Teagasc DairyBeef 500 Campaign
- DairyBeef 500 campaign
- Objective of DairyBeef 500
- Programme aims
- Key performance indicators
- Research-led technologies
- Demonstration farms
- Ballyvadin demonstration farm
- Teagasc have developed a new initiative which focuses on management practices for technically-efficient dairy-beef systems called DairyBeef 500.
- The DairyBeef 500 Campaign will promote the adoption of technologies identified through research, onto commercial farms, while monitoring their impact on farm sustainability.
- The initiative will collaborate with existing Teagasc programmes, which will include the new Teagasc Signpost Farm Programme and the Grass10 Campaign.
- The DairyBeef 500 campaign has set a target of €500 net profit per ha, for dairy-beef farms implementing recommended managements and technologies, across production systems differing in intensity
Introduction and background
Since 2008, the number of suckler cows has reduced by approximately 285,000, while the number of dairy cows has increased by 481,000. This change in the national herd has resulted in an increased number of beef cattle slaughtered being of dairy origin. Dairy-bred cattle accounted for 57% of the national kill in 2020, compared to 47% in 2010. Current trends in both dairy and suckler cow numbers indicate further growth in dairy-beef numbers. In 2019, 47% of dairy cows were bred to dairy sires while the remaining 53% were bred to beef sires. Of the beef sires used, 78% were either Aberdeen Angus or Hereford - 45% Aberdeen Angus and 33% Hereford - the remaining 22% are mostly continental beef breeds.
Of the approximately one million Irish dairy calves available for beef production annually, 350,000 are retained on dairy farms where they are finished or sold as weanlings/stores. A further 350,000 calves are moved/sold to beef farms where they are artificially-reared. Live export, mortality and early slaughter accounting for the remaining 300,000 calves. Over the period, 2015 to 2019, the ICBF identified that there was on average 10,000 beef farmers purchasing dairy-beef calves annually, rearing on average 37 dairy-beef calves per farm. One of the big issues over this period was the high attrition rate of farms rearing dairy-beef calves. Only 39% of those who reared dairy-beef calves in 2015 were still doing so in 2019. Typically, 23% of farmers involved in dairy-beef production exited the system in any one year over that period.
DairyBeef 500 Campaign
In response to the changes in both dairy and beef systems, Teagasc have developed a new initiative which focuses on dairy-beef production. The DairyBeef 500 Campaign will incorporate a number of existing dairy-beef projects, including:
- Green Acres Dairy Calf-to-Beef Programme
- male dairy calf contract-rearing
- dairy calf-to-beef system evaluation study
- the evaluation of a range of beef sires used on the dairy herd.
Additionally, the initiative will collaborate with existing Teagasc programmes, which will include the new Teagasc Signpost Farm Programme and the Grass10 Campaign.
The DairyBeef 500 Campaign has set a target of €500 net profit per ha (excluding own labour and land charge). It is envisaged that the programme will consist of beef farmers operating a wide range of production systems of varying intensities. On ‘intensive’ farms, the objective will be to grow and harvest as much grass as possible, supporting high carcass output per hectare. On more ‘extensive’ farms, there will be a greater emphasis on maximising carcass output per head and on the provision of environmental ecosystem services with lower carcass output per hectare; the optimum mix will depend on the individual farmer’s circumstances and priorities.
Objective of DairyBeef 500
The primary objective of the DairyBeef 500 Campaign is to promote the adoption of best practice at farm level to increase the future viability and sustainability of the Irish beef sector. It will promote greater integration of the dairy and beef sectors through the adoption of key technologies on farms to enhance the competitiveness of dairy-beef systems and ensure a reliable outlet for calves from the dairy herd that meet certain quality and health criteria.
The programme aims to:
- Target a net margin of €500 per hectare, excluding land and family labour.
- Increase the adoption of best practices, especially in relation to grassland management and calf rearing.
- Reduce the environmental footprint of dairy-beef production.
- Establish a cohort of profitable dairy-beef producers.
- Create greater integration between the beef and dairy industries.
- Improve the beef merit of calves coming from the dairy herd.
Key performance indicators
The key performance indicators of the DairyBeef 500 Campaign are across three levels.
