Profile: Ann Fitzgerald

Ann Fitzgerald

Hi my name is Ann Fitzgerald and I’m secretary of the Montbeliarde Society. I farm with my hubby John in Gobbinstown, New Ross, Co. Wexford.

We are mainly a Dairy farm but we keep our calves to finish, heifers as replacements and bulls to beef or for breeding. We also have some tillage, corn and maize. Our history of how we got into Montbeliarde is by chance. I entered every competition at the Ploughing Championship in Enniscorthy in 1994 and low and behold I won a Montbeliarde heifer calf ‘Cleona’.

I sent her down to John to look after as my family are sheep farmers from Camolin, Co. Wexford. We kept her and put her in calf. For the 1st four years she produced bull calves, one of them went on to win at the Tullamore Show, ‘Iano’. The others we sold on as bulls or kept for crossbreeding in our own herd, which were all Holstein Friesians. The next two years she, Cleona, had two beautiful heifers, Jewels and Kim. But then disaster struck.

We got the most disastrous call to say a cow we had sent to the factory had gone down with BSE. It was March 2002. A time we shall never forget. All John’s and his parents hard work building up a smashing herd of cows, now wiped out. Cows, replacements, bulls, calves, my two pride and joy Montbeliarde heifers and Cleona all loaded up and sent to the factory. We had to wipe ourselves off and start from scratch again. John travelled the county to source stock Holstein heifers. We also wanted to get back into Montbeliarde.

David Clarke had an in calf heifer sale in Mullingar that October. We purchased 8 heifers on the sale. For the next few years we purchased another 12 heifers. Over the next few years we got back on our feet and it was only when our newly purchased heifer’s calves calved could we see a future again. From our 20 Montbeliarde heifers we increased each year keeping our heifer calves. We showed for a few years in Tullamore Show obtaining a few prizes. Each year we used the top A.I. bulls on our stock. Mostly we use Dovea A.I… They send over an A.I. technician from France through the Coopex Company.

We find this a fantastic service as he goes through each cow and replacement heifer and makes any improvements necessary i.e. improving teat placement, legs, milk production, solids etc. We are now milking 50 Montbeliarde cows. In the last two years we have sold approx. 30 heifers to people from within the County and other parts of the Country. We also sold cows and heifers on two occasions to England in the last few years. We find Montbeliarde are in serious demand over there with farmers milking 200/300 Montbeliarde’s, so as a result any surplus stock here in Ireland have a waiting list. We also milk 40 Friesian cows. We find both breeds work well together.

We don’t crossbreed but that’s our personal choice. We try to use the best bulls every year. We find Montbeliarde are easy to maintain. They’re a strong resilient breed that goes in calf easily. They need little if any help calving. They are good milker’s with high milk solids fat and protein. Their calves are always worth keeping. Bull calves are worth at least €100/150 more than a black and white. Heifer calves make approx. €450.

We keep our bull calves to finish as cattle or as breeding bulls. Our cull cows, which could be 10 years old, we fatten and sell to the factory, make in excess of €1,200 at worst.

Our farm is open to visitors. Just give us a ring to make sure we’re around to show you our stock. We have bulls for sale all year round. You can give myself, Ann a buzz on 086 3367051 or John 086 3891132.

Ann Fitzgerald