Scratching the Surface
Having placed ample resources into reclaiming land on his farm, Irish Hereford Prime Monitor Farmer Proinsias Creedon is now reaping the rewards.
“We would be 800 to 900ft above sea level here. We don’t need any aerials for the television to work,”
Proinnsias laughs as he talks about his farm in the heart of Gaeltacht Mhúscraí in Co Cork. Proinnsias has a store to finish beef production system, with a particular affinity for Herefords on his farm. Having previously operated a dairy enterprise with his father, Proinnsias is now finishing 69 heifers annually, after taking over the farm from his father in 2013.
Proinnsias purchases heifers in a number of batches throughout the year between the ages of 12 and 18 months. The most recent animals that were bought arrived with an average weight of 367kg. When animals arrive on the farm, each is injected with the IBR Marker for pneumonia and dosed with the pour-on Closamectin. All of the heifers are then put out to grass.
Proinnsias aims to finish his heifers at 24 to 26 months. If he feels that an animal needs more time to mature he will hold them until they are 30 months. On a normal year, Poinnsias feeds additional concentrates for 5 to 6 weeks before sending his heifers to slaughter. “Two to three kilos of ration is fed per day. They are on Prime Elite Maize munch from Dairygold,” he explains. “It is 25% maize and 13% protein. I find it very simple and it works well for me.” Proinnsias, who is a Maths and Irish teacher, likes to weigh the animals frequently. “I weigh them when they start on the ration. I like to see how they are getting on with the supplementation on grass, rather than being on grass alone. They are also weighed before the factory.” The last batch of Hereford heifers that Proinnsias sent to the factory had been fed ration for just three weeks. The animals performed well with average live weight of 555kg and an average dead weight of 274kg.
When turning heifers out to certain areas of grass on his farm, Proinnsias has to be extremely careful. “When I have to put cattle down on the bog, I have to vaccinate for Red Water,” he explains. “The problem is, that this needs to be done with very young stock, because the withdrawal period is 213 days. You have to really be thinking ahead with it.” This issue is part of the reason Proinnsias is placing so much of his time and resources into reclaiming his bog land. “When I reclaim it, hopefully the issue will be as good as gone then.” Reclamation With a farm based on wet, heavy land, Proinnsias has been very proactive in improving the issue. “There would be a good bit of bog around here,” says Proinnsias. “There is roughly five acres that have been reclaimed this year and it took just over two weeks for the final part. It is an extremely slow process.” The reclamation work is contracted out and completed with a Hymac excavator. However, only half an acre can be turned in a day. The process involves turning the sod, then letting the ground sit and settle for at least 3 months. Then levelling the area, with the Hymac again, and grading the soil. Drains are dug out and all stones are then put in to them. “It is a long and well thought out process,” Proinnsias explains. “It is very expensive work, you would be looking at €1800 to €2000 an acre all inclusive – Hymac, seed, fertiliser and lime. But in the end, it is worth it.” After the ground was prepared, Proinnsias went in with 15kg of grass seed to the acre. Three bags of 10-10-20 were then applied with three tonnes of lime. This has paid off now as the grass is coming up nicely.
A heart for Herefords
Proinnsias has a young family and their family is always to the forefront of his mind when he is farming. “The Herefords are such quiet animals. I can’t afford to have wild animals on the farm with young children around,” he says. With experience in finishing Angus cattle also, Proinnsias favours Herefords over their Scottish counterparts. “I find the Herefords easier to put weight on, than the Angus’,” he explains. “For the most part, their finishing is also better than the Angus animals.” “While you might not get Herefords to the weights of Chaorlais cattle, you will often make as much if not more out of them – because they are here for a shorter time and have a smaller apetite.” Prionnsias is not alone with in his love for the animals, with his three sons, also following suit: “One son especially loves Herefords. The first thing he says when new animals arrive is – ‘how many of mine came?’” Proinnsias laughs. “If they aren’t Herefords, he doesn’t want anything to do with them!”
Heading into autumn, Proinnsias hopes to get his usual contractor in to finish off his silage ahead of the winter months. Proinnsias is also awaiting the latest faecal sample report in order to gain information on the health status of his animals. This will provide him with the knowledge on what animals need to be treated for on the farm.