In 2015 Teagasc and Dawn Meats, supported by McDonald's established a standalone suckler herd at Athenry, Co Galway to demonstrate best practice in sustainable suckler beef production.
The herd, known as the Newford Herd, is run on a fully commercial basis and demonstrates the potential of a moderately large suckler beef farm to generate a viable family farm income when operated to the highest level of technical efficiency and best practice.
Teagasc provided the land, part of which was leased from the IDA. Dawn Meats provided the start-up capital and funding for day-to-day operations of the farm, coupled with management services and technical innovations deployed on farm.
In May 2023 the IDA announced they had secured a new tenant for the Newford site. All of the key stakeholders believed the Newford herd should continue on a new site ensuring progress achieved to date, could be built upon further.
Teagasc and Dawn Meats identified a range of potential sites in the West of Ireland and after assessing these options, a suitable 58-hectare (143 acres) farm was selected in County Roscommon and a seven-year lease on the property negotiated. This allows Teagasc and Dawn Meats with ongoing support from McDonald’s, to continue their very successful collaboration, demonstrating key profit drivers and sustainability technologies to suckler beef farmers.
AS with the farm in Athenry the farm in Roscommon will as a shop window for the technologies that drive profitability in a suckler herd. It will in a completely transparent manner, with all measurements and data available to visiting groups, other interested parties and the farming public.
Consists of 100 Angus and Hereford cross Fresian cows, originating from the dairy herd and first calving at 24 months of age. System - 21-23 months steer beef
(310-350kg carcase). 18-20 months heifer beef (290-320kg carcase). Newford Farm contract rears all its replacement heifers which are sourced from high index Hereford and Angus bulls.
The Herd has set clear targets:
- 365 calving interval
- 8-10 week calving spread
- 80% cows calved within 8 weeks
- Weaning a calf >50% their own body weight
- Calf mortality to 28 days < 2%
Breeding is based on all available ICBF data. 100% AI is carried out on the farm. Bulls are selected based on the following criteria:
- 5* Terminal Index
- <9% Calving Difficulty for strong mature cows
- <7% Calving Difficulty for mature cows
- <5% for the first & second calvers
- >40kgs predicted carcass weight for mature cows
- >30kgs predicted carcass weight for first calvers
- Reliability of >80%
The farm is located in Co Roscommon.
There are a number of objectives in the project that is driven by Dawn Meats and Teagasc and also has backing from McDonalds. The management team is made up of the farm manager and members from Teagasc and Dawn Meats. The stakeholder team also has farmer representation.
The overriding aim is to generate a high profit from a grass-based suckler-tosteer and heifer-beef production system. There is also a focus on quantifying the labour required to operate a 100-cow unit, while also developing benchmarks and production targets for a herd utilising a breeding policy and cow type that differs from the majority of Irish suckler enterprises.