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Kepak Farm

Farm Update May/June 2023Kepak Farm Yard

Located in Caulstown, Dunboyne, Co. Meath the Kepak farm has been developed as a knowledge transfer hub for Kepak’s farmer suppliers, customers and industry stakeholders since the 1980s. It is focussed on developing best practice in beef farming and regularly hosts Open Days on topics such as herd health, sourcing policies, intake protocols, and nutrition. The farm also carries out trial works which are verified by a third party.

Core Focus Areas on Kepak Farm & Knowledge Transfer Topics

Herd Health & Welfare

Herd Health is paramount in the operation of any farm and at Kepak Farm the health of our stock is central to our overall strategy.

There are several management practices that are key to overall good herd health such as sourcing policy, intake procedure, vaccination policy, housing facilities, biosecurity and treatment of sick cattle. 

Over the years we have worked closely with our vet on our management practices to ensure all cattle are as healthly as possible and our mortality rate is as low as possible.  Due to changes made on farm we have seen our veterinary expenditure reduce dramatically and efficiencies grow. 

Focus on efficiencies

Focusing on efficiencies, profitability of systems and meeting targets is a priority. Within this we look at metrics such as purchase price, average daily live-weight gain, days on farm, feed cost per day, margin per head, kill out %, gross margin per hectare, performance by buyer and carbon footprint.

All cattle are weighed on arrival and given a provisional estimated grade and fat score. We enter all data onto our Kingswood system which helps us track efficiencies and margins.

Meeting Market Specifications & Nutrition

On Kepak farm every animal is purchased in accordance with a planned market and finishing regime. Cattle are purchased in accordance to correct ages, weight, conformation, fat score and quality assurance status.

We work together with our dedicated nutritionist to ensure that our diet gives us a nutritionally balanced, high performance diet across the different finishing systems on farm. The diet also balances what ingredients we have available from our own crops and what is available seasonally. Our nutritionist also plans our diets for each system of cattle on farm bearing in mind the correct dry matter intake, crude protein, metabolisable energy, neutral detergent fibre, fat, starch, sugars and vitamins/minerals.

All cattle on farm spend three weeks on a “build up” diet so their rumen can adjust to the final finishing diet. Cattle spend 21 days on this build up diet where the amount of grass silage in the diet decreases gradually every 7 days. Cattle start on a diet with 75% grass silage and 25% concentrate. After the first week they move down to 50% grass silage, followed by 25% in the third week and only a diet with no grass silage from there on. Depending on the finishing system and target market cattle usually are on the finishing diet for 90-120 days in total.

Crop Management

Much of the 320ha on Kepak farm is used for the production of crops. The land is a heavy clay soil ideal for production of a winter wheat crop. The crops that we grow on an annual basis are winter wheat, winter barley and maize silage. All the maize is grown under plastic to maximise quality, quantity and starch content.

We balance our fertilizer use by regularly testing our soil and completing a nutrient management plan to match the soil’s requirements. In addition we utilise our own manure and slurry on farm to minimise the use of artificial fertiliser.

Grassland Management

As Kepak farm is a store to beef enterprise, cattle spend the majority of time indoors during their lifetime on the farm. Despite this however, grassland management is still vital on farm. In the Spring and Summer we typically graze heifers on grass for 6-8 weeks before finishing indoors.

Economically, it pays for cattle to gain more weight at grass before being finished due to costs. Our current costs per head per day are approx. 50c for grass V’s 2.50 indoors on the finishing diet.

Grass quality is also important as we have grass silage included in our introductory diet period for the first 21 days and aim to have the highest quality silage available for our cattle. Over the last number of years we have paid particular attention to re-seeding land and planting the best varieties of grass that are suitable for the farm.  All grass paddocks have been re-seeded in the last four years.

Breeding & Genetics

We have a number of dedicated breeders who we buy cattle directly from every year. Buying our cattle direct off farms has a number of benefits such as:

  • knowing the health status of the cattle
  • less stress on arrival
  • knowledge of previous performance of herd
  • knowledge of ICBF breed data
  • ability to request cattle are vaccinated before arrival on farm
  • relationship building.

Breeding and genetics are of vital importance – no two animals are the same, but having the ability to research an animals background and performance is a benefit.

Breeding also has an impact on efficiency and profitability in terms of decision making and choosing breeds to finish. One of our systems on farm is Hereford Steers & Heifers. Another is continental Young Bulls and Heifers. As we have such a large number of cattle being finished off both systems we can draw conclusions on overall performance split by breed in terms of average DLWG, compensatory growth, feed efficiency and profit.

Carbon Footprint & Sustainability

Sustainability and Current Carbon Footprint are very important on the farm. We are aiming to produce cattle meeting market requirements, while sustaining the economic viability of the farm and making the most efficient use of all resources. Our current Carbon Footprint on farm is 9.68 CO2 e/kg LW, compared to industry average of 11.98.

The reasons behind our low carbon footprint is good Daily Liveweight Gain - DLWG, quick turnaround of cattle, feeding home grown crops, producing to market spec, young ages of cattle and the efficient use of inputs/resources on farm.

Recently we have looked into different options for slurry application for this year and how we can make changes to positively impact on our carbon footprint and efficiencies. Currently we are using a splash plate but are organising to switch over to a dribble bar for future applications.

Key Stats 

  • Kepak Farm is 320ha in total with yard capacity of 1,500 cattle
  • Finishing 3500 cattle p.a. Continental Young Bulls and Heifers
  • Home Grown Cereals and Forages fed to our cattle
  • Average Daily Live Weight Gain (DLWG): - Heifers – 1.3kg Young Bulls – 1.7kg
  • Average Kill Out percentage: - Heifers – 54.5% - Young Bulls – 57.8%
  • Average Age at Slaughter: - Heifers – 21 months - Young Bulls – 16 months
  • Mortality Rate - 0.3%