One of the country’s leading breeders believes Angus is expanding its dominance in the beef sector and insists the breed will soon make up 80 percent of the national beef herd.
eo McEnroe, who owns and operates the Lisduff Angus herd in Virginia, Co. Cavan, expects more farmers to switch to Angus bulls in the future due to their lower maintenance and higher meat quality.
“The price per kilo is high. There’s a different pressure in producing continental fruit,” he says.
“It’s only a matter of time before 80 percent of the cattle herd are Angus. Demand from the dairy side will also play a major role.
“You just have to look at what’s going on in the factory feedlots. Many of the big processors are moving away from continental and stocking up on Angus instead. We also have to work with what the consumer wants.
“We have to strive for marbling in the beef and this higher quality of taste. The Angus is mostly coveted for what the beef does in the pan.”
Leo, who is a farmer with his wife Ann and sons James and Neil, is hosting an open house on Saturday, September 3 at 2pm, ahead of his annual Elite sale on October 1.
Originally from Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Leo comes from a strong line of Angus breeders.
His father Bartle got his first Angus cowDiana of Lakeview, by his uncle in the 1940s. Leo bred his first cows from the same line, with the original genetics remaining a staple in the herd to this day.
The Angus herd at Oldcastle is still going strong at 100 cows and is managed by Leo’s brother John.
“I was 20 years old when I married Ann,” says Leo. “Although she has five brothers, she inherited the Lisduff farm. The brothers then founded Virginia Transport, and the company now has 130 trucks in service.
“When I came here we had 30 Charolais, 10 Limousins and one Angus cow. We now only have one Charolais bull and one cow and both are treading on thin ice.
“We’ve had great success with them, but from now on it’s just Angus. I have always had an affinity for this breed.”
The farm has a total of 400ac available: the 100ac home block in Lisduff and three blocks that are leased long term.
The herd consists of 160 cows, consisting of purebred Red and Black Angus. About 50 of the cows are in James’ herd, the rest in Leo’s.
Neil recently returned home from Canada where he worked as a Heavy Duty Mechanic and is now doing his Green Cert.
“At the open house we show the lock, the stock and the barrel. It’s important to give people the opportunity to visit the farm before the sale and see what we’re all about,” says Leo.
“The October sale will consist of elite breeding stock – red and black, male and female. We have heifers for sale from 10 months to calf at foot. The bulls are sold at the beginning of their breeding age, around 14-22 months.
“These bulls can initially work as heifers and later progress to adult cows.
“We will be showing bulls of all ages at the open house and I expect the red cattle will be a big draw. There can’t be much more than 400 purebred Red Angus cows in the country and we have 50 of them here.
“People also have the opportunity to see our younger stock, which will be available at our next sale in the spring.”
Leo has played a pivotal role within the breed association in exporting Angus cattle to Europe and beyond.
“At the time of BSE in Britain, buyers came to Ireland from Europe in search of good Angus breeding stock,” he says.
“I met with the buyers through the British Breeding Association and sourced my first batch of heifers for them. The rest is history and since then we have exported 1,500 animals to farmers across Europe.
“Once we built that trust and that connection, that’s when we started.”
Lisduff Angus aims to cover heifers at 360kg, calve at 550kg and have mature cows around the 770-870kg mark.
“You want a functional cow that is a good all-rounder no matter what system you put her in,” says Leo.
“We want to calve here in the summer, mainly in July. Having cows calve outdoors takes a lot of the effort out of the work and avoids many of the hygiene issues you would encounter indoors.
“British farmers in the 1960s were trying to breed smaller Angus, while at the same time in Canada they were trying to breed larger animals. The British then came to Ireland in search of larger bulls when they realized their breed was too small.
“In Ireland we have stayed more centralized and bred more in line with the characteristics of the breed, which has served us well over the long term.
“Even the bulls have been kept in check here by the dairy industry. Angus breeders knew that many of their bulls would be used by dairy farmers for first calving, and if the breed got a reputation for hard calving, they would fall out the door.
“The tide has now turned and Canada is also betting on the smaller animal. Many overseas breeders were too obsessed with weight due to age and had animals that were clumsy.
“I think it’s good to stay in the middle of the road and try to stick to what race is about.”
Lisduff Angus winters about 60 bulls on kale each year, “leaving them the real deal for the customer.”
“We planted the kale in June and this year it has grown very well,” says Leo. “It’s not a pretty thing to go out to lay the wire on a winter’s day, but the bulls seem to be doing great.
In April, the McEnroes staged an on-farm bull sale that fetched an average price of €3,897/head. Two bulls secured the top prize of €5,000one by Mogeely Josh and the other by Liss Minter.
The October sale will be conducted online in partnership with Ballyjamesduff Mart and Marteye. Sires used on the farm include Rawburn Boss Hog, Oaklea Red Glacier, Liss Buster, Liss Minter, Mogeely Josh, Goulding Jim Dandy, Bunlahy Jacko and Coolcran Nemo.
“Put the figures in your bag and raise your head so you can see the animal in front of you.”
Leo McEnroe is a member of the WHPR program and regularly has his entire herd performance recorded by ICBF.
This allows the company to have the most accurate €uro-Star numbers possible, he says.
“ICBF will be here at our open house for a question and answer session and also going through a linear assessment. Farmers can find out what qualities to look for in a good animal,” explains Leo.
“ICBF is very keen to take part and this will be a good opportunity for them to meet with the public as well.
“I like Irish equity bulls but they don’t have the numbers when it comes to selling. There is room forDiscussion with ICBF about it.
“I’ve had great bulls with a lot of interest from buyers, but judging by the numbers they weren’t good enough.
“In the mind of the average cattle breeder, the order of importance is: the animal you are looking at, then its pedigree, and then its index value.
“You have to have a good balance between these three categories. You cannot be excellent on two fronts and bad on the other. You must have an animal that has everything.
“Every young buyer who enters this shipyard first looks for the book and the registers.
“I say put the figurines in your pocket for a minute and lift your head so you can see the animal in front of you.
“I think the importance of the numbers is exaggerated and given too much focus, especially among the younger breeders.”
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/beef/beef-farm-profiles/why-this-leading-breeder-reckons-its-only-a-matter-of-time-until-80pc-of-the-national-beef-herd-is-angus-41938673.html Why This Leading Breeder Says “It’s Only a Matter of Time Before 80 Percent of the National Cattle Herd Are Angus”