Lorraine Crowe combines a career in nursing with her role as a farmer on her family farm in Hollymount, Co. Mayo. Lorraine introduced a calf to beef system onto her farm ten years ago and now rears around fifty calves per year, she has been a member of Irish Hereford Prime since 2014. The beef producer group chose Lorraine as Farmer of Year for 2022 due to the high percentage of her cattle that consistently make an R grade, constant average daily liveweight gain and her commitment to, and advocacy of Herefords on her farm.
Almost all the calves bought for the farm are Hereford crosses, Lorraine explains why she feels they are easier fleshed and come into higher weights when compared with other breeds.
“I happened to buy a few Herefords eight or ten years ago and I just really liked them. They are so docile and so easy to manage and work with. The calves are out on grass from an early age and the paddock system that I put in place is used to maintain grass quality.”
Lorraine believes that this is the key to animal performance and good daily liveweight gain. The animals are moved every two to three days and Lorraine has used pigtail posts and electric fencing to create and manage paddocks in the past. Although she has plans to erect more permanent fencing in the future to further utilise the high levels of grass grown on the farm.
Lorraine likes to keep her winter season as short as possible by giving her weanlings access to the outdoors along with the shelter of a shed for supplementary feeding. She aims to close off part of the farm by November 1st, with housing starting around December 1st, to ensure that she has grass available for early grazing the following March. This year was more challenging than usual as Lorraine had less shed space due to not having a rented shed in the mix any longer. This meant that more of the animals had to be outwintered but fortunately for her the Hereford breed is suited to the outdoors and is well adapted to the Irish weather.
The sheds that are in use this year are bedded with straw and the animals are fed on high quality silage with a high level of protein particularly for younger growing stock. The animals will be put out to grass again by St. Patrick’s Day to ensure they get the best of the early grass. Lorraine believes in cutting good silage early in the season and aims to have it done by the first week in June. The ground she uses for the silage is grazed off ahead of closing it for the first cut.
When purchasing calves Lorraine believes that a visual assessment is the best measure. She likes a big strong healthy calf and for this reason she takes age into account. Some of the calves purchased for the farm come from local dairy farms, while others are sourced from Co. Kerry where Lorraine tends to have a larger choice of Hereford calves to select from.
Strong attention to detail and a high level of care ensures that calf health is good on the Hollymount farm. Lorraine’s background in nursing means that she understands how important health management is. All of the animals on the farm are weighed in September ahead of finishing, but also to monitor performance and divide the calves into different groups. Most of the Hereford heifers and steers are slaughtered at 19-22 months of age with a very high percentage of these Hereford cross animals grading as Rs. She supplies her cattle to Kepak Athleague and consistently meets the required carcass specification to achieve the top bonuses available. There are currently a portion of her steers sold live as forward stores, due to the lack of shed space. Lorraine plans to change this approach next year by building another shed with the assistance of a 60% TAMS grant.
2023 will see a further area of the farm reseeded to incorporate clover to reduce the overall nitrogen requirement while at the same time helping to reduce Green House Gas emissions. To add to this environmental focus, Lorraine has recently joined the ACRES programme with several important topics being focused on. These include, traditional stonewall maintenance, low input pasture along with an area that has been set aside for geese and swans.
As the third generation to work the farm in Hollymount, Lorraine would like it to stay in the family in the future. Her Dad is still actively involved, and her nephew and two nieces also love to help out. Lorraine enjoys passing on her knowledge and is delighted to see them and in particular her nephew’s enthusiasm for rearing calves.
“I love to see the changes and the good performance of Hereford animals; it is hugely satisfying for all of us to watch them thrive and grow.”