Breeding Fast Horses and Purebred Angus Cattle in Gigginstown

Joe O’Mahony is the farm manager of Gigginstown House and has been in charge for 21 years now, despite being from County Cork.

When Agriland visited the farm this week, preparations were underway for the annual farm sale taking place tomorrow (saturday april 16).

Many famous racehorses have spent time in the paddocks around Gigginstown House, including Tiger Roll and War of Attrition.

The farm

Owned by well-known Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary, the farm calves around 250 suckler cows – 200 of which are purebred Angus and the rest are recipient cows.

The farm runs a 50-50 spring-fall calving split.

Joe O’Mahony, farm manager

The farm also purchases approximately 150 cattle each year for beef, which graze behind bloodstock, leaving over 600 head of cattle on the farm at any one time.

The farm’s grazing pad is almost 700 acres, with about the same amount of tillage.

The farm is unique in that it is first and foremost a stud farm and the breeding system in place must be managed in a way that facilitates this.

land management

Joe explained, “With blood stock you don’t use a lot of fertilizer, you maintain your phosphorus (p) and potassium (K) but that’s it.

“We don’t want a puff of grass for mares and foals because what happens is a puff of grass can cause a foal to scour with too much milk.”

Gigginstown
Mares and foals grazing paddocks in front of cattle

When reseeding paddocks, older species such as fescue and timothy are used “which work great for sucklers as well,” according to Joe.

“We find that with the sucklers, those old grasses work quite well because even if you don’t have that burst of grass in the spring, we don’t come out until April anyway because of the cold nights,” he said. -he adds.

“Old grasses also have better turf to recover from poaching and we find these grasses will last better into the fall.”

Joe explained that he believes the current direction of agricultural industry advice is to return to farming practices similar to what older farmers would have traditionally done anyway.

“We had multi-species pastures before the idea was even conceived, just like all the old farmers,” he said.

“Originally, most suckler farmers were low-stocked, grazed multiple species, didn’t produce much fertilizer, and were as close to organic as possible.”

Silage soil on the farm is part of the tillage block and includes perennial grass.

Joe explained that the grazing system is extensive because even though the mares and foals don’t eat a lot of grass, “you have to spread them out over several fields”. The nursing herd then comes after them and uses all the remaining grass.

“Angus is a good fit for our system here because it’s a low maintenance, low input breed and Michael [O’Leary] always had a real fondness for the breed,” added Joe.

Plowing

The grain from the tillage company is sold to a local farmer and part of the tillage area is used for whole grain production.

“I try to cut the whole crop along with the second-cut silage. We put the silage on top of the whole crop to help seal the clamp,” Joe explained.

Gigginstown
Whole crop silage with grass silage on top

“Our whole culture starch values ​​are between 30 and 35 percent, which is fine,” he said.

Joe explained that there is a trade-off between starch and digestibility saying, “The more you cut it for digestion, the rarer or milkier it is, the more you lower your starch value.

“The longer it goes, the more starch you get at the expense of passing through the digestive system.

“Corn is better for yield, but whole wheat suits our system better here.”

The bull barn

The farm has an impressive shed to house the purebred bulls. This shed has a slatted area and a dry litter area in each pen with head blocking barriers.

Gigginstown

There is a slatted tank under the dry litter area covered with a rubber mat.

“That leaves the shed that it can be turned into a feedlot in the future if our system changes,” Joe said.

The central passage has a tank that stores all the rainwater. This is used to water the trees and hedges on the farm.

There are no walls above ground on the shed and Joe added that “it works fine” for them.

“On the coldest day of the year, you won’t feel any air in the middle of that shed; it is the walls that create the drafts. Even in the pouring rain, he can almost touch the doors,” he said.

The shed also includes a crush that is designed with safety in mind and can be used by one person at ease.

Autumn Calves

The fall calving herd management approach is simple and effective.

Joe explained, “As soon as the winter barley is cut in mid-July, I dry my cows and they calve six weeks later.

“The calvaries of autumn are weaned late to avoid a dry period during the mastitis season in June and July.

“One of the reasons we stuck with winter barley was because it suited our system for drying off cows calving in the fall.”

Six weeks before calving, the cows are put on slatted floors, fed with straw, dried and given a double mineral bolus. Their weaned calves are moved to good pasture.

The cows spend a week on the straw and when dry the cow then goes on the stubble.

All fall calves calve outdoors on the stubble. Joe explained, “A 40/acre field would have 40 cows, they move around all the time eating hay and picking up stubble.

“The system works so well for us here with very little intervention.”

Once calved, the cow then moves to post-grass. The calf is tagged and weighed, receives iodine on its navel and then joins the cow on the post-grass.

“Due to our calving system, we try to hold winter barley sowing until mid-October. It’s been three months since we’ve been on stubble,” Joe said.

“Calving outdoors with fall calves tends to result in very few misrepresentations because they are exercising. March and April are when you have the most difficulty with calving because the cows have been in the barn all winter.

The calves on the farm are not fed as they go, the main reason being that “the cattle graze with blood, so if you have a feed trough with blood there is a chance something will run into it”.

“We have to be aware of mares and foals,” added Joe.

“Of course one mare would buy the herd of cows, two would buy the farm,” Joe laughed.

The sale

The pedigree sale will feature a total of 23 bulls and 18 heifers which are primarily 4 and 5 star cattle.

Joe explained, “These cattle have a nice clean shoulder, a nice top loin and a nice round Angus head.”

The bulls in the sale are between 16 and 19 months old. They were winterized and sheltered in mid-February.

“The sale will feature bulls with easy calving numbers for the dairy farmer, we have bulls with lots of stars for the suckler farmer and bulls that are also suitable for purebred farmers,” Joe said.

He added that typically the buyers at bull sales are “mainly suckling breeders.”

Sample of bulls from the sale:

The sale of virgin and pregnant heifers will also attract a lot of attention and lot 29, a 4 star Red Angus heifer will no doubt attract many buyers for the sale, as well as a few other eye-catching heifers with impressive breeding. .

Sample of heifers for sale:

The sale will take place on Fennor Farm. Alternatively, auctions are available online through Ballyjamesduff Mart on the MartEye app.

The sale price for lot number 37 will be donated to help those affected by war in Ukraine and Michael O’Leary has agreed to match the price of the heifer and donate it to the same cause.