BETTER Beef Farm programme - Aim
The Teagasc-Farmers Journal BETTER Farm beef programme aims to develop a road map for profitable beef production through improving technical efficiency within the farm gate. The lack of profit in beef production is often attributed solely to poor farm gate prices. The BETTER Farm programme will demonstrate to farmers that there are actually three factors driving the profitability of their enterprise:
- farm gate price;
- production costs;
- animal performance/beef output.
Higher prices alone will not address the serious profitability issues in beef production from the suckler herd – nor can we expect the industry simply to deliver higher prices to support inefficient producers.
The BETTER Farm programme will focus on
- boosting profitability on farms by reducing production costs
- increasing farm output through improved animal performance.
All areas of the production system will be looked at . The latest technologies and research will be adopted to ensure maximum efficiency.
There will be a major focus on breeding. There is no future for a suckler herd weaning poor quality calves at 240-260kg liveweight. Inefficient cows and bulls in the herd must be identified and culled. The programme will also focus on the correct management of the cow to ensure that high conception rates, weaning rates and tight calving patterns are all achieved.
Developing practical grassland management systems to reduce concentrate feeding on beef farms is key to reducing inputs while still managing to drive up output. Suckler farmers and beef finishers must become more focused on grass. Achieveing high levels of liveweight gain from grass gives us a competitive edge over the rest of Europe. Currently this is the most under-utilised resource on beef farms.
Performance monitoring is an essential element of the programme. Performance on the farms participating in the programme will be recorded at various stages throughout the year. Monitoring of the farms will allow for the impact of improved technical efficiency on profitability to be promoted.
Each farm is assessed at the start of the programme and their current financial and physical performance recorded. A three-year plan for each of the farms will be drawn up and targets set. Over the course of the programme the objective will be to develop the necessary strategies to ensure that these targets are met.
The farms participating in the BETTER Farm programme will be profiled in the Farmers Journal regularly throughout the year. The articles will detail the various changes made to the management systems on the farms in a bid to improve efficiency and ultimately profitability.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
The information collected on the farms will be used to set Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for various stages of the production system. These KPIs can be used by farmers operating a similar system to benchmark the performance of their own enterprise. The programme’s primary aim is to improve profitability on beef farms, other key functions of the BETTER Farm beef programme are to:
- develop more effective technology transfer;
- gain a better understanding of why some technologies are integrated and others are not;
- identify relevant technologies and adapt them to suit local opportunities and constraints;
- work closely with the farmers involved to allow them give clear signals back to research on areas needing further research.
This will lead to a more targeted advisory programme and will challenge the Teagasc research programme. As it is a joint programme with our industry partners it will help to keep it firmly focussed on its objectives. The 12 farms selected initially are focussed on suckler beef. They represent a range of systems within the suckler enterprise from suckler to weanling, suckler to store and suckler to beef. The herds are predominantly spring calving, although several have a sizeable autumn calving component to the herd.
Almost every county has a BETTER demo farm at this stage which is very important in terms of coping with local conditions in different counties. In subsequent years the programme will look at farms that operate a trading system where calves, weanlings or stores are bought in and brought through to beef.
We wish to thank the farmers and their advisers that have agreed to take part in the programme. When selecting the farms the level of enthusiasm and commitment to beef production shown by these people was very encouraging . We look forward to working with them over the next few years. We are confident that all parties involved in the programme will benefit hugely from the experience.