Our Organisation Search
Quick Links
Toggle: Topics

James O'Sullivan

James farms 31ha along the coast in West Cork near Union Hall. Some of the land is extremely good quality that is free draining and fertile in nature. A second smaller block of land is slightly heavier and colder due to its elevation. His current farming system is 20 - 22 month early-maturing heifers. Anna Sexton is his Teagasc Advisor

Current Farm Update

I am participating in the Teagasc DairyBeef 500 campaign and farm near Leap in Co. Cork. I farm a total of 31 hectares of predominantly free draining dry land split into 2 separate farms. The main farm lies along the coast in Union Hall which carries the main grazing herd.

I was running an early maturing heifer system with the majority of the Angus and Hereford heifers slaughtered at 20-21 months. And in the last few years I have purchased a number of male calves, predominantly angus as I wanted to buy calves closer in age from a small number of sources rather than waiting for heifers to arrive over a spread out period.

I know that weight targets need a level of improvement on the farm, with early maturing heifers weighing 240 kg at 21 months and early maturing steers weighing 262kg at 21 months on average.

Grassland Management

The farm is capable of growing high quantities of grass with the south facing land benefitting from good soil fertility and a free draining profile. I aim to get out grazing with light yearling heifers in late January and close up paddocks from early October onward. While getting out grazing early is a benefit and a long grazing season is the cheapest way to get weight gain on cattle, I am looking to cut input costs on chemical nitrogen.

Protected Urea

With Protected Urea costing in excess of €1000/tonne at the moment for next spring, every opportunity must be taken to reduce our reliance on chemical nitrogen while not inhibiting production.


With this in mind I took the step to reseed 8 acres of the farm with Multi Species Swards this summer. The reseeds were split over the 2 farms with half of the reseed carried out on the dry land in Union Hall and the remainder on the home block of land in Leap which is slightly heavier in nature. I carried out most of the cultivations myself including spraying, ploughing and discing the land before seeding and rolling it a number of weeks later.

The sward consists of perennial ryegrass, red clover, white clover, chicory and plantain. The seed was bought with a subsidy from the Department of Agriculture.

3 bags of 10-10-20 and 2 tonne of lime per acre were applied at seeding also.


One of the main changes on the farm’s reseeding policy with Multi Species Swards was the lack of a post emergence spray. While there is a cost saving in not spraying a post emergent, there is a risk of weeds, particularly docks taking over the sward within a few years of reseeding. Any post emergent spray would kill the chicory and plantain so this isn’t an option or else the whole idea of the Multi Species Sward is not being achieved.

The field was seeded in mid June and while the farm was hit by summer drought, I was able to graze the swards by early August with calves.

Multi Species Swards

My experience of using Multi Species swards has been positive so far. The one thing big positive for me was their drought resistance. The deep tap root of the chicory seems to really bring water from deep in the soil and kept growth rates up when my perennial ryegrass swards failed to grow in the drought. What remains to be seen is how the weeds establish themselves in the absence of a post emergent spray. Stock liked the swards and grazed them out very well. Rotation length was actually quite short at 18-21 days but again its early days yet. It’s a case of so far so good”.