Ballinalee, co. Grazing the pastures on the outskirts of Longford is the 2022 All-Ireland Beef Bullock champion residing on John Kane’s farm.
John Co. It operates a Longford-based beef and sheep farm and is also a plant agent for Donegal-based beef processor Foyle Meats.
Agriland The trade recently visited John Kane’s farm to learn more about his impressive year in the cattle show ring and his beef and sheep enterprise.
He said: “I farm full-time and also work as a factory agent for Foyle Meats. I’d cover all the midlands, buying cattle as far afield as Co Offaly.’
As a factory agent, he looks for top-quality cattle under 30 months of age with a carcass weight of 300-400kg and says: “There is a good premium for that. [that] stock type and a substantial premium of between 300kg and 400kg for Angus.
His household consists of a flock of breeding sheep and both breeding and beef cattle.
“We finish some bulls, but we primarily finish heifers under 30 months with a carcass weight of 330kg to 400kg, averaging 375kg.
“We have finished all the R and U grade heifers and are starting to move into higher quality Angus. A factory bonus of 20-30c/kg has definitely improved the quality of Angus cattle. No breed of animal has improved as much as the Angus in the last five years. People showed great interest in them again.”
John also has a selection of commercial heifers that he plans to sell later in the year. Last year he won first prize at the Carrick-On-Shannon fatstock show and sold “heifers with relatively good prospects for €2,500-€3,000”.
At John’s farm, cattle are finished all year round. They are put out to graze in March and John believes that the secret to success in any farm operation is good grazing and pasture management as well as making silage early with high dry matter digestibility (DMD).
Finding the future champion
John married Declan McKenna, Clogher, Co., Nov. 2021. He explained how he came to own the champion bull he bought from Tyrone.
The Limousin cross bull is two years old and is from a Belgian Blue cow. The steer is fed by the famous Limousin bull known as the Ballinloan Jaegerbomb. The steer won over €3,000 in prize money for John this summer.
“Early last year I began looking for show animals that would compete at a higher level and be strong contenders in the commercial cattle show rings.
“Newtownards, co. A friend of mine from Down, Gareth Corry, was the first to see the bull and told me I had to meet him.
“As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to buy it. He had potential. He was in the true south of Ireland and I knew he would have a good chance of winning the Liffey Meats in Virginia and the Strokestown classes.
“When I first saw her, she had a natural look and great, high-waisted square feet. It was in shop condition and looked very natural.
“Stance, length, character, this bull had it all. I knew he had great prospects and thankfully he lived up to our expectations.”
“It’s like a raw football player; if it’s in him, it will come out in the character,” said John.
The bull currently weighs 900kg and many factory agents have agreed that the bull is rated E= or E+ and 3 in meat.
“It was 566kg when we bought it in November and it was 836kg at the Mullingar Show on July 10. He went to eight or nine shows from July 10 to September 10 and still gained 1kg a day in live weight. We weighed him at the Strokestown Show on Saturday 10th September and he weighed 898kg.
The impressive bull has won a number of important titles this summer, including:
- Sweeney Family All-Ireland Beef Bullock Championship at Strokestown Show 2022;
- 31st Liffey Meats Champion Super Beef Bullock at Virginia Show 2022;
- Champion bull at Tullamore Show 2022.
John explained that it wasn’t all plain sailing and that in the show where the top four bulls went, he was beaten every time.
“The bull just turned two but he got his teeth in June so he was competing with the big boys and at the start of the season he wasn’t big enough but that’s a leap of chance in show business.
Let’s go back to show business
John said Agriland He said that he has been showing cattle since he was very young, “We always showed cattle with my late grandfather since we were little children.”
“I took a few years off and instead of a lot of cattle, we had a handful of cattle. In the last 10-12 years, we have returned to this business and we are very serious about animal husbandry. We raise more cattle and sheep now than ever before.
In 2014 John was asked to judge a class at the Tullamore Show and said it went well. Later, in 2016, he was asked to judge the entire commercial cattle division.
“After that I started working again.”
Commenting on plans for the champion bull, John said there have been a number of high-profile buyers who have expressed an interest in buying the animal.
Insights into the beef sector
John believes that to be successful in beef farming, farmers need to understand the importance of genetics to the performance of beef animals.
He believes pasture management is very important and stressed the importance of a good diet to bring the beef animal “to the fullest”. He added that he “does a little bit too much” when it comes to finishing cattle.
“It’s important to finish the animal well and then you have something to sell that the processor wants.”
He believes there is a need to improve the quality of calves coming from the dairy herd, but “some dairy farmers who are serious about their beef operations are achieving high performance and finishing very impressive cattle,” he said.
“I’ve been dealing with some dairy farmers finishing 24-month-old Angus steers averaging €1,900 in February this year, before the real price rise came.
“There are some Friesian cows that are capable of producing good beef, but the progeny of a 450-550kg sharp, overmilking cow will unfortunately be a liability to the beef industry because the farmers buying these calves can’t do anything. From them.
“Nobody’s asking the dairy industry to produce superstar beef cattle, but they’re going to have to go one step better because they’re going to end up with an unmarketable calf.”
He noted from his experience as a factory agent that “smart calf and beef farmers are getting away with these small-type calves for little money. Improving the quality of beef calves from the dairy herd is in everyone’s interest.”
“Feed costs are phenomenal and anything that doesn’t weigh on beef production is going to be impossible this year.”
John plans to continue his beef and sheep business and after a successful year in 2022, he will no doubt be planning a big return to the show ring next year.