influence. Then use a good recommended beef bull to breed first class heifer replacements."

A concerted effort to improve breeding is rewarded by higher prices. "Quality beef is attracting premium prices, and as margins are tight this gives some hope.

"There has been a bouyant live export market for weanlings into Italy and Spain, with 500kg liveweight bulls reaching £500."

This makes home-finishing more difficult for store buyers as they have to pay premium prices for store cattle.

, which they never recoup at sale, he said.

Box pls – BEEF BREEDING

* Use continental bulls.

* Steer away from Holstein.

* Choose dairy herds carefully.

BEEFBREEDING

&#8226 Use Continental bulls.

&#8226 Move away from Holstein.

&#8226 Choose dairy herds carefully.