Huge genetic gains on dairy-beef enterprise

The sixth focus farm in the Progressive Farm Program visits the dairy calf to beef system of Declan Butler in Co. Waterford.

Originally, a suckler cow herd was operated on the farm, but Declan now runs a dairy calf to beef system. He farms part-time alongside his father Tom and daughter Aveline. A total of 60ac is farmed – with 40 to 45 ‘fast finishing animals’ purchased each year. Aberdeen Angus and Hereford are the breeds that are predominately purchased by Declan.

Declan aims to slaughter the heifers between 17 to 19 months and 19 to 20 months for the bullocks. He highlights the importance of dairy farmers selecting the right bulls and using high beef index sires to produce calves suitable for beef finishers. Using a heifer sired by Progressive Genetics sire, Intelagri Matteo E.T., Declan shows that the heifer is currently weighing 413kg and has achieved 0.9kg of live weight gain/day since birth. He said that he is very happy with the performance of this heifer and expects that she will come into a good weight. Declan said it shows the importance of dairy farmers using the right beef sires on dairy cows.


When purchasing calves, Declan places a big focus on calves with a high commercial beef value (CBV). The CBV is a tool that has been developed to allow beef farmers identify genetically superior animals that are destined for beef production.

The CBV comprises five key traits: carcass weight; carcass conformation; age at finish, percentage in-spec and feed intake. The CBV is available this spring on mart boards for calves that are genotyped and it will also be available on the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation (ICBF) HerdPlus, in the ‘View Profile’ section.

Maximising value of calf crop

Padraic Mulconroy, Beef Advisor at Progressive Genetics, notes that Declan has some British Blue calves on the farm sired by Quarry Bank Moneyman and Stef VD Blomsteeg. He says that there is an opportunity for dairy farmers to maximise the value of their beef sired calves being sold off farm by using these sires. This is the first year that Declan has purchased Belgian/British Blue calves and he is hoping that they will make an R 2+ when it comes to finishing.

Premium Plus Beef Sires

Progressive Genetics’ Premium Plus Beef Sires Program, with the sires carefully selected from the National Cattle Breeding Centre (NCBC) breeding program – puts a quality mark on bulls that are proven easy calving, short gestation, produce high CBV calves, have high carcass quality and provide profitability for both the producer and finisher. Padraic explained that Premium Plus Beef Sires can be identified by the logo in the Progressive Genetics Dairy Beef catalogue and in the beef section within the Dairy Catalogue.

Sourcing calves

Declan explained that he was originally sourcing calves himself through the ABP Blade system, but he found it difficult to source good quality calves, with a lot of calves having unknown sires or being sired by stock bulls, with these calves not performing. Declan says that he made contact with ABP’s Advantage Beef Programme Farm Liaison Team leader, Amie Coonan and she put him in contact with dairy farmer Eoin McDonald from Co. Wexford. Declan purchased calves from Eoin last year and was happy with their performance, so bought calves again this year from him. He said that the calves are from fewer sires this year, but that they have more of a carcass trait.

The first 22 calves purchased this year have an average CBV of €89, which is up from €64 last year. Padraic notes that when a dairy farmer uses high beef merit sires with carcass weight around the 8kg to 9kg – you will get the performance on the ground.

Progressive Farm Program

Part one of the Progressive Farm Program: Breeding a robust cow for Meath autumn-calving herd;

Part two of the Progressive Farm Program: Achieving 605kg of milk solids in Louth dairy herd

Part three of the Progressive Farm Program: Combining pedigree breeding and EBI in Meath

Part four of the Progressive Farm Program: Breeding a functional cow in Kildare

Part five of the Progressive Farm Program: Keeping things simple on Laois dairy farm

For more information on AgriNet HerdApp, just click here.

Additionally, for more information on Progressive Genetics, click here.