Teagasc and Dawn Meats, supported by McDonald's, have established a stand alone 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. It will demonstrate 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. The farm will act as a shop window for the technologies that drive profitability in a suckler herd. It will operate 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.
The Herd has set clear targets:
- 365 calving interval
- 10-12 week calving spread
- 80% cows calved within 8 weeks
- Weaning a calf > 50% their own body weight
- Calf mortality to 28 days < 2%
The farm, located in Newford, Athenry, Co Galway, is laid out in three divisions. The main block of land in Newford is dry, good-quality grassland comprising about 26.72ha (66 acres). This area will be used for grazing suckler cows and calves. The second division (located across from the Raheen Woods hotel) is also good-quality dry land comprising 15.51ha (38.3 acres) and is located about a mile away (by road) from the main block. This area will be used to graze yearlings early in the year before closing for two cuts of silage. It will also be used late in the year to reduce grass demand on the two grazing blocks by grazing finishing animals (18-20-month heifers or steers). The last block, comprising 13.57ha (33.53 acres) is about a mile away in the other direction. It is heavier in nature and will be used to graze steer and heifer followers in their second grazing season.
The project is being run by Teagasc and Dawn Meats, with the Irish Farmers Journal and McDonald’s Ireland also providing backing to the initiative. Matthew Murphy is the farm manager. James Keane leads the Teagasc involvement in the herd while Michael Fagan, Teagasc, will provide technician input in collecting and collating data from the farm. Declan Keely and Sarah Haire of Dawn Meats will work closely with the farm manager. Padraig French, Teagasc, and Darren Carty, Irish Farmers Journal, are the other members of the team.