As we move towards world market prices and with profit margins being eroded more and more, we have to become more efficient. We all know that producing milk and meat from home grown forage - preferably grazed - and little concentrate is the most cost efficient method of doing so.
The MRI is very suited to this form of farming: The cattle are good converters of grass, they maintain body condition easily, helping them to retain good production and fertility during a long life. Added to this they calve easily following a short gestation and adapt readily to greatly varying circumstances where food, care and climate are concerned.
The dual purpose character of the breed gives optimal flexibility to a dairy farmer's breeding policy. There is no need to breed only the best cows within the herd to high EBI sires to breed herd replacements and inseminate the remainder with beef bulls. The dual purpose sire used across all cows gives a broader genetic base from which to select the next generation, plus more options when choosing cull cows. Surplus male drop calves are commanding similar prices as good continental crosses. Suckler farmers are using the MRI to bring milk back to continental breeds without compromising beefing abilities.
The modern MRI dual purpose cow is ready for the future. Protein and lactose get more and more attention in European dairy farming. A strong cow which is able to produce well under sober management requirements is still the aim of many breeders in the world.
Irish Calf Births 2012:-
- 1,658 calves sired by an MRI bull
- 3,640 calves born from an MRI cow
- 816 pedigree MRI calf births
- 1,425 MRI x Holstein/Friesian calf births
(Source: AIM Statistics report 2012)
Qualities of the MRI
MRI cattle are a red breed which can incorporate a lot of white, particularly in recent times. These solidly built animals grow until they are five years old and develop a sound skeleton. These cattle are very hardy with a thick skin and have great ability to withstand poor weather. Animals have a strong, well muscled body with a wide, deep chest and long ribs. They are outstanding converters of roughage. MRI cattle sport a good and evenly developed musculature, particularly in the upper and hind quarters, and animals show great length and depth. The MRI is not excessively tall. The females have a short gestation leading to active calves which thrive well and are of a continental type that fattens easily. Cows show a good dairy character with an ample, well developed and firmly attached udder. Excellent fertility is coupled with the ability of easy calving, aided by a slightly arched back which facilitates quick parting with the afterbirth, and a wide pelvis which in most cases can easily and quickly expel a Belgian Blue or Charolais cross calf. All in all, most MRI cows lead a long productive life.
The bulls are docile as a rule when young but - like bulls of any breed - should not be trusted to remain so.
The MRI cow is renowned for its good yield of high quality milk, rich in solids. Value added food producers have long discovered these virtues. Ice cream makers are attracted by the high protein content which approaches 4%. A good example is the successful British company "Dairy Dreams" whose ice cream is made on the farm using fresh milk from their herd of MRI cows. See Dairy Dreams' Facebook page .
Cheese makers take advantage of the high lactose content in MRI milk and the high instance of the Kappa Casein 'B' gene. In Ireland, the best example is the multiple award-winning "Bay Lough" cheese, produced by Anne and Richard Keating near Clogheen, Co. Tipperary. Read about their success story here.
The A+B-C milk payment system which creameries have introduced to reward producers of milk with high solids and low water content, proves advantageous to milking herds of MRI cows.
Cows show a good dairy character with an ample, well developed and firmly attached udder, and enjoy a short gestation period. A cross with a Holstein-Friesian will result in improved conformation and milk solids without compromising on milk yield.
A cow culled from the milking herd finds a ready market with suckler farmers, as the breed qualifies for suckler related DAFM payments.
In 2013, a Co. Cork based MRI herd recorded the following figures:-
- 6,276 kg (1,341 gallons) milk
- 3.92 % butterfat
- 3.47 % protein
- 464 kg milk solids
An MRI herd in Co. Donegal had the following readings in 2013:-
- 6,058 kg (1,294 gallons) milk
- 3.67 % butterfat
- 3.38 % protein
- 427 kg milk solids
A cross with a beef cow will improve milk yield without reducing carcass quality.
Their milk yield and generally quiet temperament make MRI cows ideal for single or multiple suckling.
Drop MRI calves from the dairy herd are commanding similar prices as good continental crosses and have proven themselves in feedlots around the country. The MRI would be an ideal breed for intending veal producers: Unlike the much hyped Jersey crosses, MRI calves are quickly and easily fattened, developing into a valuable product in no time at all.
Bull beef killed at 18-20 months regularly achieves R grades; whereas even cull cows - easily fattened at the end of their productive lives - are no stranger to O and R grades.
In 2012, the Irish Farmers' Journal reported on a successful dairy calf to beef enterprise in Tipperary, and they have given their kind permission to reproduce the piece on our website. When reading, please bear in mind that the input costs cited in the article will have varied since the article was written. To read about William Carroll's herd, please click here.
As a true dual purpose breed, the MRI breed of cattle qualifies for the Department's beef schemes, i.e. currently for the Beef Data and Genomics Programme (BDGP) 2015-2020.
In the MRI's home country, Holland, many top chefs, not just in high-end restaurants, insist on working with MRI meat similar to chefs in Ireland and the UK preferring Angus beef. In the Netherlands, MRI meat fetches premium prices and is specifically requested by restaurant patrons. Read more here.
The breeding program for MRI dual purpose cattle selects for milk as well as beef production with a strong emphasis on utility traits ranging from healthy udder and durable feet and legs to high fertility.
MRI are suitable for
- Dairy farmers that want to produce high solids while retaining a good yield.
- Dairy farmers that want to improve the health status of their herd.
- Dairy farmers that finish their male calves for beef.
- Suckler farmers that want to re-introduce a good milk yield to their herds.