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Dairy Calf to Beef

The Irish Dairy Beef Industry


The beef sector is one of the most important industries in the national economy. It supports in excess of 70,000 beef farmers as well as approximately 10,000 employees across the processing, distribution and transport sectors. Its key strength is its grass-fed steer/heifer beef output with strong sustainability credentials. 

The income situation on cattle farms is challenging. On average costs of production exceed market prices and the reliance on direct payments is critical. Without a substantial increase in beef price and/or improvements in efficiency the vast majority of cattle farmers will continue to rely on direct payments for a significant proportion of their income.

Trends in cow numbers

Since 2008, the number of suckler cows has reduced by approximately 285,000, while the number of dairy cows has increased by 481,000 (December 2021 CSO). The proportion of cattle slaughtered of suckler origin decreased from 53% in 2010 to 43% in 2020; while cattle of dairy origin increased from 47% in 2010 to 57% in 2020. Current trends in both dairy and suckler cow numbers indicate that this trend will continue

Dairy Beef Research at Teagasc

Research conducted at Teagasc Grange has established that a well-managed dairy beef steer system has the potential to sustainably produce consistently high-quality beef in addition to positive margins at farm level whilst meeting market requirements.

The adoption of key technologies in relation to grazing management, calf rearing, and the use of appropriate dairy beef genetics are the key drivers of this change. This system also reflects favorably on animal welfare as the animals have access to pasture over an extended grazing season and produces beef with a reduced carbon footprint.

Read more about the Dairy Beef Research Herd at Grange

Read more about the Dairy Beef Research Herd at Johnstown Castle

Dairy Beef 500 Campaign

In response to the changes in both dairy and beef systems, Teagasc have developed a campaign which focuses on dairy beef production. The DairyBeef 500 Campaign promotes the adoption of best practice at farm level to increase the future viability and sustainability of the Irish beef sector.