- Farmers participating
- Discussion groups
- Number of events
- Training courses
- Blueprint for profitable dairy-beef production systems
- 20+ grass covers per year
- Profit monitor completion
- 70%+ DMD silage
- Grazing 200 - 240 days
- Calf mortality <2%
- Profit of €500/ha
- Reduce age at slaughter
- Reduce carbon footprint
- Improve beef merit of dairy calves
- Training courses
- Develop a cohort of profitable dairy beef farmers
Through the implementation of an extensive dairy-beef research programme within Teagasc, the DairyBeef 500 Campaign will be supported with information and technologies identified through independent research. Research will be from a range of production system and component studies at Teagasc Grange and Johnstown Castle. The research will explore the role of:
- health and welfare
- grassland management
- finishing strategies,
in developing profitable and climate efficient grass-based systems. The various research herds within the Teagasc beef research programme will host visiting farmer and stakeholder groups, giving an insight into current research and demonstrating key technologies relating to dairy-beef production. The management practices implemented on demonstration farms and the advice given through the campaign will be based on the latest and most relevant research findings.
Demonstration farms/units will be a key pillar of the DairyBeef 500 Campaign. The demonstration farms/units will illustrate key technologies including;
- calf rearing
- grassland management
- calf health
- financial management
- animal health and welfare
- environmental sustainability
- appropriate use of dairy-beef genetics.
It is intended that the demonstration farms will source calves from farms using high genetic merit beef sires, targeting calves of above-average beef merit.
There will be at least one demonstration farm per Teagasc Advisory Region which will build on the existing network of Green Acres farms. The lessons learned from these farms will be communicated through a wide range of channels such as discussion groups, open days and newsletters, along with social and print media channels.
These farms will link in with an extensive Knowledge Transfer Programme run by Teagasc which will focus on the setting up of at least three DairyBeef discussion groups per region along with a number of public events.
Ballyvadin demonstration farm
This dairy calf-to-beef demonstration farm is based at Ballyvadin, Fethard, Co. Tipperary. The Ballyvadin farm will demonstrate the deployment of best technologies in sustainable beef production. Ballyvadin farm is 112 ha of free-draining clay loams and will be sown with perennial ryegrass/clover swards receiving 125 kg N/ha. The farm will be stocked initially with 300 calves, sired by a range of dairy and beef bulls, which will be reared through to beef as steers and heifers. Going forward when the farms true grass growth potential and ‘finishing’ ability of the animal genotypes is established, the number of animals (stocking rate) will be optimised. This will take cognisance of forage supply and feed demand (age at slaughter with adequate fat cover). The target will be to maximise production from grazed grass and high quality silage with animals being slaughtered from 20 to 26 months depending on gender and genetics.
A comprehensive communication effort will be central to the delivery of the DairyBeef 500 Campaign. One of the key elements of the campaign will be the communication of the opportunities within dairy-beef systems and the delivery of key messages regarding best practice farm management. Communication will cover a range of audiences including: farmers engaged in rearing dairy-beef calves; dairy farmers; prospective dairy-beef farmers; students; wider agricultural industry and stakeholders. Communication methods will include a dedicated DairyBeef newsletter, an annual research conference, and features in print and digital media along with updates on Teagasc social media.
The DairyBeef 500 campaign will focus on enhancing the knowledge and capacity of; farmers, advisors, lecturers/teachers, technicians, farm staff and students. A key resource will be the publication of a dairy-beef manual which addresses the key managements relating to dairy-beef production. Specific aspects of the manual will be targeted at farmers and advisors reflective on their individual needs and the depth of information required e.g. more detailed technical information for advisors.
The Teagasc DairyBeef 500 campaign will run initially for a five-year period with considerable resources from Teagasc provided. It will aim to build on the strengths of the Teagasc Green Acres Programme and the research work carried out in Teagasc Grange and Johnstown Castle to deliver environmentally and financially sustainable dairy calf-to-beef systems that farmers of varying acreage, land type, labour availability and infrastructure can adopt to suit their own farming needs.
DairyBeef 500 Team
Alan Dillon, Sean Cummins, Tommy Cox and Fergal Maguire
*The DairyBeef 500 campaign is sponsored by Volac, MSD, Liffey Mills, Drummonds, Corteva and Munster Bovine, while the Ballyvadin Demonstration Farm in partnership with Dawn Meats and Shinagh Estates Ltd.